Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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.

Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.
Stay safe and informed with updates on the spread of the coronavirus

Delivery: Varies
Your Email
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.


Post a Comment