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Here are answers to 111 of your most pressing coronavirus questions

Ngo Le, a student medical assistant at the International Community Health Services - International District medical clinic, cleans a door handle, considered to be a high-touch point area, on March 20 in Seattle, Washington. The International Community Health Services in Seattle cares for uninsured patients, as well as, low income people and immigrants who rely on federal aid programs.
Ngo Le, a student medical assistant at the International Community Health Services - International District medical clinic, cleans a door handle, considered to be a high-touch point area, on March 20 in Seattle, Washington. The International Community Health Services in Seattle cares for uninsured patients, as well as, low income people and immigrants who rely on federal aid programs. (2020 Getty Images)

GENERAL QUESTIONS

What are the symptoms?

Fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing are hallmarks of coronavirus.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from two days to two weeks after exposure, the CDC says, though some patients haven’t shown symptoms at all.

The illness varies in its severity, and many patients can recover at home in isolation.

Older adults — ages 60 and older — and people with severe chronic illnesses are more likely to get seriously sick from the coronavirus.

Learn more about the difference between flu, coronavirus and allergy symptoms here. (CNN Health)

How does it spread?

It primarily spreads between people through respiratory droplets — think coughs, sneezes and spittle.

You can also get coronavirus by touching infected surfaces, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

Learn how to not touch your face here. (CNN Health)

How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?

Up to three days, depending on the surface. According to a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health:

  • The new coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
  • It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper, and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
  • In aerosols, it remained viable for three hours. (CNN Health)

Why is the disease called COVID-19?

On Feb.11, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. (CDC)

Is there a cure? Why is it taking so long?

There’s currently no cure for the novel coronavirus. And while research is underway, it could be more than a year before a vaccine becomes available.

An antiviral drug must be able to target the specific part of a virus’ 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.” (CNN Health)

Once you have coronavirus, will you have it forever?

The American College of Physicians found it takes five to 12 days for symptoms to show. They said more than 97% of people will show symptoms within 12 days. This fits the CDC recommended 14-day quarantine to show symptoms and then take time to recover from illness. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can we kill it by inhaling boiling water steam? Like in India they use this during flu and cold or cough.

The WHO says this will not work to kill a virus that’s already entered your body.

Myth-busting: Which of these DIY home remedies for coronavirus are actually effective? (Haley Hernandez, KPRC Channel 2 Health Reporter)

What are the long term effects of the coronavirus?

Doctors have seen patients with lasting lung damage after recovering from coronavirus. We are just learning that some patients are suffering from heart damage after getting Coronavirus. Other than that, since this virus is so new, researchers are studying the lasting impact of the virus in patients. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

What are the complications of rashes related to coronavirus?

A rash can be a rare symptom of coronavirus. If you are getting redness or hives, that is something to look at. Rashes could also be a side effect of coronavirus in children. Sometimes kids fight off viruses with a rash and you may not see any other symptoms. When in doubt, contact your doctor. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Can you have coronavirus without upper respiratory symptoms?

“Every human has a unique biology that will react to the virus in its own unique way,” wrote Nriagu. “So, Yes, you can have COVID-19 without classic upper respiratory symptoms. Symptoms associated with COVID-19 are generally ‘flu-like,’ which encompasses a broad range of symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, and fatigue.” (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Where is this curve everyone is talking about?

If you’re talking about flattening the curve which refers to hospitals, we are doing a good job of that and researchers think the social distancing is what helped. The hospitals are currently below what’s manageable for them and therefore overwhelming the system isn’t as big of a problem for us as it was in NY, Italy or China. If you live in Harris County or Houston, you might be interested in this site. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

HEALTH QUESTIONS

How do you know someone is recovering from coronavirus?

According to Harris County Public Health, the patient has to be free and clear of any symptoms. Then, the patient has to have a negative test result for the virus and then be tested again in 24 hours. After the patient tests negative both times, they are considered recovered. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

I have a mammogram, sleep study, dental visit, etc. should I reschedule?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages the people in our community most vulnerable to coronavirus to stay home as much as possible, avoid crowds and reschedule nonessential doctor appointments. The vulnerable population includes people 60 and older, people who have weakened immune systems and people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.

For them, the CDC said appointments like general physicals, check-ups, follow-ups for a stable condition or an elective procedure can be rescheduled, or make the appointment virtual instead, meaning they encourage calling a telemedicine doctor from home.

As for dental visits, check out this report. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Are there any updates on the use of Hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients?

A new study finds no evidence of benefit from a malaria drug widely promoted as a treatment for coronavirus infection. Just yesterday researchers from the New England Journal of Medicine released a study about this. They found Hydroxychloroquine did not lower the risk of dying or patients needing a breathing tube in a comparison that involved nearly 1,400 patients treated at Columbia University in New York. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Will ibuprofen worsen the virus?

There was a lot of concern after the French Minister of Health tweeted to avoid anti-inflammatories because they might worsen an infection. However, the World Health Organization told NBC News they are not aware of data that’s true.

If you are concerned, experts say you can take acetaminophen to control a fever, one of the main symptoms of the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Is coronavirus especially harmful to pregnant women?

Long story short: There’s not enough data yet, considering this coronavirus just emerged in humans a few months ago.

The vulnerability of “older adults” has been well documented, but researchers “do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women” to this coronavirus, the CDC says.

“Adverse infant outcomes” like premature births have been reported among infants born to mothers who’ve tested positive for coronavirus during pregnancy, the CDC says. But it’s not clear if these outcomes were related to maternal infection, so the risk is unknown. (CNN Health)

What are the hospital CEO’s doing to provide beds ... will they be ready if there is a spike of coronavirus patients?

That’s exactly why these drastic measures are being taken. When you hear “flatten the curve,” it is because leaders need to bring down the number of potential coronavirus cases (below the curve) to a number that hospitals can handle. This entire “hype” is because of hospital beds. We see this happening in other countries and it’s the reason China has a high number of deaths. There were not enough hospital beds and there may not be enough in America either. Click here to learn more about flattening the curve. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If I visited an emergency room in the past couple of weeks, how would I know if I’m at risk?

Rest assured that over the last few weeks, most hospitals have been working to monitor and isolate patients and visitors with travel-related risk factors or potential contact with infected people.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and visited an ER within the last two weeks, contact your local medical provider for guidance.

Does donated blood get infected by the coronavirus?

At least 4.5 million Americans need donated blood every year, but this is the first time novel coronavirus has been a concern in the nation’s blood supply.

“Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion,” said the AABB, formerly the American Association of Blood Banks. (CNN Health)

What if you do have some of the symptoms? Like a cough and sore throat? No fever. No runny nose. Do you go to a doctor? Call the health department?

No, do not go to the doctor. You are considered low risk. Low to moderate risk patients are not being tested for Covid-19 at this time. Self quarantine is recommended until tests become available, but contact your local primary care provider for guidance. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

I am wondering why the CDC isn’t testing more for the coronavirus?

The tests, labs and equipment necessary to run tests for COVID-19 are limited. Production is ramping up, though. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If I get a pneumonia vaccine, will that help protect me from coronavirus?

Some cases of coronavirus do lead to pneumonia. But the pneumonia vaccine won't help.

“Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, only help protect people from these specific bacterial infections,” according to Harvard Medical School. “They do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia.” (CNN Health)

Can I have the flu and coronavirus at the same time? If I test positive for the flu, does that mean I don’t have coronavirus?

Lots of readers are asking this since it’s difficult to get coronavirus testing in many areas.

But there’s no reason why you can’t have both the flu and coronavirus. So a positive test for the flu doesn’t mean you can’t have coronavirus as well. (CNN Health)

If a person gets well after having COVID-19, could their blood be used to make a vaccine since they have antibodies now?

Currently, there are no vaccines or drugs available to treat COVID-19. There are many in rapid development and some may be available in a short time. Human convalescent serum is an option for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and that could be rapidly available when there are sufficient numbers of people who have recovered and can donate immunoglobulin-containing serum. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can the flu vaccine be helpful for one’s immune system with the coronavirus?

The flu vaccine is designed to prevent infections with the influenza virus which are very different from the coronaviruses. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If you go to a Quest lab for a blood test for other reasons do you run the risk of being at the lab with someone being tested for COVID-19?

Quests in-office phlebotomists do not collect respiratory specimens, including those from patients suspected of having COVID-19. Patients’ samples can only be collected by a healthcare provider. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

I’m pregnant and worried. Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant mother to a newborn?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to find answers about this. Here is what they say about it: We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Have you heard about the link between COVID-19 and Kawasaki disease in children?

Some children are experiencing inflammation of organs because of coronavirus. It imitates Kawasaki disease but it might not the same thing. Other symptoms include fever for 4 days, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

If you are asymptomatic, how long are you a carrier or contagious?

The World Health Organization says you are mostly asymptomatic in the beginning but most people will eventually see some symptoms.

WHO says, in their study, it was rare that someone had zero symptoms for the duration of the infection. Most of the time, people did have some sort of symptom but they “didn’t think it counted,” because they dismissed the symptom as minor. It might be minor, like headaches and sore throat.

Most people carry the virus for anywhere from 5-14 days. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Can pets carry the virus on their skin and fur?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to care for your pet. There is no reason at this time to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

What about hair? Should I cover my hair when I’m outside my home? Does the virus attach itself to hair?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the virus could be viable for “hours to days” depending on the surface and conditions. When it comes to stainless steel and plastic the coronavirus could live for a few days. However, experts agree it’s unlikely the virus can stay on hair for any length of time. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

TESTING QUESTIONS

Is there an eventual plan to test people without a doctor’s order?

Currently CDC guidelines make it clear that Americans can be tested with a doctors order. Because test supplies are limited, those who are severely sick or who were in contact with known cases of COVID-19 are prioritized. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

How many people have actually been tested for coronavirus in Texas?

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, there have been more than 430,000 tests performed in the state as of Thursday morning. More than 34,400 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state. That works out to a positivity rate of about 7%.

Health officials have warned of an increase in coronavirus cases if things reopen without adequate testing in place. As of Thursday morning, a little more than 1% of the state’s estimated total population has been tested for the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Do testing locations allow asymptomatic patients to get a test?

It depends on where you go for the test. The regulations depend on what agency is running the testing. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services released an interactive map where you can find the best testing location near you. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Could we all be silent carriers at this point?

Clinical research supports the idea of “sub-clinical” carriers ... patients with mild disease. But silent carriers have not been identified. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

How do we know if we need to be tested for COVID-19? It is flu and allergy season right now.

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath) and have been in contact with an individual with a known case of COVID-19 then you should assume that you have COVID-19, self-isolate and contact your local (health) provider for guidance. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

I had a positive viral test and a negative antibody test. What does this mean?

We’ve had a few questions from people trying to interpret their test results. There is a chance you got a positive viral test and a negative antibody test. One reason why: You most likely do currently have an active COVID-19 infection but your body hasn’t started producing antibodies yet. With these tests, there are a number of variables for each. The Government has a handy chart that helps you figure out what your tests might mean. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Where can you go to retest to see if recovered from the virus?

You can go to any of the testing sites to be re-tested for coronavirus. Here is a map of the latest testing sites. For most of these sites, you need to pre-register. At that point, you could let them know that you are getting re-tested to be cleared of the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

If you test negative for antibodies does that mean you never had Coronavirus?

If you tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies, you probably did not have a previous infection. However, you could have a current infection. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently since antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies and some may not develop antibodies at all. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

My sister tested positive for Covid-19 in March and is still not better. PCP says to wait it out. Any doctors in Houston seeing moderate cases?

We have heard that some cases could last six weeks or more. Houston Methodist touched on this, saying it could even take months to get back to normal. Others are left with lingering effects. Once the fever has subsided and your symptoms have been gone for several days, it’s important to keep in mind that you may still be contagious. We hope she feels better soon!! (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

My husband called into work one day with no coronavirus related symptoms, his job told him he must go get tested and return with a note. Why?

We are seeing more and more of this. Employers can ask an employee to take a test before returning to work. Especially since it seems like some people are experiencing odd symptoms and end up having coronavirus. We heard of one case of a person just having stomach troubles and their employer asked them to get tested. The result was positive. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

Are ventilators only used once?

Ventilators are used more than once. They undergo cleaning and disinfection between patients. Every ventilator used does not have to be new to be safe for patients. So far in Texas, there has not been a shortage of ventilators for people who need them. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

FAMILY QUESTIONS

Can you hug people in your immediate family who are staying at home with if no one is showing symptoms? What do the doctor’s recommend?

Yes, you can. In fact, in all the guidelines about how many people can be in groups together/seated at a table/seated together at church, it specifically says you and the people in your household because everyone knows you’re living in close quarters and therefore sharing a lot already. There is no point in putting rules against you within your own home. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Will spraying yourself or your children with disinfectant help?

A viral video from CNN affiliate WHBQ showed a man spraying a student with what appeared to be disinfectant spray after school.

But spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body "will not kill viruses that have already entered your body," the World Health Organization says.

“Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.” (CNN Health)

Should I social distance from my spouse?

The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services says kissing is likely the easiest way to spread the virus but it is not sexually transmitted. Therefore, they advise people to still practice social distancing at home but I understand how unrealistic that can be. Just be aware that if one of you got Coronavirus the other would be at a greater risk of getting/having it and you would certainly need to self-isolate if you tested positive.

My favorite guide on how to self-isolate is here. (Haley Hernandez, KPRC Channel 2 Health Reporter)

Seniors are the most vulnerable to coronavirus, doctors say. The concern is those with underlying medical problems face a greater risk of developing severe life-threatening complications if they catch coronavirus. How should they decide whether or not to go to the doctor’s office?

They should call their doctor first. They will walk through their symptoms with them and let them know whether it’s time to seek care from their physician in the office or if they need to go to the hospital to be seen. (Dr. Angela Shippy, Memorial Hermann Hospital)

Does my adult special needs son need to wear a mask?

Judge Hidalgo addressed this specifically in Wednesday’s press conference about the mask order. She said if there is an adult with special needs and it is hard for them to wear a mask, it is OK if they do not wear one. She said that person should just avoid going out into the public like we are already doing. But, again, if you have to go out and don’t have on a mask it is OK. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

If you have to self-quarantine in your home with family in a separate room, can the virus travel through the duct system?

“There is no evidence that suggests that COVID-19 can spread through duct systems,” wrote Nriagu. “Preliminary studies are showing that the main way the virus is spread is through respiratory droplets spread through coughing, touch, and sneezing within a fairly close range of people.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If you end up with the coronavirus, do you isolate yourself in a room in your house? Or do you just keep yourself at home with your family?

Disease experts estimate that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to three others. Distance yourself from family members infected with coronavirus. Wash hands and disinfect surfaces regularly. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can I get coronavirus from my pet, or vice versa?

“No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes Covid-19,” the World Health Organization says. (CNN Health)

I saw a new story about a cat getting coronavirus. Should I worry about my cat?

The CDC just released new information about pets and coronavirus. They show it does appear coronavirus can spread from humans to animals in some situations. There has only been a small number of pets, including cats, infected with the virus. These are pets that had close contact with a person with COVID19. It doesn’t appear there is a huge risk to pets or that they might place a significant role in spreading the virus. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

Is door to door testing possible? You could knock out testing, census and blood draw all in one. And cruise ships as hospitals?

I think this could potentially open the door to people being robbed by scammers. It also has the potential to exponentially increase the spread of Covid-19 if the phlebotomist is infected with Covid-19.

When the drive-thru virus stations are up and running what are the requirements to be tested? It seems there should be requirements...?

At the drive-thru virus stations, people will initially be screened and tested based on World Health Organization recommendations and Houston Health Department recommendations.

My child’s school is closed, and now 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. (CNN Health)

Why can’t the Astrodome be used to quarantine first responders?

First responders are going to be exposed to Patients with Covid. Exposure does not equate to active infection. The answer is minimizing risk by:

(A) making sure first-responders are properly equipped with personal protected equipment, or PPE.

(B) The public can play a role to keep first responders safe by informing emergency response operators if someone in the home is experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as coughing or fever.

STAY-AT-HOME ORDER QUESTIONS

I am still not sure if I work for an essential business. How can I tell?

It’s understandable that you might have a question about what is considered an “essential” business. The list of what businesses are considered essential is long. Anyone who still has a question about whether they work for an essential business can call a hotline set up by Harris County at stayhome@cjo.hctx.net.

Why is the sign language person not wearing a mask? He is not 6 feet away from the judge.

Judge Hidalgo mentioned this last week in one of her press conferences. She said the sign language person will not be wearing a mask because his facial expressions and lip movement are part of the communication that he is doing. Wearing a mask would shield this part of the communication he is doing for the audience.

Will my trash still get picked up?

Yes, your trash service should continue going without disruption. Trash and recycling collection are considered essential services under the order. Essential government functions for all local cities in Harris County are also protected, including public works, law enforcement and jail operations.

Can I get arrested if I break any of the stay-at-home order rules?

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo made it clear during her March 24th press conference that we are not a police state. She said they are relying on people to do their part and trusts that they will, but added that if someone willingly violates the order in a way that puts other people at risk, they will work with law enforcement.

The order states that law enforcement agencies in Harris County have the authority to enforce the order. Violators could face a fine of no more than $1,000 and jail time of up to 180 days.

I’m still confused. What activities can I leave my house to do?

We are getting a lot of questions from people asking what exactly is OK to leave the house to do? The order states people can leave their homes for activities deemed essential. In part, these include obtaining medical supplies or medication; visiting health care professionals; obtaining supplies needed to work from home; obtaining or delivering necessary supplies, such as food, pet supplies or sanitary supplies; caring for a family member or pet in another household; and performing work duties as a part of an essential business.

As we answered yesterday, you are allowed to go to public parks and outdoor recreational areas, but playgrounds have been closed. You are also asked to avoid touching picnic tables or benches.

I grocery shop for my mother who does not drive. Am I able to continue to do that and deliver them to her?

Yes, since you are allowed to go to the grocery store for essentials you can still shop for family or friends. You can also visit her home for deliveries. However, consider leaving the packages at the door. It’s been advised to clean off anything you bring into your home and that includes groceries and to-go food containers.

Can I visit the post office to mail something?

The post office will remain open during the stay home, work safe order. You are allowed to visit the post office to mail something.

Do those that get disability SS benefits get any help from the package they passed?

If you’re not required to file a tax return due to being on Social Security, the government will use the information on your Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.

Can I still hire movers and move during my stay at home order?

Yes, you can still plan on moving during this time. Moving companies fall under the Transportation Systems category of essential businesses that can remain open. The transportation sector includes trucking and moving of necessary goods as well as public transportation. Of course, if you are planning a move, everyone should practice social distancing and self-isolate after arriving in their new home.

Can I go for a walk around my block?

We’ve had a lot of questions from people asking if they can go for a walk in their neighborhood or walk on the trails near their home. Yes, you can as long as you are maintaining proper social distancing from other people you may come across. Per the order, parks remain open but the use of benches, playgrounds and workout equipment is prohibited.

I don’t feel safe going to work, but my employer says I have to show up. What do I do?

Legislators just passed two new acts that will allow employees to get paid leave due to coronavirus issues and concerns. Your employer can not retaliate by firing you or demoting you for taking advantage of the leave. Under the new legislation, there is a list of reasons you can take leave.

Since I am at home more now, I am working on my yard. Are places like Home Depot or Lowes open?

Since a lot of people are at home, many are working on their yards and getting housework done. The good news is home improvement stores are allowed to stay open during this time. These stores are considered infrastructure and development. For example, construction and manufacturing companies are still open and they might need supplies to keep up and running.

I don’t have access to a mask. Where can I get one?

Judge Hidalgo stressed that people don’t need to go buy a mask and encouraged people to use cloth items they already have at home. This can be something like a scarf, bandana, or another piece of cloth. But, if you can find a location close to you, here is a list of the places handing out masks. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

CLOSURES QUESTIONS

Do the closures include gyms?

The White House said states with evidence of community transmission should close bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate. Now online workouts are on the rise. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Are we here in Texas the only ones experiencing the closing of schools, bars, clubs, are others having issues with grocery stores?

The entire planet is currently affected or worried about coronavirus. Currently, countries such as China and Italy are on lockdown. San Francisco has taken the most extreme measures to protect people against the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

What are the risks when daycares don’t close during this time?

Preliminary data suggests that children can be infected by COVID-19 but do not appear to become very ill when infected. The death rate in children between 0-9 years of age is currently at 0%. The death rate in children between 10-19 years is currently 0.2%. Children are definite spreaders of COVID-19. If we do not close daycares, kids may become infected with COVID-19, some kids (especially those with pre-existing conditions) may die and COVID-19 will continue to spread in the U.S. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

EMPLOYMENT QUESTIONS

If you applied for unemployment in 2019 and got denied will it deny you in 2020? I was laid off because of the virus but was denied help.

Unless TWC knows the circumstances of why you got denied, it’s hard to answer. They should have given the exact reason. Each case of unemployment is being evaluated individually (which would also explain why people are having to wait longer for help). In normal times, people can reapply every quarter, which moves the quarters for the base period up and may help their eligibility.

You can read more about unemployment benefits at TWC.Texas.gov. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

I wasn’t laid off, but my hours were cut. Can I still get unemployment to help pay my bills?

Whether they call it furloughed, laid off, fired, I would apply for unemployment benefits. As the great Wayne Gretsky said, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ The worst that can happen if you were furloughed and you apply is they say you’re not eligible. (Rogge Dunn)

I work in retail where I come into close contact with customers and coworkers all day. My employee told me I am not allowed to wear a mask or gloves because it scares the customers. Can business owners legally do that?

Yes, unfortunately, they can. An employer can tell you not to wear a mask unless you have a disability. Let’s say you have some facial deformity or some issue with your face, you could wear a mask. An employer would have to allow a mask in that instance, but only if it was needed because of a disability. (Rogge Dunn)

My employer is making me report to work, even though I don’t feel it is safe. I worry about my own health and loved ones who have weakened immune systems. What can I do?

Legislators just passed two new acts that will allow employees to get paid leave due to coronavirus related issues and concerns.

The Employment Paid Sick Leave Act requires employers to pay employees for 10 days off (two work weeks) when they can’t work because of the coronavirus.

The Emergency Family Medical Leave Act gives employees 50 paid days off (after they take 10 days of unpaid leave) due to coronavirus related issues.

Both acts take effect on April 2. Dunn and others are still studying the acts, but he believes they can be stacked for a total of 60 paid days leave with a letter or call to human resources.

The acts are written fairly loose to allow employees to take advantage of them under the following circumstances:

  • The employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19
  • The employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.

Under these new acts, your employer can not retaliate by firing you or demoting you for taking advantage of the leave. Employers with fewer than 500 employees will receive a tax credit for paying employees who do take paid leave. (Rogge Dunn)

My employer gave me paperwork to sign that makes it appear I am agreeing not to file for unemployment. Is this legal?

Generally speaking you can not release your unemployment or workers’ compensation rights, so my gut is that those releases aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Still, employees may worry they’ll be fired if they don’t sign the documents. Dunn says you should ask some questions in writing. You could send an email to human resources and your manager. Be polite and not adversarial. You could write, “I have some questions about this document you want me to sign. It seems to say that I will agree not to file for unemployment if I am laid off. Is that correct?”or “You asked me to sign this. I don’t think it’s appropriate to sign.”

Dunn said this will help you get everything in writing if you are terminated for not signing. You will have that email as evidence that you inquired and it will show that the employer was trying to violate the law by not allowing employees to file for unemployment. You would have a retaliation claim if they fired you after you send that email. (Rogge Dunn)

When I told my employer I couldn’t work because I care for my spouse who is at risk, they gave me a document to sign that seems to change my pay from salary to hourly. There is no effective date on the paper. Should I sign it?

Dunn’s answer: Ask your employer in writing, ‘When is this effective? Why is this being done?’ Get some answers and document that.

It’s very important if someone asks you to sign something, everything they told you before you sign it is in that document and it’s crystal clear what this means and why it’s being done. My granddad used to say if it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, in a courtroom, memories fade, time passes maybe some people have convenient memories.

My employer owns a small company. It’s not his fault we can’t work right now. I need unemployment to pay my bills, but I don’t want him to have to pay for it. Will businesses be stuck with all of these claims?

One of the things I could see happening is the Texas Legislature saying we’re not going to charge back the employers because of the covid pandemic. That’s something that remains to be seen. Hopefully the government will step in because it behooves everybody to have these employers doing the right thing. (Rogge Dunn)

DAILY LIFE QUESTIONS

Can I still get my car serviced right now?

There are only restrictions for businesses where people congregate. Other organizations may recommend closing to keep people from gathering but there are no government orders to shut down across the state. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

I am inquiring regarding the opening of TDCJ prisons for visitation.

As you might know, there are a number of facilities (30+) in total lockdown after employees and offenders tested positive for the virus. The lockdowns for these places extend 14 days from the date of a positive test. There is a hotline set up so you can call and ask specifics about your visit. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

When will Veterans Administration start testing at VA Hospital and VA Clinics in the Houston area?

All Veterans should call your VA if you have symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath before going to any of our VA facilities. Houston VA has been and will continue to test symptomatic inpatients for COVID-19. Veterans who are at home experiencing symptoms are encouraged to call their primary care doctor or email them through myhealthetvet for assistance. Testing is available for outpatients in the community through many drive-thru sites. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Do you have to wear a face mask while driving through Harris County?

You do not have to wear a mask while driving. However, our experts did suggest to limit cross-contamination, put your mask on in your home, and wait to remove it until you get back home. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

Paper money/coins can still be used even though they’re dirty. What should I know about paying during the coronavirus crisis?

According to the Federal Reserve, the lifespan of certain bills can be up to 15 years, giving cash a lot of time to accumulate germs but with new concerns around the coronavirus, new questions are being raised over how you should pay for things without contracting or spreading any illnesses.

When it comes to cash, the World Health Organization did not issue any warnings over using cash but they do say it’s important to remember to disinfect after handling it. Part of the reason using cash isn’t anymore dangerous than other forms of payment is because according to doctors, if you stick to contactless payments but don’t wash your hands after touching your phone, credit card or a payment terminal, you are still at risk of contracting a potential infection. If you or the person handling your form of payment is wearing gloves, make sure to change them often and continue to wash your hands, otherwise you’re just spreading germs with your gloves instead of your hands. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Was the stimulus check supposed to be used for child support? The whole check was taken away. I thought just some was going to be used but not all?

If someone owes child support, that money will be given to the person owed the money. Depending on how much back child support you owed, all of the money could be taken away. So, you may not get any money at all. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

What about placard and car registration renewals?

Governor Greg Abbott said to help keep people healthy and out of the public, he’s also waiving vehicle registrations, titles, and placard renewal rules. People can still renew their registration online. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

What should you do if you owe child support in the state of Texas but the business that you work for is not open do to COVID-19?

This pandemic is affecting the economic security of most citizens. Some people are either not working or loosing their jobs and concerned about accumulating expenses including jail time for non payment of child support.

While you may not have the ability to pay 100% of your obligation because your income has decreased, an effort to pay something during these times will likely not go unnoticed. Attempt to make a a good faith effort to pay child support

And consider that there are increased expenses associated with taking care of kids this time

How do I stay healthy when 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.” (CNN Health)

With all that is going on, I have not heard anything about helping the homeless.

The CDC is advising that people in shelters sleep head to toe and use temporary barriers, like curtains, between beds. Click here for more details on how this is impacting the homeless population. (CNN Health)

Should I start keeping extra food and supplies?

Yes, because you or a family member might suddenly have to quarantine. But it's a good idea to always have extra food and medication anyway.

"Consider keeping a two-week to 30-day supply of nonperishable food at home," Harvard Medical School says. "These items can also come in handy in other types of emergencies, such as power outages or snowstorms."

In addition, try to keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription medication and any needed over-the-counter medication. (CNN Health)

Why is everyone 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 is 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.

How should you clean your cell phone?

You should regularly disinfect your cell phone. Despite previous warnings that harsh chemicals can damage the screen, Apple says now that disinfectants are OK to use on their products. If you’re concerned, they recommend a screen protector or case to cover the phone. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

People are encouraging take-out food but what if the handle is sick?

While the chances of that exact order having the virus on food is still low, these are the steps to keep food safe, according to CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

- Have person put food at your door step, you not taking it from their hand

- Take container out of the bag

- Put the food on your plate

-Microwave food for 30 seconds would kill the virus

-Throw all packaging away

- WASH YOUR HANDS

(helpful hint: microwaving food for 30 seconds is also recommended to kill bacteria that could give you GI issues.) (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

I bought some masks from Amazon. They came from China in plastic bags of 25. Do you think they are safe to use? Should I quarantine them or separate them or Lysol them first?

A lot of medical supplies like masks are made in China so I’m not surprised they came from there. The CDC stands by its statement that there is a very low risk of anything being transmitted by mail since the virus doesn’t survive on surfaces for more than 1-3 days (probably less time than your package was in transit). They recommend if you want to take a lot of extra precautions then you can wipe down products with a disinfectant and throw away the box it came in. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

How are you to social distance in church?

Governor Abbott explained that in order to social distance in church people would be asked to skip two seats in between each family and sit in alternating rows. Churches would be asked to provide hand sanitizer stations and encourage social distancing measures. For example, churches may have everyone come in a certain way and exit a certain way. Just like restaurants, the state is leaving best practices up to the individual groups as long as they follow the general guidelines. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

I am being told that the Clorox ones are the only good ones against COVID-19. But labels for Wet Ones wipes sound similar saying it kills 99.99% of bacteria. Do the Wet Ones help with coronavirus?

If both say they kill 99.9% of viruses then they’re both safe to use. It does not have to be specifically the Clorox brand. You’ll probably notice on the back label of both they say they can kill the Coronavirus, which is because the companies have tested the product against Coronavirus before we knew about COVID-19. Remember, Coronavirus is like a family of viruses including SARs and MERs. Experts believe what can kill those can also kill COVID-19.

Don’t forget, to be most effective make sure the surface stays wet after you wipe it. Let it air dry. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Does it matter what type of soap I use to wash my hands?

Probably not. Any kind of soap, used properly with water for the recommended 20 seconds of handwashing, will do the trick! Proper handwashing will remove SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from your hands. And just in case you were wondering, antibacterial soap doesn’t do anything extra to help. All of this handwashing may cause dry or cracked skin. Here’s some advice from a doctor about how to help heal your hands. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Vitamin C and similar supplements are sold out in stores. Are people taking them to prevent coronavirus? Does that work?

People might just be taking extra Vitamin C as a precautionary measure. It is true, people who are deficient in Vitamin C could be more at risk of developing COVID-19 because their immunity is impaired. Vitamin C deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections. It could also contribute to a less robust immune response, poor wound healing, and an increased risk of pneumonia. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

OUTDOOR AND TRAVEL QUESTIONS

As we decide about summer traveling, what is the risk of getting COVID-19 on an airplane?

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control says about this topic: Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Is it safe to swim in pools this summer?

Public swimming pools fall under the governor’s plan to reopen businesses starting Friday if they operate at 25% capacity. There’s no evidence the new coronavirus can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also says at the pool, proper operation and maintenance, including disinfection with chlorine, should inactivate the virus in the water. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Do I need to wear a mask if I am running in a public park?

You do not have to wear a mask if you are exercising alone in public. Just keep a safe distance if you see other people. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

Is it true that COVID-19 does not like warm/ hot weather? Like the climate we have here?

The temperature has an impact on people’s living environments and could play a significant role in social distancing. Officials at the WHO said on March 5 that there is no reason to believe temperature will play a role in the outbreak. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Are passports still being processed and made?

You can still apply in person for a U.S. passport at some acceptance facilities and renew through the mail. However, you should expect significant delays receiving your passport and your citizenship evidence documents. This is from a State Department statement released last week.

The best idea is to contact the National Passport Information Center to find out what services each individual facility is offering. To make an appointment at a passport agency, you have to call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778. (Andrea Slaydon, Producer)

Will I have to quarantine for 14 days traveling from Texas then to Oklahoma?

No. You do not have to quarantine after traveling out of the state to a neighboring state. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Can bugs and or insects carry the virus?

COVID-19 is new and there are a lot of unknowns. However, the health department said they do not believe insects will carry this virus. They make this prediction based on how other viruses in the Coronavirus family act. Examples of other Coronaviruses include SARS and MERS. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Can you get coronavirus by eating food that was prepared in a room where someone with the virus sneezed or coughed?

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted via food,” wrote Nriagu. “However, theoretically it could happen. There are strict guidelines that restaurants have to follow to ensure food safety and reduce the spread of all germs. These guidelines include washing hands and disinfecting surfaces.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can hand dryers kill coronavirus?

No, bathroom hand dryers can’t kill coronavirus, the World Health Organization says. Doctors say the best ways to protect yourself include:

Is it safe to travel via plane considering the dangers of spreading the infection?

Transmission of infection in airplanes may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft. This is usually as a result of an infected individual coughing or sneezing or by touch. This is no different from any other situation in which people are in close proximity to each other. Travelers should disinfect the area where they are seated, wash their hands often, avoid touching their face and try to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Most modern aircraft have re-circulation systems that recycle up to 50% of cabin air. The re-circulated air is usually passed through HEPA filters (used in hospitals and ICU’s). These filters can trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

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. Many transit systems are upping their cleaning regimens — notably Houston’s METRO. (CNN Health)

Is it safe to take kids to a playground?

“Children can be infected by COVID-19 (but do not appear to become very ill when infected) and are definite spreaders of COVID-19,” wrote Nriagu. “As such, consider play dates in the yard where there are fewer places for germs to collect, reduce interpersonal contact, consider outside activities like biking or hiking where sport equipment aren’t shared and its easier to keep a good distance from each other. Use bleach on all surfaces to disinfect.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

What is happening to Meals on Wheels recipients?

Meals on Wheels is still working, according to their website. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)