Stimulus Check Up | Sep 1, 2022 | 0
Coronavirus facts, myths and information: Your questions, answered
What is aerosolized spread? What’s the difference between aerosols and droplets?
Aerosolized spread is the potential for coronavirus to spread not just by respiratory droplets, but by even smaller particles called aerosols that can float in the air longer than droplets and can spread farther than 6 feet.
Respiratory aerosols and droplets are released when someone talks, breaths, sings, sneezes or coughs. But the main difference is size.
“If you have droplets that come out of a person, they generally go down within 6 feet,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
But aerosols (aka droplet nuclei) are smaller – less than 5 microns in diameter, according to the World Health Organization.
“Aerosol means the droplets don’t drop immediately,” Fauci said. “They hang around for a period of time.”
This becomes “very relevant” when you are indoors and there is poor ventilation, he said.
Multiple case studies suggest coronavirus can spread well beyond 6 feet through airborne transmission, such as during choir practices, said Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, chief clinical officer of Providence Health System.
In Washington state, for example, 53 members of a choir fell sick and two people died after one member attended rehearsals and later tested positive for Covid-19.
In July, 239 scientists backed a letter urging public health agencies to recognize the potential for aerosolized spread.
“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale), and we are advocating for the use of preventive measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission,” the letter said.
Fauci said there’s an easy way to help minimize the risk: “Wear the mask.”
The CDC says face masks should have two or more layers of breathable fabric.
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How long will we have to keep wearing masks?
Possibly into next year — but for good reason.
“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in mid-September. “If we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control.”
But a vaccine probably won’t be widely available until mid-2021, Redfield said.
Even then, “as we go through the vaccination period … we still need to use masks,” said Dr. Eric Topel, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.
“Remember that vaccines don’t render mucosal immunity — that is, you still could harbor the virus. It protects from the illness. So we could actually get more carriers in the vaccination phase. And a lot of people don’t recognize this.”
If virtually everyone wears face masks and keeps a safe distance from others, more than 122,000 lives could be saved in the US by January 2021, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
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What should I do if I’m wearing a mask but have to sneeze?
If there are tissues nearby, you can take your mask off and sneeze into the tissue before putting your mask back on, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.
For kids in school — or anyone else who might have to wear a mask all day — bring a backup mask in a baggie in case the first mask gets dirty. You can put the dirty mask in the baggie.
It’s also a good idea to keep backup masks in your car in case of any mask accidents.
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Since there are multiple vaccines in trials, what happens if you get a vaccine ASAP, but a more effective one comes out later? Can you get more than one Covid-19 vaccine?
It’s too early to say for sure with Covid-19 vaccines, said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
“But that’s certainly plausible,” Collins said. “Look at where we are with shingles right now, where we had a vaccine that was pretty good, and then there was one that was a lot better, and everybody took both.”
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What are the guidelines for riding in a vehicle with someone from another household?
People from different households riding in a car together should wear face masks, said Dr. Aaron Hamilton of the Cleveland Clinic.
“You should also wear one if you’re rolling down your window to interact with someone at a drive-thru or curbside pickup location,” Hamilton said.
It’s also smart to keep the windows open to help ventilate the car and add another layer of safety, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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My kid hates the idea of nasal swabs. Is there a saliva test for Covid-19?
The SalivaDirect test could soon be a fast and cheap option. “We simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents, and we expect that labs will only charge about $10 per sample,” said Nathan Grubaugh, one of the Yale researchers who developed the test.
The SalivaDirect test can produce results in less than three hours, and the accuracy is on par with results from traditional nasal swabbing. The Yale researchers said it might become publicly available in the coming weeks.
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Is it true a vaccine could be approved and sent out before it’s fully tested?
At least three coronavirus vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States. Phase 3 is often the last phase of vaccine development, when thousands of volunteers are injected and monitored to further check for safety and efficacy.
But the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board could stop a trial early if the interim results are overwhelmingly positive and board members deem the vaccine safe and effective. In that case, researchers would have “a moral obligation” to end the trial early and speed up the process to give the vaccine to millions, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Kaiser Health News.
“If you look at the projection, of the enrollment (of trial participants) and the kinds of things you’ll need to get a decision about whether the vaccine is safe and effective, most of us project that that’s going to be by November, December, by the end of the year,” Fauci told CNN.
“Could this be earlier? Sure,” he said. “That’s unlikely, (but) not impossible.”
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Should we clean our cell phones daily?
Yes, that’s a good idea because cell phones are basically “petri dishes in our pockets” when you think about how many surfaces you touch before touching your phone.
You should regularly disinfect your mobile phone anyway, with or without a coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s probably quite a lot of microorganisms on there, because you’re holding them against your skin, you are handling them all the time, and also you’re speaking into them,” said Mark Fielder, a professor of medical microbiology at Kingston University.
“And speaking does release droplets of water just in normal speech. So it’s likely that a range of microbes – including Covid-19, should you happen to be infected with that virus – might end up on your phone.”
Watch the best ways to disinfect your cell phone here.
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Is it true that minorities are at higher risk of getting Covid-19 or dying from it?
Yes. While Black people make up 13% of the US population, they represent about 25% of the Covid-19 cases in the US, said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.
The mortality rate for Black people is 2.3 times higher than for White people with Covid-19. And in one recent study, 46.4% of Hispanic children tested had Covid-19, compared to 30% of Black children tested and 7.3% of White children tested.
Black and Latinx people are often more likely to have essential jobs that require them to work outside the home, leading to more contact with the public, former CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.
And those who rely on public transportation or live in multi-generational housing can be more vulnerable to the virus’ spread.
The disproportionate impact on people of color is one big reason why health experts are asking more minorities to volunteer for vaccine trials.
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What “underlying conditions” put people at higher risk of bad outcomes with Covid-19?
More than 40% of US adults have at least one underlying condition that can put them at higher risk of severe complications, according to the CDC.
Those conditions include obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, according to the CDC.
People who have cancer, an organ transplant, sickle cell anemia, poorly controlled HIV or any autoimmune disorder are also at higher risk.
Covid-19 patients with pre-existing conditions — regardless of their age — are 6 times more likely to hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from the disease than those who had no pre-existing conditions, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.
While young, healthy people are less likely to die from Covid-19, many are suffering long-term effects from the disease.
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Is it safe to go back to the gym?
There are definitely risks, but also steps you and the gym can take to help minimize the risks.
Coronavirus often spreads more easily indoors rather than outdoors — especially if you’re indoors for an extended period of time.
Researchers have also found that heavy breathing and singing can propel aerosolized viral particles farther and increase the risk of transmission.
During one fitness instructor workshop, about 30 participants with no symptoms trained intensely for four hours, according to research published by the CDC. Eight participants later tested positive, and more than 100 new cases of coronavirus were traced back to that fitness workshop.
To help mitigate the risk, many gyms are now limiting capacity. Some are providing members with disinfectant sprays to sanitize equipment.
While health experts have recommended staying 6 feet away from others, it’s smart to keep even more distance than that at the gym.
“With all the heavy breathing, you may even want to double the usual 6 feet to 12 feet, just to be safe,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.
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This isolation is taking a toll on my mental health, and I’m starting to feel depressed and anxious about the pandemic. How can I get help?
The Crisis Text Line is available texting to 741741. Trained volunteers and crisis counselors are staffed 24/7, and the service is free.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
For health care professionals and essential workers, For the Frontlines offers free 24/7 crisis counseling and support for workers dealing with stress, anxiety, fear or isolation related to coronavirus.
For more resources, check out CNN’s guide to giving and getting help during the pandemic.
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I heard you can get Covid-19 through your eyes. Should we wear goggles, too?
Doctors say wearing eye protection (in addition to face masks) could certainly help some people, but it’s not necessary for everyone.
Teachers who have younger students in the classroom are “likely to be in environments where children might pull down their masks, or not be very compliant with them,” epidemiologist Saskia Popescu said. “There is concern that you could get respiratory droplets in the eyes.”
If you’re a health care worker or taking care of someone at home who has coronavirus, it’s smart to wear eye protection, said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
(Note: Regular glasses or sunglasses aren’t enough, because they leave too many gaps around the eyes.)
But if you’re not in a high-risk situation — and you’re very strict about wearing face masks and staying 6 feet away from others – wearing goggles isn’t necessary.
While it’s still possible to get Covid-19 through the eyes, that scenario is less likely than getting it through your nose or mouth, Steinemann said.
He said if a significant number of people were getting coronavirus through their eyes, doctors would probably see more Covid-19 patients with conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye (though having pink eye doesn’t necessarily mean you have coronavirus).
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Should people wear face shields instead of (or in addition to) face masks?
The CDC does not recommend using plastic face shields for everyday activities or as a substitute for face masks. There are a few exceptions, such as for those who are hearing-impaired and rely on on lip-reading or those who have physical or mental health conditions that would be exacerbated by wearing a cloth face mask.
“Cloth face coverings are a critical preventive measure and are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult,” the CDC says.
Clinical and laboratory studies show cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth – what the CDC refers to as “source control.” And many people are contagious even when they don’t have any symptoms and don’t know they’re infected.
Face shields worn in addition to masks can provide an added layer of protection and can also help people stop touching their faces. Workers who are around people for long periods of time, such as grocery store workers or hospital personnel, may want to wear face shields in addition to masks, to increase their protection.
If someone must use a face shield without a mask, the CDC says the shield “should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.”
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Is it safe to go on vacation?
It depends on how careful you are.
While some parts of the country have more cases of Covid-19 than others, “I think even more important than where someone goes is what they do when they go there,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
“Much like even when you’re at home, if you are essentially controlling your environment, not going out into public places with large crowds, you’re wearing a face mask, you’re washing your hands, you can go on vacation safely,” he said.
“I think certainly flying on planes is a little less safe than driving,” Thomas said. “But it’s really what you do when you go there. If you’re going to bars and restaurants, not wearing a mask, going out with large crowds … you’re going to potentially come home with the virus.”
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My kids don’t want to wear a mask. What should I do?
Children can be more reluctant because they’re more sensitive to new things than adults are, said Christopher Willard, a psychiatry lecturer at Harvard Medical School.
“There’s also the weird psychological aspect of not being able to see their own face or other people’s faces and facial expressions,” which can hinder their feelings of comfort or safety, he said.
To ease their mask fears, try buying or making masks with fun designs on them. Or have your child customize his or her own masks by drawing on them with markers.
You can also order children’s face masks with superheroes on them or show your kids photos of their favorite celebrities wearing masks.
It’s also important to set a good example by wearing a mask yourself. Show your children your own mask, and let them know that by wearing one, they’ll be just like Mom or Dad.
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Is it safe to get a flu shot in the fall?
Yes. And please do so, doctors say.
This year, it’s “more important than ever to get a flu shot because we will almost certainly face the double whammy of flu season coinciding the same time as surging cases of COVID-19,” emergency room physician Dr. Leana Wen said.
And a flu/coronavirus double whammy could be disastrous if it overwhelms the healthcare system. An estimated 410,000 to 740,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu this past flu season, from October to April, according to the CDC.
Wen said the flu shot is about 40% to 60% effective. But even if you do get the flu after having been vaccinated, the flu shot “still reduces your chance of having severe effects from the flu.”
You also want to avoid having a personal double whammy of getting both the flu and Covid-19. And yes, it is possible to have both at the same time.
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How do I prevent my glasses or sunglasses from fogging up when I wear a mask?
First, make sure the top of your mask fits snugly against your skin (to minimize vapor from your breath from going up toward your eyes). Then put your glasses over the snug-fitting top portion of your mask.
If that doesn’t do the trick, soap and water can create a barrier that prevents glasses from fogging up. Here’s how.
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Are cancer patients at higher risk of severe complications from Covid-19?
Yes. And the increased risk applies to cancer patients of all ages, the CDC says.
“Having cancer currently increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” the CDC says. “At this time, it is not known whether having a history of cancer increases your risk.”
Researchers found that patients whose cancer was getting worse or spreading were more than five times more likely to die in a month if they caught Covid-19.
But there are steps cancer patients can take to stay as healthy as possible:
- Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your medications.
- Don’t delay any life-saving treatment or emergency care during this pandemic.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about your individual level of risk based on your condition, your treatment, and the level of transmission in your community.
- Don’t stop taking your medicines or alter your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
- Call your healthcare provider if you think you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
- Read the CDC’s tips for preventing infections in cancer patients.
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Can central air conditioning spread Covid-19 in public places?
Technically, it can, but HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) systems are not thought to be a significant factor in the spread of coronavirus.
Many modern air conditioning systems will either filter out or dilute the virus. Ventilation systems with highly effective filters are a key way to eliminate droplets from the air, said Harvard environmental health researcher Joseph Gardner Allen.
Filters are rated by a MERV system – their “minimum efficiency reporting value” that specifies their ability to trap tiny particles. The MERV ratings go from 1 to 20. The higher the number, the better the filtration.
HEPA filters have the highest MERV ratings, between 17 and 20. HEPA filters are used by hospitals to create sterile rooms for surgeries and to control infectious diseases. They’re able to remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and other airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns.
For context, this new coronavirus is thought to be between 0.06 to 1.4 microns in size.
But “HEPA filtration is not always going to be feasible or practical,” Allen said. “But there are other filters that can do the job. What is recommended now by the standard setting body for HVAC is a MERV 13 filter.”
High-efficiency filters in the 13-to-16 MERV range are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, research labs and other places where filtration is important.
“If you’re an owner of a home, building or mall, you want to have someone to assess your system and install the largest MERV number filter the system can reliably handle without dropping the volume of air that runs through it,” advised Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
“In addition, virtually all modern air conditioning systems in commercial buildings have a process called makeup air where they bring in air from outside and condition it and bring it inside,” Bromage said. “It’s worse in regards to energy, but the more outside air we bring in, the more dilution of the virus we have and then the safer you are.”
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What does asymptomatic mean?
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How effective are different types of face masks? Which cloth masks work the best?
Different types have different levels of effectiveness, according to researchers at Florida Atlantic University.
They compared four types of face masks commonly used by the public: a stitched mask with two layers of fabric, a commercial cone mask, a folded handkerchief, and a bandana. Researchers tested each to see which would likely offer the most protection if someone coughed or sneezed.
— The stitched mask with two layers of fabric performed the best, with droplets traveling only 2.5 inches.
— With a cone-style mask, the droplets traveled about 8 inches.
— A folded handkerchief performed worse, with droplets traveling 1 foot, 3 inches.
— The bandana gave the least amount of protection of the cloth masks tested, with droplets traveling 3 feet.
— Still, any kind of cloth mask is better than none, the researchers found. Without any covering, droplets were able to travel 8 feet.
“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
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Do I still need to quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel?
If you traveled internationally, the CDC says you should stay home for 14 days after returning home. During those 14 days, be sure to take these steps:
- Take your temperature with a thermometer twice a day and monitor for a fever. You can use this temperature log to monitor your temperature. And watch for coughing or trouble breathing.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school.
- Do not use public transportation, taxis, or ride-share services.
- Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
If you traveled domestically, it depends on the state. Some state or local governments require those who have recently traveled to stay home for 14 days. Covid-19 cases and deaths have been reported in all 50 states, and the situation is constantly changing.
“Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick,” the CDC says.
You can read the CDC’s full guide on how to protect yourself on different types of transportation here.
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How can I volunteer to be vaccine trial participant?
Go to www.coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org to fill out a quick questionnaire.
The website is handling registration for the four large vaccine studies that are expected to start by this fall, and any others that follow.
Several of the questions are designed to assess how likely you are to become infected and sick with Covid-19, including your race, what kind of work you do and how many people you come into contact with on a daily basis.
Tens of thousands of volunteers will be needed to help with trials before a vaccine could be made available to the public.
There will be more than 100 sites in the United States and abroad, and after registering on the website, your information will be sent to the study site closest to you.
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Can you get Covid-19 through sex?
The odds of transmitting coronavirus through sex hasn’t been thoroughly studied, though it has been found to exist in men’s semen.
But we do know Covid-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can spread via saliva, coughs, sneezes, talking or breathing — with or without symptoms of illness.
So three Harvard physicians examined the likelihood of getting or giving Covid-19 during sex and made several recommendations.
For partners who haven’t been isolating together, people should wear masks and avoid kissing, the authors write.
In addition to wearing masks, people who have sex with partners outside of their home should also shower before and after; avoid sex acts that involve the oral transmission of bodily fluids; clean up the area afterward with soap or alcohol wipes to reduce their likelihood of infection.
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Why has the guidance on wearing face masks changed so much?
Earlier in this pandemic, scientists didn’t know how easily this new virus spreads between people without symptoms, nor did they know how long infectious particles could linger in the air. There was also a shortage of N95 respirators and face masks among health care workers who were quickly overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.
But since then, the CDC, the US Surgeon General and other doctors have changed their recommendations and are now urging the widespread use of face masks.
The CDC now says the public needs to “cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.”
“Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities,” the CDC said.
Scientists have made many recent discoveries about the novel coronavirus, including:
In other words, it’s not just people who are sneezing and coughing who can spread coronavirus. It’s often people who look completely normal and don’t have a fever. And that could include you.
If 95% of Americans wore face masks in public, it would save more than 33,000 lives by October 1, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
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How can I stay safe in an elevator?
It’s best to take the stairs if you can. But if you can’t, emergency room physician Dr. Leana Wen offers several tips:
- Wear a mask. Not only does wearing a mask reduce your risk of inhaling the virus — which can linger in the air for 8 minutes — it also helps reduce your chances of infecting others if you are an asymptomatic carrier.
- Use a tissue to push the elevator buttons. If you don’t have a tissue, use your elbow, then wash or disinfect that area when you can.
- Try to keep your distance from anyone else inside the elevator as much as possible.
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How safe are public restrooms?
“If you don’t have to use the public restroom, don’t,” said microbiologist Ali Nouri, president of the Federation of American Scientists. But he acknowledged that’s not always possible: “Sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Close contact with others is the most significant risk in a public restroom, Nouri said. So if there’s a single-person bathroom available that doesn’t have multiple stalls, using that might be best.
If you do use a multi-stall public restroom, Nouri offers the following tips:
- Use paper towels to dry your hands, not the hand dryer. Air dryers can spread viral particles around the room. And paper towels have been shown to remove residual viral particles more effectively than air.
- Don’t use your freshly washed hands to turn off the water with the germ-laden faucet handle. Instead, use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the bathroom door. Throw away the paper towel immediately afterward.
- Wear a face mask. “Masks are one of the most effective ways to stop human-to-human transmission,” Nouri said. “If people in a public bathroom are not wearing masks, think twice before going in.”
- If the restroom looks crowded, wait until it clears out, if you can. “You’re reducing the risk of inhaling aerosolized particles from other people,” Nouri said.
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What’s the risk of having a maid service come to clean your house if you’re not home?
“It’s probably safe if you’re not at home,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician. She suggested leaving the windows open to improve ventilation and asking the cleaners to use your own cleaning supplies so they don’t bring items that have been in other people’s houses.
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Can I disinfect my mask by putting it in the microwave?
That’s “not a great idea,” said Dr. Joseph Vinetz, a professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine. “We have no evidence about that.”
“If there’s a metal piece in an N95 or surgical mask and even staples, you can’t microwave them,” he said. “It’ll blow up.”
Vinetz said cloth masks can be washed and reused, and even disposable masks can be reused if you let them sit for several days.
To disinfect masks that you can’t wash, Vinetz recommends leaving them in a clean, safe place in your home for a few days. After that, it should no longer be infectious, as this coronavirus is known to survive on hard surfaces for only up to three days.
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Is it safe to perform CPR on a stranger?
Doctors strongly recommend performing CPR when someone needs it.
You could be hundreds of times more likely to save that dying person’s life than you are to die from Covid-19 if you contract it after performing CPR, according to a report published by a group of Seattle emergency room physicians in the journal Circulation.
But it’s important to act quickly for CPR to be effective.
“The chance of survival goes down by 10% for every minute without CPR,” said Dr. Comilla Sasson, vice president for science and innovation in emergency cardiovascular care at the American Heart Association. “It’s a 10-minute window to death in many cases.”
If you’re not certified in CPR, performing chest compressions could also buy more time until help arrives. Bystanders should “provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest, with minimal interruptions,” the American Heart Association said.
If you’re not sure how “fast” to do to those chest compressions, singing any of these popular songs will help you get the right rhythm.
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I see other countries spraying down sidewalks and other public places with disinfectant. Why don’t we do that in the US?
Randomly spraying open places is largely a waste of time, health experts say.
It can actually do more harm than good. “Spraying disinfectants can result in risks to the eyes, respiratory or skin irritation,” the World Health Organization said.
“Spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is also not recommended to kill the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris, and it is not feasible to manually clean and remove all organic matter from such spaces,” the WHO said.
“Moreover, spraying porous surfaces, such as sidewalks and unpaved walkways, would be even less effective.” Besides, the ground isn’t typically a source of infection, the WHO said.
And once the disinfectant wears off, an infected person could easily contaminate the surface again.
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Will the protests over police brutality increase the spread of Covid-19?
And when people are “shouting and cheering loudly, that does produce a lot of droplets and aerosolization that can spread the virus to people,” said Dr. James Phillips, a physician and assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital.
So doctors and officials say it’s extremely important to wear a face mask and try to keep your distance from others as much as possible.
“Even if you think you’re a superhero because you’re young and you’re strong, you can get it and then infect someone else,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
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Do I need to wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water?
No. The US Food and Drug Administration says you don’t need to wash fresh produce with soap and water, but you should rinse it with plain water.
But it’s still important to wash your hands with soap and water frequently because we often touch our faces without realizing it. And that’s a very easy way for coronavirus to spread.
You don’t have to worry about getting coronavirus by “eating” it, though. Even if coronavirus does get into your food, your stomach acid would kill it, said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.
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Should I wash my hands and laundry in very warm or hot water?
Hot water is best for killing bacteria and viruses in your laundry. But you don’t want to use that kind of scalding hot water on your skin.
Warm water is perfectly fine for washing your hands — as long as you wash them thoroughly (like this) and for at least 20 seconds. (To time yourself, you can hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice or sing a couple of verses from any of these hit songs from the past several decades.)
Cold water will also work, “but you have to make sure you work really vigorously to get a lather and get everything soapy and bubbly,” said chemist Bill Wuest, an associate professor at Emory University. To do that, you might need to sing “Happy Birthday” three times instead of twice.
“Warm water with soap gets a much better lather – more bubbles,” Wuest said. “It’s an indication that the soap is … trying to encapsulate the dirt and the bacteria and the viruses in them.”
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What’s convalescent plasma therapy? Do plasma donors and their recipients have to have the same blood type for this treatment?
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood from patients who have recovered from an infection, the US Food and Drug Administration says. “Antibodies present in convalescent plasma are proteins that might help fight the infection.”
But just like normal blood donation, donors and recipients must be matched by blood type. Type AB plasma is the only universal type and can be given to patients of any blood type.
The FDA said patients who are fully recovered from Covid-19 for at least two weeks are encouraged to consider donating plasma.
The Red Cross said there are other requirements for plasma donors:
- You are at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. (The age requirement may differ according to organization and state). Other weight requirements apply for donors age 18 or younger.
- You must be in good health overall health now.
You cannot donate if you are pregnant or have certain conditions, such as HIV or sickle cell disease.
Anyone interested in donating can fill out a form on the Red Cross website here.
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Can you safely reuse a non-cloth mask that you can’t wash, like a disposable mask?
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Will an antibody test show whether I’m immune and can go back to work or school?
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Can I use vodka as hand sanitizer?
Please don’t. The CDC advises using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Vodka typically contains between 35% and 46% percent alcohol.
If the stores are out of hand sanitizer and you want to make your own, the Nebraska Medical Center offers this recipe:
What you’ll need:
- 2/3 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
- Mixing bowl
- Spoon or something for whisking
- Small container, such as a 3-oz. travel bottle
- Optional: essential oil to give your hand sanitizer a fragrance
In a mixing bowl, stir isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel together until well blended.
Add 8-10 drops of scented essential oil (optional, but nice). Stir.
Pour the homemade hand sanitizer into an empty container and seal. Write “hand sanitizer” on a piece of masking tape and attach to the bottle.
Myths & misinformation treatment & prevention
Are smokers or vapers at higher risk? What if I only smoke weed?
This is not a good time to be vaping or smoking anything, including weed.
“Vaping affects your lungs at every level. It affects the immune function in your nasal cavity by affecting cilia, which push foreign things out,” said Prof. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Research Control and Education at University of California San Francisco.
When you vape, “the ability of your upper airways to clear viruses is compromised,” Glantz said.
Tobacco smokers are at especially high risk. In a study from China, where the first Covid-19 outbreak occurred, smokers were 14 times more likely to develop severe complications than non-smokers.
Even occasionally smoking marijuana can put you at greater risk.
“What happens to your airways when you smoke cannabis is that it causes some degree of inflammation, very similar to bronchitis, very similar to the type of inflammation that cigarette smoking can cause,” said pulmonologist Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association.
“Now you have some airway inflammation, and you get an infection on top of it. So yes, your chance of getting more complications is there.”
Work/life family treatment & prevention
My teenagers aren’t taking this seriously. Any advice?
Coronavirus isn’t just infecting young people. It’s killing young, healthy people as well.
Dimitri Mitchell, 18, admits he had a “false sense of security.” But he was later hospitalized with coronavirus and now wants everyone to take it seriously.
“I just want to make sure everybody knows that no matter what their age is, it can seriously affect them. And it can seriously mess them up, like it messed me up,” the Iowa teen said.
He started feeling sick with just a small cough. “I thought at first it was just a normal cold. And then it started progressively getting worse,” he said.
“Four days in, the really bad symptoms started coming along. I started having really bad outbreaks, like sweating, and my eyes were really watery. I was getting warmer and warmer, and I was super fatigued. … I would start experiencing the worst headaches I’ve ever felt in my life. They were absolutely horrible.”
Eventually, the teen had to be hospitalized. His mother said she worried he might “fall asleep and never wake up.”
Mitchell is now recovering, but has suffered from long-term effects.
“I just hope everybody’s responsible, because it’s nothing to joke about,” he said. “It’s a real problem, and I want everybody to make sure they’re following social distancing guidelines and the group limits. And just listen to all the rules and precautions and stay up to date with the news and make sure they’re informed.”
Family transmission treatment & prevention myths & misinformation schools/education
Does this pandemic have anything to do with the 5G network?
No. That’s just a hoax going around the internet.
“The theory that 5G might compromise the immune system and thus enable people to get sick from corona is based on nothing,” said Eric van Rongen, chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
Learn more about how 5G really works and why this hoax makes no sense.
Myths & misinformation
My ex and I have joint custody of our kids. Is it safe for them to go between two homes?
Ideally, you should limit your children’s potential exposures to coronavirus and work out the safest plan possible with your ex.
The problem: Some state and county family courts may be closed, or open only for emergencies involving abuse or endangerment. So if parents wanted to formally modify pre-existing custody agreements, they can’t.
But some states may be offering some flexibility during the pandemic. And there may be creative solutions, such as spending more time with one parent now in exchange for extra time with the other parent after the pandemic ends.
Family work/life travel
Should I wear a face mask in public? If so, how do I make one?
The CDC recently changed its guidance on wearing face masks as more studies about asymptomatic spread pile up.
Now, the CDC “recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).”
But there are several important caveats and key points:
- The public should NOT buy surgical masks or N95 respirator masks. Those are desperately needed by health care workers who are in close contact with coronavirus patients every day.
- Instead, make your own cloth mask — it’s easy, and you don’t have to sew. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams shows how to make face masks with just a T-shirt and rubber bands in this CDC video. You can also use a bandana and a coffee filter.
- You can definitely still get coronavirus even if you wear a mask. The virus can stay alive on surfaces for up to 3 days, and it’s easy to touch your face whenever you’re not wearing a mask. Also, people often adjust face masks frequently, leading to more touching of the face — a common way that coronavirus spreads.
- It’s important to wash your cloth mask after every use. Here’s how.
- Wearing cloth masks is just “an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said. To protect yourself from getting coronavirus, it’s critical to stay 6 feet away from others, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time, and stop touching your face.
transmission work/life myths & misinformation
Is there a cure?
There’s currently no cure for the novel coronavirus. And while research and trials are underway, it could be next year before a vaccine becomes publicly available.
Treatment & Prevention
Why is a cure taking so long?
An antiviral drug must be able to target the specific part of a virus’s life cycle that is necessary for it to reproduce, according to Harvard Medical School.
“In addition, an antiviral drug must be able to kill a virus without killing the human cell it occupies. And viruses are highly adaptive.”
Treatment & Prevention
If there’s no cure, why go to the hospital unless you have a breathing problem?
Most coronavirus patients don’t need to be hospitalized. “The vast majority of people – about 80% – will do well without any specific intervention,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Those patients should get plenty of rest, hydrate frequently and take fever-reducing medication.
“The current guidance – and this may change – is that if you have symptoms that are similar to the cold and the flu and these are mild symptoms to moderate symptoms, stay at home and try to manage them,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association.
But about 20% of coronavirus patients get advanced disease. “Older patients and individuals who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their physician early in the course of even mild illness,” the CDC says.
The CDC also says you should get immediate help if you have:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Sudden confusion
- Bluish lips or face
“This list is not all inclusive,” the CDC says. “Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.”
Treatment & prevention family
Why are people stocking up on bottled water? Is the water supply at risk?
No, the water supply is not at risk.
“The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water,” the CDC says. “Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
So there’s no need to hoard drinking water, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said he and his wife are still drinking tap water.
Work/life myths & misinformation
We need a babysitter. How do I keep my family safe with someone new in the house?
The Harvard Medical School offers several tips, including:
- choosing a babysitter who has minimal exposures to other people besides your family
- limiting the number of babysitters. If you can keep it to one, that’s ideal. But if you need multple babysitters, keep the number as low as possible
- making sure the babysitter understands he or she needs to practice social distancing and limits physical interaction with your children as much as possible
- telling the babysitter that he or she must not come to your house if feeling even the slightest bit sick, or has had known exposure to coronavirus
- making sure everyone washes their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating.
If people can spread the virus without showing any symptoms, how can I tell who’s infected and who’s not?
You can’t, said Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster and operational medicine at George Washington University Hospital.
“We’re so far behind on testing, there’s only one way we can be certain not to transmit the virus and be certain not to get it ourselves: We need to start treating every person as though they have this, ” Phillips said.
“And everyone needs to treat us like we have it, and socially distance ourselves in that manner. Because until we have (enough) testing, we don’t know who has this. And we’re not sure when they start spreading it.”
That’s why it’s so critical to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wear a mask when you might be in close contact with others, wash or disinfect your hands, and stop touching your face.
Transmission travel work/life schools/education
How do I safely take care of someone who’s sick?
It may be difficult to know whether your loved one has coronavirus or another illness.
So it’s critical to play it safe and not infect yourself and, in turn, others. The CDC suggests:
- Giving the sick person their own room to stay in, if possible. Keep the door closed.
- Having only one person serve as the caretaker.
- Asking the sick person to wear a face mask, if they are able to. If the mask causes breathing difficulties, then the caretaker should wear a mask instead.
What are the symptoms?
Fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing are hallmarks of coronavirus.
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure, the CDC says. But some people get no symptoms at all and can infect others without knowing it.
The illness varies in its severity. And while many people can recover at home just fine, some people — including young, previously healthy adults — are suffering long-term symptoms.
What exactly does ‘older’ adults mean? What is the age threshold?
Should I disinfect my groceries? If so, how?
“I would suggest wiping down external surfaces of canned or wrapped foods,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center.
“You should be washing your vegetables (and) produce anyway,” she said. “But I think making sure you sanitize your hands, wash your hands after you do all that – after you unpack all your groceries – is also a key step.”
The stores are all out of disinfectant sprays and hand sanitizer. Can I make my own?
Yes, you can make both at home.
“Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted” if you’re trying to kill coronavirus on a non-porous surface, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The CDC’s recipe calls for diluting 5 tablespoons (or ⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
What you’ll need:
- 2/3 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
- Mixing bowl
- Spoon or something for whisking
- Small container, such as a 3 oz. travel bottle
- Optional: essential oil to give your hand sanitizer a fragrance
In a mixing bowl, stir isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel together until well blended.
Add 8-10 drops of scented essential oil (optional, but nice). Stir.
Pour the homemade hand sanitizer into an empty container and seal.
Write “hand sanitizer” on a piece of masking tape and attach to the bottle.
Work/life Treatment & Prevention
Should I stock up on extra food and supplies?
Harvard Medical School recommends keeping a two-week to 30-day supply of nonperishable food at home. And if you don’t use them now, they may come in handy for power outages or extreme weather.
It’s also a good idea to keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications you may need, though it can be difficult to get them early. Consider mail-ordering medications.
Should I avoid public transportation?
If you rely on public transportation, use caution. If you’re sick or live in an area where an outbreak has been reported, avoid it.
Mass transit could increase your risk of exposure to coronavirus. Luckily, transit systems are upping their cleaning regimens — notably the New York subway system.
Dr. Robyn Gershon, a professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Public Health, has some tips: When you ride a bus or subway, sneeze or cough into your elbow. Use a tissue to hold onto a pole. Avoid touching your face while you’re riding, and use hand sanitizer if you have it while you’re commuting.
Again, wash your hands before, during and after your trip.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommends letting crowded trains or buses pass and waiting for a less crowded one. It’s nearly impossible to maintain 6 feet of distance on a packed subway car.
If you have a chronic illness, find alternative means of transportation — being in a crowded subway car or bus will significantly increase your risk of infection.
How do I stay healthy while using Uber or Lyft?
Both rideshare companies said they’re actively trying to protect customers and drivers from coronavirus.
Uber said it is trying to give drivers with disinfectants to help keep their cars clean, and the company “may temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.”
Lyft announced a similar policy: “If we are notified of a rider or driver testing positive for COVID-19, they will be temporarily suspended from using Lyft until they are medically cleared.”
Both Lyft and Uber also said they will protect drivers financially if they are asked to isolate themselves.
“Any driver or delivery person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is individually asked to self-isolate by a public health authority will receive financial assistance for up to 14 days while their account is on hold,” Uber said.
“We’ve already helped drivers in some affected areas, and we’re working to quickly implement this worldwide.”
Is it safe for me to vote at a polling location?
States have received guidance from the CDC on how to keep voting locations clean. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable going.
Many states that already held elections imposed measures to reduce contact between voters, increasing the distance between voting booths and rigorously disinfecting voting equipment. But if you go, remember – wash your hands before, during and afterward.
If you’re able to mail in your ballot, do – just don’t lick the envelope.
If you think you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, the CDC advises that you stay home. It’s unfortunate to skip out on your civic duty, but sick people shouldn’t visit crowded locations.
Should I go to work?
If you can, you should stay home from work when you’re sick, whether or not you have coronavirus.
If you must go into work, maintain 6 feet of distance from your colleagues, wash your hands frequently and wear a face mask whenever possible.
Can I be fired if I stay home sick?
But there are exceptions. Employers who make workers with coronavirus come in may be violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] regulations, according to Donna Ballman, who heads an employee advocacy law firm in Florida.
What happens when workers don’t get paid sick leave?
But there is no federal mandate that requires companies to offer paid sick leave, and almost a quarter of all US workers don’t get it, according to 2019 government data. Some state and local governments have passed laws that require companies to offer paid sick leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can sometimes protect a worker’s job in the event they get sick, but it won’t guarantee they get paid while they’re out.
Employee advocates urge businesses to consider the special circumstances of the coronavirus, and some already have. Uber and Olive Garden are two that recently updated their sick leave policies to adjust to the pandemic.
Can managers send a sick worker home?
The Society for Human Resource Management recommends companies “actively encourage sick employees to stay home, send symptomatic employees home until they are able to return to work safely, and require employees returning from high-risk areas to telework during the incubation period [of 14 days].”
If a manager feels an employee’s illness poses a direct threat to colleagues’ safety, the manager may be able to insist the employee be evaluated by a doctor, said Alka Ramchandani-Raj, an attorney specializing in workplace safety.
If traveling on a plane, how do I stay safe?
Since Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, some airlines are now requiring passengers to wear face masks during the flight, except for while eating or drinking.
And always be mindful of where your hands have been, travel medicine specialist Dr. Richard Dawood said.
Airport handrails, door handles and airplane lavatory levers are notoriously dirty.
“It is OK to touch these things as long as you then wash or sanitize your hands before contaminating your face, touching or handling food,” Dawood said.
“Hand sanitizers are great. So are antiseptic hand wipes, which you can also use to wipe down armrests, remote controls at your seat and your tray table.”
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Since a plane’s cabin keeps circulating air, will I get sick if another passenger is sick?
Most viruses don’t spread easily on airplanes because of how the air circulates and is filtered, the CDC says.
Modern commercial jets recirculate 10-50% of the air in the cabin, mixed with outside air.
“The recirculated air passes through a series of filters 20-30 times per hour,” the CDC says.
“Furthermore, air generally circulates in defined areas within the aircraft, thus limiting the radius of distribution of pathogens spread by small-particle aerosols. As a result, the cabin air environment is not conducive to the spread of most infectious diseases.”
I have plans to go on a cruise. Should I rebook or cancel?
“US citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the US Department of State says.
Cruise ship passengers are at an increased risk of infection, the CDC says. The virus spreads more easily between passengers in tight quarters.
Several cruise ships have been linked to coronavirus, including the Diamond Princess, where more than 700 people were infected. Half of those infected didn’t have symptoms when they tested positive. At least seven of those patients have died.
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, some cruise lines have implemented more flexible rebooking or cancellation policies.
If I have a weakened immune system, should I cancel my travel plans?
People who are immunocompromised “are at higher risk from this illness, as well as other illnesses like the flu. Avoiding contact with ill people is crucial,” Washington state’s Snohomish Health District said.
“While rates of infection may not differ significantly between healthy and immunocompromised travelers, the latter are at greater risk for severe disease,” according to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine.
What do I do if I think I’m sick?
Stay home. Call your doctor to talk about your symptoms and let them know you’re coming for an appointment so they can prepare for your visit, the CDC says.
Only a Covid-19 test can diagnose you with the virus, but if you suspect you have it, isolate yourself at home.
Many patients with coronavirus are able to recover at home. If you’ve been diagnosed and your illness is worsening, seek medical attention promptly. You may need to be monitored in a hospital.
Ask your physician to call the local or state health department, too, so they’re aware that you’re being monitored for the virus.
Treatment & Prevention
Should I spray myself or my kids with disinfectant?
No. Those products work on surfaces but can be dangerous to your body.
There are some chemical disinfectants, including bleach, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform, that may kill the virus on surfaces.
But if the virus is already in your body, putting those substances on your skin or under your nose won’t kill it, the World Health Organization says. And those chemicals can harm you.
Treatment & Prevention myths & misinformation
I’ve heard that home remedies can cure or prevent the virus. Is that true?
There’s no evidence from the outbreak that eating garlic, sipping water every 15 minutes or taking vitamin C will protect people from the new coronavirus. Same goes for using essential oils, colloidal silver and steroids.
Treatment & prevention myths & misinformation
How long does it take to recover?
“It takes anything up to six weeks to recover from this disease,” said Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization.
“People who suffer very severe illness can take months to recover from the illness.”
Recovery is often marked by a patient no longer showing symptoms and having two consecutive negative tests at least one day apart, Ryan said. But there is no known cure for this novel coronavirus.
Treatment & Prevention
Why waste a test kit on a person without symptoms?
Some people with coronavirus have mild or no symptoms. And in some cases, symptoms don’t appear until up to 14 days after infection.
During that incubation period, it’s possible to get coronavirus from someone with no symptoms. It’s also possible you may have coronavirus without feeling sick and are accidentally infecting others.
So anyone who has had close contact with someone known to have coronavirus should ask a health care provider about getting tested, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Treatment & Prevention
Why has the US been so far behind other countries with testing?
Experts say it’s due to cuts in federal funding for public health and problems with early testing.
Problems with public health infrastructure: Two years ago, the CDC stopped funding epidemic prevention activities in 39 countries, including China. This happened because the Trump administration refused to allocate money to a program that started during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden warned that move “would significantly increase the chance an epidemic will spread without our knowledge and endanger lives in our country and around the world.”
Problems with the testing: Malfunctions, shortages and delays in availability have all contributed to the slowdown.
In the first few weeks of the outbreak in the US, the CDC was the only facility in the country that could confirm test results — even though a World Health Organization test became available around the same time.
Some test kits that were sent around the country were flawed — a move that put the US behind about “four to five weeks,” says Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.
Treatment & Prevention
Did Dean Koontz predict this outbreak in the book “The Eyes of Darkness” almost 40 years ago?
No. There are some interesting coincidences in the 1981 fiction novel, which says “a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread around the globe” around the year 2020. Modern editions of the book call the biological strain “Wuhan-400,” and the current coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China.
But there are important differences between the book and reality. The original version of the book called the strain the “Gorki-400,” in reference to a Russian locality, before it was later changed to the “Wuhan-400.” In the book, the virus was man-made, while scientists believe the novel coronavirus started in animals and jumped to humans. And in the book, the virus had a 100% mortality rate. Early estimates of the mortality rate for this coronavirus outbreak range from 2-4%.
myths & misinformation