Updated Q&A: Answers to your coronavirus questions
Editor’s note: The Summit Daily News hosted a live webinar answering common questions about the new coronavirus on Thursday, but due to a power outage, the interview was cut short. Above is the complete webinar. Go to SummitDaily.com/coronavirus for more COVID-19 resources, updates and more.
Send your questions to email@example.com.
Is it safe to go grocery shopping?
Despite the statewide stay-at-home order, residents are permitted to out for necessities, including groceries. When visiting the grocery store, you should take the same precautions you’re already taking to prevent the spread of the virus, including washing your hands for 20 seconds before and after you shop, not touching your face and keeping at least 6 feet between you and other shoppers.
Summit County public health officials recommend buying enough food for about two weeks so that trips to the grocery store can be reduced.
When you return home, fruits and vegetable should be washed like normal under running water. Packaged goods do not need to be sanitized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Learn more: Do I need to sanitize my groceries?
Can pets get the new coronavirus?
While there were reports of two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium that have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, the leading veterinarian association in the U.S. states there is no proof pets can spread the virus.
Steamboat Springs veterinarian Dr. Karen Nann said industry researchers Idexx Laboratories just finished a study on 3,500 cats and dogs to confirm the finding of vet experts around the world.
“If you cough or sneeze on a pet, they can’t get (COVID-19) themselves, but it can be used as a fomite or a way to transfer it. … But it won’t survive on a pet long,” Nann said. “It can’t mutate and grow on pets.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines make it clear that the virus survives much better on smooth, nonporous surfaces rather than on porous materials like pet fur.
Can coronavirus be transmitted on mail and packages?
The World Health Organization has confirmed that transmission of the new coronavirus on commercial goods, including papers and packages, is small. That includes newspapers as well as mail.
“The risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is low,” the organization reported in its coronavirus Q&A.
How can shortness of breath from high elevation vs. shortness of breath from coronavirus be differentiated?
Altitude sickness symptoms typically appear eight to 36 hours after ascending to a higher elevation. Those symptoms can include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or lightheadedness, weakness or fatigue, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite.
Some symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially life-threatening condition for people who are having trouble acclimatizing, can be similar to symptoms for COVID-19, including a cough, fever and shortness of breath. A fever for high-altitude pulmonary edema typically would not exceed 101 degrees, but it could for COVID-19. High-altitude pulmonary edema also would be accompanied by fluid the lungs, indicated by rattling or gurgling sounds while breathing, while COVID-19 includes a dry cough.
The Summit County Public Health order asks people to stay at home, so people should not be traveling to higher elevations during this time. If you are concerned about your symptoms, contact your health care provider.
What if a business is operating with employees in close contact? How does this get regulated so employees are safe?
The Summit County Public Health order required all nonessential business to close their doors to the public (exceptions have been made for delivery or curbside pickup), and Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order March 22 requiring all nonessential employers to reduce their workforce by half. That could be accomplished by having more people work from home or staggering shifts. If employers can prove their employees are not closer then 6 feet from one another, they are exempt from the new order.
Nonretail business are permitted to continue operating so long as they comply with the 6-foot social distancing guideline. If a business refuses to follow the requirements in the local public health order, reports can be made by calling 970-668-8600. Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months. County officials said they would emphasize education over punishment.
Is there a test to find out if a person has already had the virus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to develop a laboratory test to determine how much of the U.S. population has been exposed to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The test will look for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to infections that can be found in the blood and in other tissues of those who are tested after infection. Antibody test results can detect infections in people with few or no symptoms.
Learn more: CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/testing.html
Does snow and low temperatures kill the virus? Alternatively, will warming temperatures help?
It is not yet known whether temperatures impact the spread of the new coronavirus. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold-weather months, but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. Transmission of the new coronavirus also is occurring in warmer climates.
If I live with an at-risk person and I have no symptoms, am I OK to stay at home?
This is a personal decision. Many people might be infected with the virus and have no symptoms. A symptomatic person is believed to be more likely to spread the disease than a person with no symptoms. However, studies have shown that an infected person with no symptoms can still infect others.
If you work with the public, how do you keep your family safe from the virus when you come home?
Separate yourself from other people in your home as much as possible. Stay in a specific room, use a separate bathroom and stay at least 6 feet away from other people in your home.
Continue to follow existing advice for limiting the spread:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding with other people in your home.
What does it mean to flatten the curve?
In a scenario where a lot of people get sick over a short period of time, the estimated 15% of cases that require hospitalization are likely to overwhelm public health resources, including hospitals, which has happened in Italy. If the same number of people get sick over a longer period of time, hospitals are better equipped to meet the demand.
What is social distancing and how does coronavirus spread?
Social distancing is maintaining a distance of 6 or more feet between people. This prevents people from coming into contact with others’ respiratory droplets, which are produced when someone coughs or sneezes. Respiratory droplets are considered the primary way COVID-19 spreads.
Learn more: How COVID-19 spreads
What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
People who have COVID-19 symptoms should be in isolation, whether at home or at the hospital, in order to prevent spreading the disease to others. Quarantine is for people who’ve had close contact with positive cases of COVID-19 but do not have symptoms. Putting people in self-quarantine is a cautionary measure to help keep the disease from spreading if those people do become infected.
Learn more: Quarantine and isolation
What is the difference between coronavirus, COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2?
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2, a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, the first caused by a coronavirus.
What is community spread?
Community spread means the virus is passing from person to person within the Summit County community.
What is contact tracing?
When a person tests positive for COVID-19, local health officials interview that person to find out where they’ve been and with whom they’ve had contact. Anyone who has had close contact in a confined space for more than 10 minutes with someone who tests positive will be contacted by county public health officials and likely asked to self-quarantine. The public health risk to anyone else is considered low.
Learn more: What is contact tracing and why is it important?
Why isn’t more information being released about those who have tested positive?
Summit County health officials no longer will release demographic information — including age, gender and residency — about new cases because providing that information would be too taxing on health officials who are focused on investigating and managing the public health crisis. Officials also noted that age data, specifically, wouldn’t accurately reflect the outbreak because only at-risk groups are being tested.
Health officials also will not release information about where a person visited before testing positive because they believe it would cause “unnecessary panic.”
There also is a concern that releasing information could prevent patients from reporting their illness because they are afraid of being identified.
How can I protect myself?
- Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your inner elbow shirt sleeve or a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, handrails, etc.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- Get your flu shot, and stay up-to-date on other routine childhood and adult immunizations
How do I know if I have COVID-19?
Without a test, it’s difficult to be sure, but common symptoms include a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath.
How can I get tested for COVID-19?
Only those who are seriously ill will be tested. Health care workers and first responders also will be tested if symptomatic.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
If you’re younger than 60 and otherwise healthy, self-isolate and treat your symptoms like you would with any other illness. If your symptoms worsen or you have concerns, call you health care provider.
If you’re older than 60 or have chronic health conditions — like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease — call your health care provider.
People who are ill should remain isolated for 7-10 days and should not leave isolation until their symptoms improve and they don’t have a fever for 72 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medications.
Also, be sure to report you symptoms in Summit County’s new symptom tracker.
Is St. Anthony Summit Medical Center prepared for the outbreak?
It depends how many people become infected with COVID-19 and how quickly. It is estimated that 15% of cases require hospitalization. The local hospital previously had 10 isolation rooms, which are patient rooms capable of negative air pressure. Since the outbreak began, the hospital has added temporary isolation rooms, more than doubling the total. Before the outbreak, the isolation rooms had never been used. A hospital spokesman declined to say how many ventilators the hospital has but said it is working to build “surge capacity.”
What is the death rate of COVID-19 compared with other coronavirus and recent pandemics?
- MERS (2012): 34% death rate, more than 858 deaths
- SARS (2003): 10% death rate, 774 deaths
- COVID-19 pandemic (2019): 0.25% to 3.0% death rate, about 26,000 deaths so far
- H1N1 flu pandemic (swine flu, 2009): 0.02% death rate, 151,000-575,000 deaths
Where can I find the latest numbers on positive cases?
What business are allowed to be open?
- Federal, state, local and special district facilities, public utilities and utility service providers (electric utility providers, internet service providers, water and sewer service providers)
- Banks, title companies, grocery stores, pet food stores, hardware stores
- Medical service providers, including hospitals, doctors offices, physical therapists and pharmacies, medical supply companies, dental offices and veterinarians
- Retail gas stations, car dealerships, auto mechanic facilities, car rental companies
- Department stores, like Walmart and Target
- The sale of food and beverages — including liquor, beer and wine — is limited to carry-out. Food and nonalcoholic beverages also can be delivered.
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