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COVID-19 FAQs

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We have been receiving many questions about the pandemic from our readers and we are trying to answer as many of these as possible. Some questions will be answered in a story, podcast or video. You can find all of our coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage here.

Other questions will be answered in a Q&A format by a local health expert. Starting last week and in the coming weeks, we will be sending some of your health-related questions to local health officials. Below is a list of questions and answers that have been answered so far.

If your question isn't answered in that list, please submit yours here.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that what is known about the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is still evolving. This information does not constitute professional medical advice. For questions regarding your own health, always consult a physician.

FAQ Categories

Medical/science

Going out in public

Staying safe at home

Testing and transmission

Public vs. confidential info and data

Economic issues

Medical/science

As of Saturday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University has tracked 235,775 recovered cases worldwide, including 9,920 in the United States.

But that's only among confirmed cases, and it's impossible to know how many people have actually recovered from the coronavirus, due to limited testing capacity in some places and cases without symptoms. Many people may have had mild or no symptoms, never been tested, and recovered from COVID-19.

The FDA said Friday that limited data suggests convalescent plasma, or blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19, may be beneficial to those diagnosed with the illness, so it's important to evaluate such therapies. The agency said it is facilitating "well-controlled clinical trials at academic institutions to rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma."

Researchers at Kings College in London reviewed 13 studies on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include ibuprofen and Celebrex, and "did not identify any strong evidence for or against the use of ibuprofen for treatment of COVID-19 specifically." This review was published March 27.

In a FAQ updated March 30, the CDC said it's "currently not aware of scientific evidence establishing a link between NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen) and worsening of COVID-19."

The FDA said the same thing but also noted that all prescription NSAID labels warn that "the pharmacological activity of NSAIDs in reducing inflammation, and possibly fever, may diminish the utility of diagnostic signs in detecting infections."

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported January 21, 2020. Because some individuals infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, it is possible that an individual who travelled to an affected area such as Wuhan, China prior to that date could have become infected but was unaware. In that scenario, however, you would expect to see an outbreak as others were exposed to the virus and developed symptoms.

The COVID-19 test shows if you currently have the virus. Keep in mind that it is possible to have COVID-19 but have a “false negative” test, because of a bad sample or for other reasons.

Because it is a new virus, it is unclear whether people who recover from COVID-19 develop immunity, or how long the immunity lasts. Generally speaking, after exposure to a virus, the human body produces antibodies, which provide some level of immunity to that specific virus. Over time, the levels of antibodies decline and hosts become susceptible to reinfection from the virus. Being immune to one type of coronavirus does not necessarily provide immunity to another type of coronavirus. Also, viruses have the ability to mutate. According to Harvard Medical School, “most people would likely develop at least short-term immunity to the specific coronavirus that causes COVID-19. However, you would still be susceptible to a different coronavirus infection. Or this particular virus could mutate, just like the influenza virus does each year. Often these mutations change the virus enough to make you susceptible, because your immune system thinks it is an infection that it has never seen before.”

No, that is confidential information. Contact tracing protocols vary, depending on occupation, exposure, travel history, etc. The time period from when a person is exposed to when they develop symptoms could be anywhere from 2-14 days, so getting tested and having a negative result may provide a false sense of security. We can help protect ourselves and our loved ones by being vigilant about handwashing, avoiding touching our faces, disinfecting “high touch” surfaces, and practicing social distancing.

The CDC reports that, “generally coronaviruses survive for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, we don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point”.

The virus is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets through close person-to-person contact (within 6 feet) or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with respiratory droplets.

According to the CDC, in the United States for the period February 12 – March 16, 2020, the data for adults in the ages 75-84 shows that 30.5-58.7% of patients in this age group were hospitalized, 10.5-31.0% required ICU admission, and 4.3-10.5% suffered fatalities. There is still a lot that we don’t know, as this is a new virus.

It is possible, however there is not much data available. Generally speaking, the immune system is taxed by fighting illness. We do know that co-infection (having two infections simultaneously) with COVID-19 and other respiratory illness is possible.

Surgery is a major stressor on the body. The stress response of the immune system could, in theory, make a person more susceptible to illness from COVID-19. Open gallbladder surgery may require inpatient hospitalization for 3-5 days. Being hospitalized could potentially expose you to COVID-19.

Projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, last updated Monday, show the peak — measured in terms of beds needed — happening in Connecticut on April 25. The state has seen 602 COVID-19-associated deaths so far, according to the latest data from Gov. Ned Lamont's office, and this model projects 5,426 deaths by Aug. 4. That's 812 more deaths than the model was projecting on Friday.

IHME does not go to county-level, but the dashboard from Massachusetts software company Hospital IQ does. This model — which aggregates data from the IHME, Johns Hopkins University and other sources — also projects that peak hospital utilization for New London County will be on April 25, with 1,178 exposed and 69 deaths by June 11.

The state reported Monday that 1,760 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Connecticut, up 106 from the day before.

While Connecticut has struggled to acquire personal protective equipment, state officials said last Thursday they believe things are turning around. Lamont said the state has validated 259 sources for PPE and have placed 78 orders.

Outside of hospitals, Lamont on Saturday signed an executive order establishing COVID-19 recovery centers at Northbridge Healthcare Center in Bridgeport and Sharon Health Care Center, for people who can be discharged from acute care hospitals but are still impacted by infection.

The Connecticut National Guard is also working to transform the Connecticut Convention Center into a COVID-19 recovery center with 646 beds. Capt. David Pytlik said this is for patients that still require things like IVs and oxygen but not for patients requiring ventilators, NBC Connecticut reported.

Dozens of Lawrence + Memorial nurses have been traveling to Fairfield County, the epicenter of the pandemic in Connecticut, and they can expect reciprocation if and when the surge moves east.

Last week, the president of Greenwich Hospital said the hospital had 20 ventilators that weren't currently in use, The Connecticut Mirror reported. Trinity Health spokesperson Amy Ashford said the they have "adequate PPE and are prepared for the surge," but state officials haven't provided hospital-by-hospital information on supplies or needs.

"To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes," the World Health Organization says. "The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose."

There were three waves of the 1918 flu pandemic, Ledge Light Health District nurse practitioner Mary Day noted: spring of 1918, fall of 1918, and winter of 1918 to spring of 1919. She added that an influenza vaccine was not developed until 1938.

"We do not have enough data yet to make predictions about COVID-19 for next year, though some public health models are predicting several waves of the virus," Day said in an email Monday.

"People with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19," the CDC says. "COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease."

Mary Day commented, "You are likely considered to be an essential employee, so I would encourage you to work this out with your employer," Day said. "You have to consider the risks and make the decision that is best for you and your family."

Christopher Carter, president of the Connecticut Assisted Living Association, suggested contacting your daughter's primary care physician.

Kathy Kudish, immunization program manager for the state Department of Public Health, said there's no evidence to support the line of reasoning that getting a vaccination would lower resistance to fighting off COVID-19.

"The reasons for the guidance issued by CDC are out of consideration for potential spread of covid-19 in (health care) settings and observance of stay home orders, not out of safety concerns for vaccines themselves," Kudish said in an email.

She was referring to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For adults living in areas with community transmission of COVID-19, the CDC says visits for preventive services that require face-to-face encounters, such as immunizations, should be postponed unless "an in-person visit must be scheduled for some other purpose and the clinical preventive service can be delivered during that visit with no additional risk" or the patient and clinician believe there is a compelling need for the service and the benefit outweighs the risk of coronavirus exposure.

The CDC says that if a practice must limit well child visits, providers should prioritize newborn care and vaccination of those through 24 months.

"Disruption of immunization services, even for brief periods, will result in increased numbers of susceptible individuals and raise the likelihood of outbreak-prone vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) such as measles," the World Health Organization said in late March. "Such VPD outbreaks may result in increased morbidity and mortality predominantly in young infants and other vulnerable groups, which can cause greater burden on health systems already strained by the COVID-19 response."

The WHO said influenza vaccination of health workers, older adults and people who are pregnant is advised "where feasible."

The CDC also said there's no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of getting COVID-19.

This isn't data that is being tracked; Department of Public Health spokesperson Av Harris said it's impossible to tell.

The Food and Drug Administration said in March that vapers with underlying health conditions might be at higher risk from complications but told Bloomberg News in April, "E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of (COVID-19) is not known."

Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told Kaiser Health News, "Because of the recency, there's no data to show if there are differences in outcomes between people who vape and people who do not vape. There's no reported scientific evidence."

But she said one "can predict an association," noting that vaping produces inflammatory changes in the lungs, and "a tissue that has suffered harm is more vulnerable."

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Going out in public

The guidance on face coverings has changed since this question was asked on March 24. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recommending "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

Health officials had long said face masks should be reserved for health care workers and people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but studies show people can have the virus without having any symptoms and still be at risk of transmitting it to others. Still, the CDC maintains that surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for medical personnel.

Doctors and scientists aren't recommending people wear gloves for grocery shopping, because they don't have a lower potential of carrying the virus than your hands. If you touch something with gloves and then touch your face, it's no better than touching something with your hands and then touching your face.

Dr. Lauren Sauer, emergency medicine professor at Johns Hopkins University of School of Medicine, told TIME magazine gloves and masks can give people "a false sense of security," and people have a higher risk of exposure if they take gloves off incorrectly. Microbiologist Kelly Reynolds told Men's Health that studies show even 30% of health care workers remove gloves improperly.

Other precautions experts recommend, if having your groceries delivered isn't feasible, include sending only one member of the household to do the shopping, going at times that aren't as busy, using a paper grocery list instead of one on your phone, not touching your face, and getting enough groceries for two weeks.

"Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19," the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says. "Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill."

One would hope there aren't people sneezing or coughing onto produce in grocery stores, though a woman was arrested after allegedly intentionally coughing on fresh food in a Pennsylvania grocery store, causing product loss totaling more than $35,000, the store said in a Facebook post.

Wash your fruits and vegetables with water, and don't use any soap or chemicals.

The CDC states, “the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The amount of virus released from the body (shed) in stool, how long the virus is shed, and whether the virus in stool is infectious are not known. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 from the feces of an infected person is also unknown. However, the risk is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses…”. Flushing toilets without lids could potentially aerosolize viruses and also contaminate surfaces.

Steve Mansfield, director of Ledge Light Health District, is an avid bike rider and still rides almost daily, but all his rides are solo or with his wife.

"We're out in the woods, we're far from other people, and we avoid times when there may be congestion at some of the state parks and so forth," he said. "We ride at times when a lot of other people aren't out."

He does not wear a mask in this case and would not recommend wearing one if you're not coming into contact with other people.

But he also is not riding with anybody besides his wife, because "it's safe to assume that if you are riding with other bicycle riders and you are riding behind someone who's breathing, the potential for inhaling droplet contamination is there."

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Staying safe at home

The CDC recommends that a sick person in your household stay in one room and away from you as much as possible, and wear a cloth face covering when in the same room as you.

For a shared bathroom, the agency says "the person who is sick should clean and disinfect after each use. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting."

The CDC's other recommendations include not sharing personal household items like dishes or towels or bedding; using household cleaning sprays or wipes to clean shared surfaces, such as doorknobs and counters, every day; washing laundry thoroughly, and avoiding having unnecessary visitors.

Joseph Allen and Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also recommend running a portable air purifier and humidifier in the room where the infected person is, opening windows and running an exhaust fan in the bathroom.

According to the CDC, “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, though this is not thought to be the main way that the virus spreads”. Because this is a new disease, researchers are still learning about how it spreads. An important measure is good handwashing and avoiding touching your face.

In a situation where one parent/member of a household is quarantined, then the visitation should be rescheduled until the quarantine period is over. Otherwise, that is an individualized decision. Either way, all involved parties should practice social distancing, good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and disinfect high-touch surfaces.

"You should wash your hands before eating, before touching your face (if you must), after using the restroom, after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose, and after you have been in public," Day said. "For example, if you went to the grocery store and handled cash or entered a pin number on a key pad, wash your hands. If you filled your gas tank, wash your hands. If you touched a grocery cart, wash your hands."

She said there's no specific guidance on the frequency of cleaning household items for those who live alone, but that high-touch surfaces should be cleaned routinely.

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Testing and transmission

"At this point in time, we are not looking for volunteers for contact tracing from the general public, although that is something we might consider doing in the future," said Kristen Soto, who is helping lead the state Department of Public Health's response to contact tracing. Rather, DPH is staffing its initiative with three groups: existing DPH employees, existing staff at local health departments and volunteers from academic institutions, especially students in public health or other health care fields. Soto said there are about 300 staff members in the first two groups, and the plan is to recruit 400-500 students. She feels this "will be sufficient for our initial statewide response." If you want to volunteer in another capacity -- or be considered as a contact tracer in the future, should the opportunity be opened to the general public -- you can fill out the form at ctresponds.ct.gov.

Public vs. confidential info and data

Av Harris, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said in an email Saturday, "We do not have that information yet. Our hope is that in the future we will start to get those reports."

Electric Boat President Kevin Graney puts all the updates at eblanding.com, but he doesn't do daily updates. There's no breakdown of cases for the Naval Submarine Base; COVID-19 case numbers are broken down by service but not by base. Local base commanders are not required to report infections at their bases.

Testing began May 8 of about 400 Electric Boat employees at the company's Groton shipyard, the first step in a testing program that will be rolled out companywide.

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Economic issues

This question came in on April 27, and on April 24, the Connecticut Mirror reported that Connecticut was one of only four states that hadn't yet provided the federal portion of the unemployment benefits - known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC.

But payments were processed April 25-26 and deposited into accounts on April 28, said Nancy Steffens, spokesperson for the state Department of Labor.

"It took CT several weeks to complete the intricate programming and coding necessary to incorporate the many integrity and accounting requirements needed to meet the federal requirements of this new program," she said in an email. "CTDOL is currently working to replace its 40-year-old mainframe that operates on COBOL technology and plans to have a modern system in place next year."

As of May 4, DOL has issued $607,384,960 in FPUC payments, Steffens said. Federal payments totaling $89 million were added to state benefits issued last week, and on May 4, $335 million in retroactive payments for the weeks ending April 4, 11 and 18 were deposited into accounts.

Steffens said on May 4 that between state and federal benefits, the Department of Labor has issued $1.05 billion since March 19, the first weekend after claims significantly increased.

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