Coronavirus Questions Answered

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If I have been diagnosed with an active infection, what must I do and when can I resume my normal activities?

The government organization named the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) says that those who “think or know they have COVID-19 and have symptoms” must wait 10 days after symptoms appear to see people, including three days without fever. Those who test positive but are showing no symptoms should also wait 10 days until after the positive test. Those with weakened immune systems, it notes, may need to wait longer.

What makes this coronavirus (COVID-19) different from the normal seasonal influenza virus?

Unlike other respiratory viruses, this one seems to have a remarkable ability to evade detection by our immune systems, at least initially. Instead of making all of its hosts “get sick” within a couple of days, causing us to voluntarily self-isolate as we usually do while riding out a fever or a nasty cough — a remarkably advantageous evolutionary strategy that we have developed that protects our own communities as much as any personal immunologic functions these misery-inducing strategies may serve — this virus can circulate in our bodies in stealth for many days.

The federal government has stated that a vaccine will be available either late 2020 or early 2021. Should everybody get it?

As the federal government, public health experts and scientists push toward a coronavirus vaccine, a new survey suggests only about half of Americans say they will get one when it becomes available.

The poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 49% of Americans overall say they plan to get a vaccination, while 31% of respondents say they are unsure if they will get vaccinated. The survey found 20% of respondents flat out said they will not.

Among the Americans who said they absolutely would not get vaccinated, 70% said it was because they would be concerned about potential side effects, 42% said they were worried they'd be infected with the coronavirus, 31% said they are not concerned about getting seriously ill from the coronavirus and 30% said they don't believe vaccines work.

By most estimates, at least 70% or more Americans need to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 to develop effective herd immunity and to eliminate the virus in the U.S. population. A vaccination rate of 50% will not achieve this.

What can I do to lessen the risk of contracting COVID-19

Even in the absence of detailed directives, however, there’s scientific consensus about a general approach that can reduce the spread of the virus. Try to follow these four C precautions: avoid contact, confinement and crowds. And make realistic choices.

Contact

You need to continue with social distancing precautions. That means wearing masks, washing hands well and often, and keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from one another. No hugs, at least not in the usual way. No handshakes.

Try to make sure that public spaces you frequent are maintaining mitigation measures: spreading out tables at a restaurant, limiting or spacing out patrons in shops and parks, and conducting frequent cleaning and disinfection.

The virus is spread most efficiently from person to person, but the CDC nonetheless recommends frequent cleaning of high-touch objects and surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, phones, keyboards, toilets and faucets, touch screens, ATMs and gas pump handles.

Any 15-minute face-to-face conversation between people who are within 6 feet of each other constitutes close contact. The longer the conversation and the closer the physical proximity between the participants, the greater the risk of the virus spreading if one person is infected.

That explains why transmission is rampant within households.

Confinement

Indoor activities in confined enclosed spaces, even large ones, are more conducive to spreading the virus than events held outside, especially if the air inside the building is being recirculated or the windows don’t open.

Many infections have been traced to public transportation vehicles like buses and vans. Some experts have raised questions about the safety of enclosed public spaces, like office buildings, indoor restaurants and nightclubs.

When there’s stagnant air, the droplets could persist longer than you would expect, and there will be a lot of contamination on surfaces. A flow of fresh air dilutes the virus.

Crowds

Large groups are risky no matter where they are gathered. Even outdoors, crowds mean more people, more contacts — and more potential sources of infection. And ultimately, preventing infection is a numbers game, where less is more.

Many bars and restaurants may now be outside and are therefore relatively low-risk. But the number of patrons in a space still matters.

You can create a scenario where you have everybody 6 feet apart, but if that scenario involves 500 people, that is inherently riskier than if that same scenario involves 30 people.

Another concern about drinking holes: As people become inebriated, they let their guard down and lose their inhibitions.

Choices

Every individual ultimately must make a personal decision about the level of risk he or she is comfortable with.

People at high risk for developing severe disease if they become infected with the coronavirus will want to take the greatest precautions.

That group includes those 65 and older, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and people with compromised immune systems, with chronic lung or kidney disease or heart conditions, or who are severely obese.

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