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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

New Yorkers told to go into self-quarantine if they travel to avoid spreading the coronavirus

President Donald Trump characterized New York as a COVID-19 "hotspot."

“We have to deal with the NY metropolitan area as a high-risk area,” said Vice President Mike Pence, adding the infection rate is 1 in 1,000.

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren't passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday.

In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren't showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states.

Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.

The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine.

Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

6 Amazon workers test positive for coronavirus

Six warehouse workers for Amazon have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, according to The Washington Post.

As much of the nation has depended upon Amazon for vital access to products, workers at facilities in New York City, Jacksonville, Florida, Sheperdsville, Kentucky, Katy, Texas, Brownstown, Michigan and Oklahoma City were infected with the coronavirus, the Post reported on Tuesday.

"In some cases, Amazon shut down facilities for cleaning, and some co-workers who were in close contact with their infected colleagues have been quarantined."

Workers at Amazon warehouses in Italy and Spain has also tested positive. In response, some 1,500 Amazon employees signed a petition that urged Amazon to take more steps to protect them, according to the Post.

In a letter to employees on Friday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, "There is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this, and I know this causes stress for everyone."

Bezos went on to add that the company is implementing "a series of preventative health measures for employees and contractors at our sites around the world – everything from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adjusting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines. We are meeting every day, working to identify additional ways to improve on these measures."

Amazon didn't respond to USA TODAY's ( source) request for a comment.

Jobs:Amazon to hire 100,000 workers to assist with online deliveries

Overtime:Amazon gives warehouse workers temporary overtime pay raise

The company also recently announced that it was seeking to hire as many as 100,000 new workers to deal with the onslaught of orders coming in. Because of the backlog, many Amazon orders that normally arrived within two days have been backed up at least 30 days.

The tech giant said it looked to invest over $350 million globally with the new hires, and would increase pay by $2 an hour in the U.S.

Amazon has stated that employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine would receive up to two-weeks of pay. "This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost pay."

In a statement to the Florida Times-Union earlier in March, Amazon confirmed that one of its employees got infected, and said the worker was receiving medical care and is in quarantine.

And according to The Atlantic, workers at the New York facility found out about one of their co-workers getting infected through a text. "We're writing to let you know that a positive case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was found at our facility today."

Preventing coronavirus spread: Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons among grocers adding sneeze guards

Retailers have reduced store hours to make time for deep cleanings and now are adding a new layer of protection – sneeze guards.

Walmart and some of the nation's largest grocery store chains – Kroger and Albertsons – are installing plexiglass barriers or partitions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect both shoppers and store employees.

The protective screens will stand between a customer and a cashier so that any airborne droplets - either from a cough or a sneeze - will be blocked from hitting the person on the other side.

"Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever for our associates, our customers and for us," Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Installing these barriers is another way Walmart is helping bring peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep our people and our stores safe."

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Walmart said it has started installing the barriers at pharmacies at Walmart and Sam's Clubs and will install the guards at regular Walmart registers over the next two to three weeks.

Smith also said Walmart is adding decals to promote social distancing on floors and has "found a new solution to help associates clean carts quicker and more thoroughly."

Senior shopping hours:Stores offer shopping time for vulnerable customers amid coronavirus: Walmart, Target, Costco and more

COVID-19 store closings, reduced hours:Best Buy, GameStop latest to close but offering curbside pickup

Coronavirus Updates

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shut down daily life across the globe, thousands of our readers across the nation have asked us questions about COVID-19.

And we're answering them.

For basic facts about the virus – what it is, how it spreads and where it's located – you can get caught up by reading our in-depth explainer here. We've also debunked some viral coronavirus myths.

But you're curious and continue to ask important questions via our newsletter, Coronavirus Watch. (Not a newsletter subscriber? Sign up for it here!)

So below, you can find answers to questions such as: Is it OK to be outside? How old are people who are dying in the U.S.? Is it safe to get carry-out food?

If you don't see an answer you're looking for, check out our first batch of answers, addressing things like: Can testing show if someone has had coronavirus and then recovered? Can someone get the coronavirus more than once?

What else would you like to know? Ask us by filling out the form you can find here.

Can you catch the virus from people who've died?
– Nikki from Albany, Georgia

The main way the virus is thought to spread is through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and this is not a concern after death, according to the CDC. But people should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19, the CDC says.

There is no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19, the CDC says. Kissing, washing and shrouding should be avoided before, during and after the body has been prepared, if possible. But holding the hand or hugging after the body has been prepared for viewing may pose less of a risk, the CDC says.

What is the value of testing for the coronavirus if there is currently no treatment?

– Linda from Brevard County, Florida

There is value to getting tested because there are many reasons why someone would seek medical care for their symptoms, and ruling out the coronavirus is helpful in seeking other causes, said Jason Christie, chief of pulmonary medicine at Penn Medicine.

"The biggest problem is we don’t have a quick and reliable test right now. Without that, we have to be smart and ration the testing to those people that need them most. So don’t go out and get tested right now unless you’re sick," Christie said.

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Testing also helps health officials figure out how prevalent and contagious a virus is.

Is it safe to get groceries during senior shopping hour?
– Pamela from Wellsville, Pennsylvania

Acknowledging that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19, a growing number of stores are dedicating time or opening earlier for senior shoppers and other at-risk groups.

But Tania Elliott, clinical instructor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone, says she doesn't advise it. "That gives a false sense of security," she said. "By encouraging older people with chronic diseases to go out at a dedicated time, you're still exposing them to a bunch of other people, and if one person in that crowd is infected, then the virus will spread."

Elliott said she'd rather see stores limiting the number of people who can enter during a given time period so that there are fewer people in the store. She also encourages healthy people to do the shopping.

Can the virus be transmitted through the mail? Should I stop sending greeting cards?
– Pam from Seven Lakes, North Carolina

The chances of transmission through your mail is very low, Elliott says. "Parts of the virus can fall on surfaces and survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. But you have to have pretty good conditions for that to happen. So the likelihood would be very small, even with no precautions," she said.

Elliott advises people to put their mail down on a plastic plate instead of directly on a counter top or table, to use a letter opener, and to wash hands thoroughly after touching the mail.

Research on how long a virus may live on surfaces is evolving. The CDC has said there is likely very low risk of transmission of COVID-19 from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks "because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces."

But a recent study found that viable virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Are plastic grocery bags considered the plastic that you have to wait hours to touch?
– Elizabeth from Greenfield, Indiana

You should take precaution with any containers, Elliott says. "The plastic grocery bags I’d throw out right away, wash your hands and then clean your food. Chances (of infection) are low," she said. "But better yet, bring your own bags! It’s better for the environment anyway."

They keep saying stay isolated for two weeks. But what happens after the two weeks?
– Al from Topeka, Kansas

Officials suggest self-quarantining for two weeks if you've had exposure to somebody with the virus and might be infected. It's a way to monitor if symptoms develop and, at the same time, avoid any possible spread to others. Since the incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days, you're "cleared" for the virus after two weeks, Elliott said.

After that, you still need to practice social distancing.