Haley’s Health Inbox archive: All the questions KPRC 2′s health reporter answered through the coronavirus pandemic

Haley Hernandez
Haley Hernandez

HOUSTON – Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, KPRC 2′s health reporter, Haley Hernandez, along with producer, Andrea Slaydon have worked tirelessly to answer hundreds of health-related questions from viewers.

Here’s a look at the archive:

December 1, 2020

We are tracking the COVID-19 vaccine latest.

A panel of U.S. advisers are meeting Tuesday afternoon to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved. Check here for the latest updates on the decisions being made.

Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions, and people age 65 and older.

Tuesday’s meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when -- advice that the government almost always follows.

Can you get the flu and COVID at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.

Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19. Getting your flu shot is more important than ever this year.

We had stomach issues before our COVID diagnosis. Is this common?

Many people with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, sometimes prior to developing fever and lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms. The CDC is tracking common symptoms from COVID cases in the U.S.

November 24, 2020

How long will I have to wait to get a COVID vaccine?

This really depends on when the vaccine put into production. Houston’s chief medical officer Dr. David Persse says it’s hard to predict but the way things are looking now something might be available in April 2021.

Certain people will be allowed to get their vaccine first. The list includes healthcare workers, frontline workers, and people in vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19. The governor’s office said factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status, and geography would also play a role in the process.

The shots would also be available at places you would expect to get a vaccine like a doctor’s office or clinic.

How long will we need to wear masks after a vaccine is released?

You will probably need to wear a mask well into the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Top health experts say the vaccine is not a magic bullet to solve the COVID-19 problem. Vaccines aren’t always effective for everyone. Over the past decade, for example, seasonal flu vaccines have been effective in about 20% to 60% of people who get them.

AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna say early trial data suggests their vaccine candidates are about 90% or more effective. But those rates could change by the time the studies end.

Are you feeling stressed?

You are not alone if you are feeling stress and anxiety right now. It’s the time of year to be thankful for everything you have and yet some can’t get past what we don’t have in 2020.

If holiday stress is already getting to you, Dr. Andrea Taylor, an assistant professor with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health, offers tips to avoid getting too anxious. Advice includes: keeping it simple, set expectations, and create new traditions to spice things up.

November 19, 2020

When will the at-home COVID test be available?

The newly approved at-home test is expected to be ready for use next spring. U.S. regulators this week allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes.

The company’s test allows users to swab themselves to collect a nasal sample. The sample is then swirled in a vial of laboratory solution that plugs into a portable device. Results are displayed as lights labeled positive or negative.

However, the test will require a prescription, likely limiting its initial use. We will keep you updated!

[Who will be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine?]Edit info

My family is upset that I don’t want to gather with them on Thanksgiving. Any advice on what I can tell them?

This is tough and we get it. But the bottom line, traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. As you’ve probably heard, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household.

The CDC does have advice for what to do if you absolutely must gather with someone outside of your household. Tips include staying outside, bringing your own food, and of course, wearing a mask.

November 17, 2020

How do we know that the COVID vaccine will work?

There is actually a term for this you might start hearing more - COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness. It refers to the likelihood that a coronavirus shot will work in people.

Two vaccine makers have said that preliminary results from their late-stage studies suggest their experimental vaccines are strongly protective. Moderna this week said its vaccine appears nearly 95% effective. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that its shot appeared similarly effective.

Effectiveness numbers will change as the vaccine studies continue since the early calculations were based on fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases in each study. But early results provide strong signals that the vaccine could prevent a majority of disease when large groups of people are vaccinated.

[Who will be the first to get COVID19 vaccines?]Edit info

Where will I go to get the vaccine once it comes out?

Federal health officials have reached an agreement with pharmacies across the U.S. to distribute free coronavirus vaccines after they are approved and become available to the public.

The goal eventually is to make getting a COVID-19 vaccine like getting a flu shot.

The list of pharmacies joining the distribution partnership includes retail chains like Rite Aid and Walgreens, supermarket drug stores like Albertsons and Publix (not in the Houston area), and big-box stores like Costco and Walmart.

The agreement follows a collaboration with CVS and Walgreens to deliver vaccines to nursing homes and administer shots.

November 12, 2020

We’ve talked a lot about physical health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s been a huge impact on mental health. We are here to help!

There are a few things you can do now to help ease potential upcoming holiday stress. Consider new traditions and focus on keeping the holiday simple. This report has more examples to help.

Anxiety, stress, anger or depression -- you or someone you know may be feeling one or more of those emotions. With the holidays approaching and the pandemic still impacting our daily lives, how can you protect your mental health? What are the signs you or a loved one is struggling with? How can you get help?

KPRC invites you to join our panel of experts on mental health who can share strategies for handling your most overwhelming emotions and identify professional resources for anyone who needs them.

Register using this link and join the conversation TONIGHT at 7 p.m.

My husband still feels weird weeks after fighting COVID-19. Is this normal?

In some cases, it could take weeks to fully recover from COVID-19. There is new information about possible side effects. Imperial College London found that in some severe cases, the coronavirus is linked to substantial cognitive deficits for months. Researchers said the impact was equal to a 10-year decline. We spoke with experts in Houston about this.

“Many people complain of what they call brain fog, they’re having trouble focusing, they’re having confusion,” said Dr. Gerard Francisco, chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation with McGovern Medical School at UT Health and chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann. “Which is quite disturbing because while they have recovered physically, mentally, they have not, and just imagine the toll on this person’s psychological well being.”

Dr. Francisco said whether you’re young and healthy or older with a chronic illness, anyone may be susceptible to this side effect.

November 10, 2020

Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first?

The U.S. government will start Wednesday to distribute the limited supplies of a newly authorized antibody drug for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 in hardest-hit states.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow emergency use of Eli Lilly’s experimental drug in non-hospitalized patients while studies continue to determine its safety and effectiveness. The treatment aims to help the immune system clear the virus and is given once through an IV.

The government has spent $375 million to buy 300,000 vials, each containing 700 milligrams of the drug, and says each vial is a treatment course. However, only a dose four times higher proved effective in results revealed so far. Federal scientist Dr. Janet Woodcock said she believes the lower dose still does some good.

The drug is prioritized for people 65 and older or with certain chronic health problems who are at high risk of worsening and requiring hospitalization. At first, the drug will be sent to hospitals and hospital-affiliated locations that are set up to give the infusion.

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My family wants to get together for the holidays - but is it safe?

There’s no need to cancel the holiday, but you should be extra careful. A safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic is possible, but health experts know their advice is as tough to swallow as dry turkey: Stay home. Don’t travel. If you must gather, do it outdoors.

With a fall surge of coronavirus infections gripping the U.S., many Americans are forgoing tradition and getting creative with celebrations.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its holiday guidance, noting the virus crisis is worsening and that small household gatherings are “an important contributor.” The CDC said older adults and others at heightened risk of severe illness should avoid gathering with people outside their households.

November 5, 2020

When can we stop wearing masks?

This is one of the most popular questions we get asked. It’s really hard to say when we will be able to stop wearing masks. In July, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring all Texans to wear face-covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces and the order has not expired yet.

So, in any county with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, people must wear masks with few exceptions. We did address the rumor that masks would go away after the election.

All the doctors and hospital CEOs we interviewed say to get used to wearing masks, probably for the next six months. It will take 60-70% of people getting a vaccine, once one is ready before medical professionals will recommend going back to life as it was before the pandemic.

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Does the cooler weather impact COVID cases?

The World Health Organization recently addressed this topic. They say the virus can be transmitted in any kind of weather and that there is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill it.

The U.N. health agency says the virus is mainly spread between people. Rain and snow might dilute any traces of the virus on benches or other outside objects, but transmission from surfaces is not believed to be a major contributor to the pandemic.

Scientists say the real concern about cold weather is that lower temperatures are more likely to keep people indoors — potentially in more crowded spaces where the virus can spread more easily.

October 29, 2020

How can I be safe at an outdoor Halloween event?

Look for community events focused on safe ways to have fun. These may include programs offered by a park district, arboretum, zoo, or other outdoor venues in your area. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a few guidelines for families to consider.

Stay away from crowds and clustering, and follow safe distance rules even when outdoors. Pumpkin Patches in our area are open and have safety guidelines in place.

Avoid indoor events such as haunted houses. If you think there may be screaming at events you attend, leave extra distance to lower the risk of spreading the respiratory virus.

[What you can expect if you visit a pumpkin patch this year ]Edit info

Can we safely do trick or treating?

Halloween is not canceled this year! You just need to be extra careful about how you celebrate. Dr. Victoria Regan, a pediatrician and vice president at Women’s & Children’s Service Line with Memorial Hermann, gives her tips (with CDC guidance) on how to safely collect and distribute candy.

The most important rule is to make sure you wear a mask. Costume masks do not count as face coverings. You can also spread candy apart on a table or curb for easy pickup and go for kids.

For the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, many traditional activities could be considered high risk like gathering with family, sharing meals, and singing. The CDC recommends to keep the group small and stay outdoors. Which means, the tradition of visiting graves should also be OK as long as you keep your distance. We’ve put together a few other fun ideas of new Halloween traditions you can start with your family.

October 22, 2020

Are there new rules about what is COVID close contact?

U.S. health officials this week redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks.

[Should you wear a mask if you are more than 6 feet away from others?]Edit info

How long will we have to keep wearing masks?

There’s a good chance we will have to wear a mask possibly into next year. In September, the CDC director Robert Redfield said we would probably need to wear masks until a vaccine is ready. That’s not expected to happen until mid-2021. Others have said we will still need to wear masks even during the vaccine period.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health, Metrics and Evaluation says if virtually everyone wears face masks and keeps a safe distance from others, more than 122,000 lives would be saved by January 2021.

October 20, 2020

With COVID cases rising, what could I be doing to stay healthy?

Besides wearing a mask, social distancing, and good hygiene, there are a few supplements that seem to be helping people stay healthy. Several recent studies have looked at the impact of vitamin D and zinc on COVID-19.

One study of 489 people found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for the virus. Another study found that of 50 people with COVID-19 in the hospital, only one needed ICU treatment after being given high doses of vitamin D.

By this point, we’ve all seen patients in the hospital receive these supplements.

The National Institutes of Health says while the supplements may be helping people they can’t prove it’s an effective treatment. Check here for more on suggested doses and other supplement recommendations.

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My company is asking us to return to work. How do I know if I should go back?

The Centers for Disease Control has a few guidelines for anyone to consider before returning to a work environment. If you are at increased risk for severe illness, check with your employer to see if there are policies and practices in place to reduce your risk at work, like telework or modified job responsibilities.

Other things to think about:

  • If someone else will be taking care of your child, ask them to review information about caring for children.
  • If someone else will be providing care for a household member that is at increased risk of severe illness or needs extra precautions, ask them to review this information.
  • Spending more time with people who may be infected increases your risk of becoming infected.
  • Spending more time with people increases their risk of becoming infected if there is any chance that you may already be infected.

October 16, 2020

It seems like the treatment you get for COVID-19 depends on what your doctor will prescribe. (mild cases) What drugs do work for the treatment of patients with COVID-19?

There is new information out today from a trial looking into common COVID-19 drug treatments. The World Health Organization announced the long-awaited results of a six-month trial that endeavored to see if existing drugs might have an effect on the coronavirus.

The study, which was not peer-reviewed, found that four treatments tested - remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon - had " little or no effect” on whether or not patients died within about a month or whether hospitalized patients recovered. But remdesivir, an antiviral, has been classified as standard-of-care in the United States, and it has been approved for use against COVID-19 in the UK and EU.

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Feeling stressed about COVID-19 and having trouble sleeping? We have tips for how to get a better night’s sleep.

Here are tips from MD Anderson’s Sleep Center Director:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Resist sleeping in.
  • Follow a daily routine. Doing the same thing each day and having a steady daily routine increases your likelihood of sleeping well at night.
  • Engage in light physical activity. When you’re stuck at home, you may need to get creative. Walk up and downstairs, lift soup cans or find a yoga video online. Be sure to stop exercising at least two hours before bedtime. Otherwise, you may have trouble falling asleep.
  • Open window shades and blinds. Letting light into your house during the day helps your body regulate sleep.
  • Keep naps short. Limit naps to no more than 30 minutes, and don’t nap after 2 p.m.
  • Keep work out of the bedroom. If your job has shifted from the office to home, set up a separate work area away from the bedroom. Bedrooms are for sleeping, and should not be associated with work, which can be stressful.
  • Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  • Avoid alcohol before going to bed. Alcohol may at first lull you to sleep, but it interferes with sleep during the night, causing you to wake up frequently. The rule is, no alcohol within four hours of bedtime. And be sure to limit all alcohol intake, as alcohol can damage cells and lead to cancer. If you choose to drink, the National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day. For cancer prevention, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.
  • Check here for more sleeping tips.

October 14, 2020

Does drinking lots of water help flush out COVID-19?

The World Health Organization addressed this popular question. They say there is no evidence that drinking lots of water flushes out the new coronavirus or stomach acid kills the virus. However, for good health in general, it is recommended that people should have adequate water every day for good health and to prevent dehydration.

Another rumor they addressed is FALSE: If we take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds without coughing, without discomfort or tightness that means we have no COVID infection.

[How long will my COVID-19 illness last?]Edit info

I had COVID and have recovered. How many times can I give plasma to help other COVID patients?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows two donations within a 7-day period, with at least 48 hours between donations.

At the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, medical director Dr. Marsha Bertholf explained, “(blood from COVID-19 survivors) contains antibodies that then can go into the patients and help fight off the virus.”

There are still many hospitalized patients that could use your help and doctors are planning for a surge in cases this fall. Part of their plans includes collecting convalescent plasma, which is possibly a life-saving treatment still under investigation.

They also test each blood donation for antibodies. That means, if you’re curious whether you might have had the virus and not shown symptoms, you can get an antibody test through a blood donation. If you are positive for antibodies, the blood center will call you and request a plasma donation.

October 9, 2020

I see people dig their masks out of their bags touching all over it. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of wearing one? Cross-contamination?

Well, you have a point. One expert we interviewed did recommend to avoid touching the “mask” part. She suggested only touching the straps of the mask when removing and if it’s a cloth mask, throwing it directly in the washing machine. Yes, this means you would wear it in the car going to and from a public location where you are wearing the mask.

Dr. Alison Haddock, with Baylor College of Medicine, said once you have been wearing it, the front of the mask is contaminated or potentially contaminated. You want to make sure you are not transmitting any of that around your home.

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Is it too early to get the flu shot?

Now is the perfect time to get a flu vaccine. The CDC says getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated.

Consumer reporter Amy Davis just did a helpful roundup of the cheapest places to get a flu shot when you don’t have insurance.

October 6, 2020

What is the latest on a vaccine? Is it really going to happen before election day?

The White House this week blocked new Food and Drug Administration guidelines on bringing potential vaccines for COVID-19 to market that would almost certainly have prevented their introduction before the Nov. 3 election.

At issue was the FDA’s planned instruction that vaccine developers follow patients enrolled in their trials for at least two months to rule out safety issues before seeking emergency approval from the agency.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that a vaccine could be authorized before Election Day, even though top government scientists working on the administration’s vaccine effort have stated that that timeline is very unlikely.

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Why can’t everyone with COVID-19 get the same drug treatment President Trump is taking?

The drug treatment you receive depends on the doctor you see. There is no “set” treatment and doctors are learning more as time goes on. (For example, patients with certain pre-existing conditions get certain treatment while others may not.) During his battle with the coronavirus, the president has been given an antibody cocktail, the second dose of Remdesivir and a steroid therapy, which is used in more severe COVID-19 cases.

“The steroid is becoming widespread, especially in patients that are typically ill with COVID or who require ventilation or high flow oxygen,” said Dr. Hana El Sahly, an associate professor of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.

El Sahly said the steroid therapy is known as Dexamethasone and has been used in less severe cases as of lately. Dexamethasone works by reducing inflammation in and around the lungs but like with many steroid therapies there are risks involved.

October 1, 2020

I got a note that my child had contact with a positive COVID-19 case at school. Should I get her tested?

The CDC says if you are in direct contact with someone who tested positive you should stay home for 14 days and be alert for symptoms. Also, call your pediatrician. Depending on who you see, they may not want you to just come in for testing without symptoms.

Your school may also have recommendations they want you to follow.

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We are thinking about flying for the holidays. Will this increase my risk for COVID-19?

Yes, traveling will increase your risk of catching COVID-19. Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. The CDC says most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

September 29, 2020

In a boil water notice can you use the water to wash your hands? What about washing dishes?

The City of Lake Jackson is under a boil order and Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration for Brazoria county after a 6-year-old died from a parasite found in the water. Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control says about handwashing and a boil water notice.

  • In many situations, you can use tap water and soap to wash hands. Follow the guidance from your local public health officials
  • Be sure to scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and rinse them well under running water
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol

Other guidelines include:

  • Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, and to prepare and cook food
  • If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes), then allow it to cool before use
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator
  • Breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option. If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use formula, if available

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Do I need to do anything different with my pets during a boil water notice?

The CDC says it’s best to use the same guidelines for your pets that you do for the rest of your family.

  • Pets can get sick by some of the same germs as people or spread germs to people. Provide bottled or boiled water after it has been cooled for pets to use.
  • If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes), then allow it to cool before use.
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered.
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.

You can read more safety guidelines here.

September 23, 2020

Did the CDC really cancel Halloween?

Not exactly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did release a list of guidelines for Halloween. They put traditional Halloween activities into low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk for COVID-19 spread categories. It says indoor haunted houses, traditional trick-or-treating, hayrides, and costume parties are all considered high risk for spreading COVID-19 and they want us to skip them this year.

The agency says safer, “low risk” things to do this year include carving or decorating pumpkins with your own family members, an outdoor scavenger hunt or a virtual Halloween costume contest.

The CDC also released helpful guidelines about safe ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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Now that school has been back for a lot of schools, do we know if COVID is spreading more?

There is new information about the spread of COVID with kids and teens. It appears the virus can spread among children and teens, but how easily may vary by age. Research is still underway, but children under age 10 seem to be less likely than older kids to transmit the virus to other children and adults.

Children generally don’t appear to get sick or experience symptoms as often as adults when they’re infected. Some evidence suggests that may be particularly true for younger kids. That might help explain why they appear less likely to spread the virus — they’re less likely to be coughing and sneezing.

Some of the latest evidence comes from a recent report that showed infected children in Utah daycare centers and day camps spread the virus to family members, including siblings. That suggested very young children with no symptoms or very mild ones can spread infection, but that the rate of spread was low.

September 21, 2020

I went to my child’s school and hardly any kids were wearing masks. Aren’t they supposed to make them?

Whether students have to wear masks, and the trouble they could face if they don’t, depends on where they go to school.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages masks for most students, especially when they are closer than 6 feet apart. The exceptions are children younger than 2 and those with breathing problems or who can’t remove the mask without help.

But how districts interpret the guidance varies. If you really feel concerned about the issue, kindly consult the school staff for clarification.

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Is it safe to drink from a water fountain during the pandemic?

There is no evidence that shows you can get COVID-19 from a water fountain. You could be careful about how you use them when you do. For example, you could use a tissue to push the button before drinking. You could also look for a bottle and fill up the bottle instead of drinking directly from the fountain. Most places, like schools and libraries, have their water fountains closed off for public use. Schools suggest kids bring several water bottles to make it through the day since they won’t have access to water fountains during the day.

September 16, 2020

I had COVID-19 months ago but still can’t smell anything. Is that normal?

There have been many reports identifying the loss of sense of smell as one of the primary symptoms of COVID-19.

While some experience the loss for days, there are others who experience it for months. Then, there are some who, even months after having lived through COVID-19, still haven’t regained their sense of smell.

Anosmia is the temporary loss of smell, and not only is it the earliest and most commonly reported indicator of the coronavirus, but it’s also the main neurological symptom, according to Harvard Medical School.

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We are traveling and staying in a hotel. Any tips on how to stay healthy?

Hotels are taking extraordinary measures to make sure guests and staff stay healthy. For general advice, the CDC says to wear a mask in the lobby or other common areas. Check the hotel’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go. Use options for online reservation and check-in, mobile room key, and contactless payment. Ask if the hotel has updated policies about cleaning and disinfecting or removing frequently touched surfaces and items (such as pens, room keys, tables, phones, doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, water fountains, ATMs/card payment stations, business center computers and printers, ice/vending machines, and remote controls). Wear a mask in the lobby or other common areas. Check here for more tips on staying in a hotel.

September 14, 2020

We’ve had several questions about a potential coronavirus vaccine. Here is the latest:

Oxford University announced Saturday it was resuming a trial for a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a move that comes days after the study was suspended following a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

In a statement, the university confirmed the restart across all of its U.K. clinical trial sites after regulators gave the go-ahead following the pause on Sunday. The vaccine being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca is widely perceived to be one of the strongest contenders among the dozens of coronavirus vaccines in various stages of testing around the world.

It said globally some 18,000 people have received its vaccine so far. Volunteers from some of the worst affected countries — Britain, Brazil, South Africa and the U.S. — are taking part in the trial.

Two other vaccines are in huge, final-stage tests in the United States, one made by Moderna Inc. and the other by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

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Is it true that a person is more at risk for serious COVID complications if they smoke cigarettes?

Smoking cigarettes can leave you more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19. For example, smoking is known to cause lung disease and people with underlying lung problems may have an increased risk for serious complications from COVID-19, a disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking cigarettes can also cause inflammation and cell damage throughout the body and can weaken your immune system, making it less able to fight off disease.

It’s also important to think about teens. Vaping is a dangerous habit that can also impact the chances of fighting coronavirus.

September 11, 2020

I’ve noticed more people are dining out now. Is it safe?

Dining out -- as long as the right precautions are taken -- has been considered a low-risk activity, according to Dr. Asim Shah with Harris County Health. But a new government study suggests something different. CDC researchers surveyed 314 people who had symptoms of COVID-19. Those who tested positive were twice as likely to report dining out at a restaurant in the 14 days before getting sick. That is compared to adults who tested negative.

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What new COVID research opportunities are available in Houston?

We just found out about this opportunity this week and timing is key if you want to participate. UT Health Science Center at Houston is collaborating with Johns Hopkins University on two new COVID-19 treatment and prevention studies. Both use convalescent plasma, and both are recruiting participants in the Houston metro area. Participants will be compensated.

The study is enrolling now. Those who have been recently exposed, or are newly diagnosed and have symptoms, can contact Johns Hopkins at 888-506-1199 or www.covidplasmatrial.org to take the enrollment questionnaire. If too many days pass, they may not qualify to participate. This study is entirely voluntary, and participants will be compensated.

September 9, 2020

I see people hanging masks from the car mirror or stacking them up on the dash. Is this defeating the purpose of wearing it?

You make a good point about germs and the mask. You really should be washing your cloth mask after each use. Our expert even suggested removing the mask at home and dropping directly into the washing machine only touching the strap part of the mask. The World Health Organization says if your fabric mask is not dirty or wet and you plan to reuse it, put it in a clean plastic, resealable bag. If you need to use it again, hold the mask at the elastic loops when removing it from the bag.

Here are a few tips from WHO concerning fabric masks.

  • Clean your hands before putting on the mask.
  • Inspect the mask for tears or holes, do not use a mask that is damaged.
  • Adjust the mask to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.
  • Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
  • Change your mask if it gets dirty or wet.
  • Clean your hands before taking off the mask.
  • Take off the mask by removing it from the ear loops, without touching the front of the mask.
  • Clean your hands after removing the mask.
  • Wash fabric masks in soap or detergent and preferably hot water (at least 60 degrees) at least once a day.
  • If hot water is not available, wash the mask in soap/detergent and room-temperature water, followed by either boiling the mask for 1 minute OR; by soaking the mask in 0.1% chlorine for 1 minute and thoroughly rinsing the mask with room temperature water (there should not be any toxic residue of chlorine on the mask).
  • Make sure you have your own mask and do not share it with others.

[How you can help save one Houston man’s life ]Edit info

Someone I have been around has COVID-19. Will contact tracers contact me? What will they ask?

A contact tracer with a health department may contact you. The CDC offers guidance for contact tracers to help them ask the right questions. They’ll want to go over details of your work, home and personal interactions. Here is more from the CDC on what they are expected to say:

  • It has come to our attention that you may have been recently exposed to COVID-19.
  • Has anyone already talked to you regarding your possible COVID exposure? If so, who? Some of the early symptoms of COVID-19 can look similar to other illnesses, and sometimes, people have no symptoms. You may have been exposed by someone who had no idea they were sick.
  • In order to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the community, we follow up with people who have been exposed and work with them to make sure they get care if they need it. We also ask them to watch for symptoms and stay separate from others so that they don’t spread it by accident, if they start to get sick.
  • Someone cared enough about you to make sure that you were able to get this information, and the testing and medical care necessary to keep you, your family and others healthy.
  • This type of information can be overwhelming for many people. We want to work with you to help you get the care that you may need.
  • The name of the person who tested positive is confidential. I cannot tell you their name, just like I cannot share your personal information with others.
  • I would like to review some important information and questions with you so we can provide you with support and work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city/county/town.

September 4, 2020

Should we really avoid all public contact over Labor Day?

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week Labor Day weekend could determine how COVID-19 spreads this fall and winter. He urged people to act responsibly and avoid the case surges we saw after Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

“Wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid crowds,” Fauci emphasized about behavior this weekend. “You can avoid those kinds of surges. You don’t want to be someone who’s propagating the outbreak. You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

If you do plan on having a gathering, there are a few safety precautions you can take to keep people safe. Avoid communal appetizer or condiment stations, give every table small bags of chips or nuts, put masks on tables as party favors.

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When should I get a flu shot? I don’t want to get it too early.

Make sure to time the vaccine just right in order to have protection the entire flu season. Which means, late this month or October will be the perfect window to get one that can provide protection through May. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after the vaccine. The CDC recommends children try to be immunized by the end of October.

September 2, 2020

What can you tell us about the latest numbers released by the CDC about COVID deaths? That only 6% of deaths have COVID as the only factor?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data last week explaining COVID-19 deaths. The report does show that 6% of deaths have COVID-19 as the only cause mentioned. This means 94% of people who died also had other health conditions and contributing factors.

These numbers are based on death certificates, which the agency says are the most reliable source of data. Death certificates reportedly contain information that is not available anywhere else and includes comorbid conditions, race and ethnicity, and place of death.

Here is what the CDC says about recording COVID deaths: When COVID-19 is reported as a cause of death on the death certificate, it is coded and counted as a death due to COVID-19. COVID-19 should not be reported on the death certificate if it did not cause or contribute to the death.

Why don’t schools just do COVID testing each week to see who might be sick?

Experts do not recommend schools requiring staff and students to get tested. The logistics of this would be tough, but also, you could test negative for COVID-19 and then the next day, start feeling bad and discover you have it.

Symptom tracking and isolation and contact tracing of students and staff with positive test results seem is the most common recommendation for schools. School districts have spelled out what they plan to do when a case happens. You can check your district here.

[Updates on schools opening across Texas]Edit info

Should I get tested for COVID-19 if I have been around someone who tested positive?

The CDC actually just changed the recommendation on testing. Some people who have been exposed may no longer need to get tested. The CDC now states those who have been in close contact don’t necessarily need a test as long as they do not have symptoms. If you start seeing any symptoms, you should immediately get tested.

Previous recommendations said all close contacts with someone who had the virus should be tested.

August 28, 2020

Is it true there is already a COVID-19 vaccine?

Not exactly. There are dozens of potential vaccines in the works right now. Britain is preparing to revise its laws to allow the emergency use of any effective coronavirus vaccine before it is fully licensed — but only if the shots meet required safety and quality standards.

The proposed regulations would allow coronavirus vaccines to receive emergency approval allowing people to be immunized while the full licensing process is being finished. Typically, vaccines are only used after the licensing review has been completed, a process that can take several months.

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I had COVID but I only felt bad for 3 days. Does this mean I am recovered?

Here is what the CDC says about this. If you do not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:

  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers), AND
  • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved), AND
  • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

Can the COVID-19 test tell the difference between someone with an active infection and someone who was infected in the past?

Current tests for COVID-19 look for the presence of the virus in your body which means there’s an active infection. A serologic test looks for evidence that you may have been infected in the past.

August 26, 2020

Where can I get dialysis if mine closes from the hurricane?

For help, the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) is available by phone 24/7 to answer your questions regarding kidney conditions and emergency events. Contact the KCER Helpline 866-901-3773.

Here is more helpful information about drug storage if you are out of town. Drugs exposed to flood or unsafe municipal water may become contaminated. This contamination may lead to serious health effects. Drugs exposed to unsafe water should be replaced as soon as possible. Drugs — even those in their original containers with screw-top caps, snap lids, or droppers — should be discarded if they came into contact with flood or contaminated water. In addition, medicines placed in other storage containers should be discarded if the medicines came in contact with flood or contaminated water.

[2020 is stressful! How to talk to your kids about storm stress, on top of everything else]Edit info

Since we are still taking precautions against COVID-19, If the storm damage causes a boil water advisory, can I still use tap water to wash my hands?

In most cases, it is safe to wash your hands with soap and tap water during a Boil Water Advisory. Follow the guidance from your local public health officials. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

August 19, 2020

Is it safe to go in beach water (either Surfside beach or Galveston)? Is it true the virus lingers in the water because so many people go into it?

The water itself is actually said to be safe. Infectious disease doctors don’t think the virus can survive and thrive long in a big body of water and since it’s diluted quickly then you are OK to swim. However, the concern is when beaches are crowded and you’re around a lot of people there because it’s more likely you’d come into contact with the virus through other people at the beach. If you decide to go to the beach, try to find a place that is far away from others.

[What school activities are the riskiest? ]Edit info

Does someone by law have to tell others they have been in contact with if they contract COVID-19?

While it would be nice and responsible for someone you were around to tell you if they got COVID-19, it’s not required by anyone. In fact, even employers don’t legally have to notify employees if a coworker tests positive. However, most companies are notifying employees when there is a positive case. Privacy laws prohibit them from saying who the person is, but in most cases, the company will let everyone know.

Should anyone who had COVID-19 try to donate plasma?

If you’ve received a positive COVID-19 test result, you’re exactly the person wanted for donating convalescent plasma. You should ask your doctor first if you are an ideal candidate.

It’s a personal decision if you would like to donate plasma to help someone else. We are learning more about the potential benefits. Health experts have identified that plasma received from someone who has survived COVID-19 can be extremely beneficial to others who may contract the virus. Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that is collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These patients develop antibodies in the blood against the virus, which, in turn, helps those who are currently suffering from the coronavirus.

The FDA just released a new campaign to encourage more people to donate plasma.

August 17, 2020

Can you get coronavirus from being around someone who is smoking?

It doesn’t appear that secondhand smoke can transmit coronavirus. But, experts do think a sick person could blow droplets carrying the virus when they exhale smoke. For this reason, you could be exposed to the virus. Here’s a good tip: if you can smell the smoke you might be too close to the smoker. This is also true for someone who is vaping. Any sort of exhaling of smoke or air is a method of spreading germs.

Is it safe to drink from a water fountain right now?

There is no evidence you can get coronavirus from water. But, the virus could be lingering on surfaces. You may want to avoid fountains or if you use them, to limit touching them. For example, you can use a tissue to push the button. If you don’t have that handy, just make sure to wash your hands right away and avoid touching your nose and mouth.

For schools, the CDC is advising that schools close off water fountains at schools. Many districts in our area are asking kids to bring bottled water. If you are a parent, it might be a good idea to pack multiple bottles of water for the day. (But check first, your school may have the water bottle refill fountains which would be touch-free and most likely safe to use.)

[Sneeze Guards in schools]Edit info

Is it safe to have someone in my home right now to do work?

Many home service companies are taking extra precautions during this time. We showed you a few companies that go into homes, looking at what each is doing. For example, plumbers are wearing PPE, wiping down areas, and disinfecting their equipment before entering. Other service providers like carpet cleaners and exterminators are doing the same thing—eliminating as much contact as possible with clients. You can see more about what companies are doing here.

Experts say no matter who you allow into your home, stay away from them. Have them talk to you via a computer or over the phone, instead of face-to-face.

August 14, 2020

Is it safe for the kids to play sports? Young kids and teens?

You can take a number of steps to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and reduce the spread while playing sports.

Here is what the CDC says specifically about kids and sports. The more people a participant interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Therefore, the risk of COVID-19 spread can be different, depending on the type of activity.

  • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with members of the same household
  • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
  • More Risk: Within-team competition
  • Higher Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area (e.g., city or county)
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state)

If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during the competition (for example, keeping participants six feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only.

Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at an increased risk for severe illness.

We have been camping all summer. We were wondering if wild animals spread coronavirus to people or pets?

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest the virus that causes COVID-19 is circulating in free-living wildlife in the United States, or that wildlife might be a source of infection for people in the United States. The first case of a wild animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. However, this tiger was in a captive zoo environment, and public health officials believe the tiger became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected and spreading the virus.

If a wild animal were to become infected with the virus, experts don’t know whether the infection could then spread among wildlife or if it could spread to other animals, including pets. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including wildlife, could be affected by COVID-19. Because wildlife can carry other diseases, even without looking sick, it is always important to enjoy wildlife from a distance.

Take steps to prevent getting sick from wildlife in the United States:

  • Keep your family, including pets, a safe distance away from wildlife
  • Do not feed wildlife or touch wildlife droppings
  • Always wash your hands and supervise children washing their hands after working or playing outside
  • Leave orphaned animals alone. Often, the parents are close by and will return for their young
  • Consult your state wildlife agency’s guidance if you are preparing or consuming legally harvested game meat

Do not approach or touch a sick or dead animal – contact your state wildlife agency instead

August 13, 2020

I recently bought several small bottles of hand sanitizer at a gas station. Later at home, I was reading the back and was shockingly confused when it said Alcohol 68%…. is it worth using?

Yes, there certainly is a large variety of hand sanitizers now on the market. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers without 60-95% alcohol 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs, and 2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.

When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.

[Immunization rates drop]Edit Info

How many strains of coronavirus are there? Can you get it more than once?

Depending on where you look for information, you will find there could be anywhere from four to 10 different mutations of coronavirus right now. Last month doctors in the Texas Medical Center offered insight into a strain of the coronavirus that seems to be more contagious – a strain considered the main one wreaking havoc in Houston.

Some experts think you can get COVID twice and one reason is that you are getting different mutated strains of the virus.

August 10, 2020

What are the potential long-term effects of having COVID-19?

It’s hard to say exactly because the coronavirus is still so new that scientists don’t know much about long-term effects. The best evidence comes from patients themselves, and some experience a variety of symptoms long after their infections have cleared.

Most people recover within a few weeks. For people who experience longer-term effects, the most common issues are bouts of exhaustion, headaches, anxiety and muscle aches that can last for at least several more weeks. Patients who required intensive care, including those put on ventilators or kidney dialysis, can experience more serious issues.

Lung scarring can occur in people who developed pneumonia. Heart inflammation, irregular heartbeats, and worsening kidney and liver function have been reported as well. However, it’s too soon to know if those could be permanent problems.

We talked with one Houston man who is still dealing with issues after a COVID diagnosis in March. We’ve since found out he was diagnosed with COVID again last month.

[New COVID health impact?]Edit Info

Are kids still not getting COVID as adults do?

Children are still not getting COVID-19 at the same rate that adults are. However, we are learning new information about the kids who are getting it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports looked at children with COVID-19 who needed hospitalization. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.

The second report examined cases of a rare virus-associated syndrome in kids. It found that nearly three-quarters of the children with the syndrome were either Hispanic or Black, well above their representation in the general population. This syndrome is still VERY RARE.

August 7, 2020

I’m seeing different safety measures plans at different schools. Why aren’t they all doing the same thing?

From social distancing to mask-wearing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Education Agency have spelled out dozens of COVID guidelines for schools. The CDC requests that each school develop a proactive plan for when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Various schools and school districts have taken these guidelines and will translate it to what works best for their school space.

All schools will have an isolation room area for someone who might be sick. We have information pages for each school district, so you can check to see what your school might be planning. Click here to search our extensive school district database.

Is it safe to have routine testing at a lab?

It should be safe for you to go into any doctor’s office or lab clinic for testing. In fact, you should not put off routine testing right now. We did a story a few weeks back talking to doctors who say they worry unaddressed health problems will lead to bigger issues down the road. Doctors in Houston have seen heart attack and stroke cases are down. Pediatricians have also worried about parents not bringing in kids for routine vaccines because they have seen office visits go down.

So, bottom line, if you need a routine checkup don’t worry about going into the doctor’s office right now.

[Get your flu shots!]Edit Info

What will happen with my personal information during contact tracing?

Discussions with health department staff are confidential. This means that your personal and medical information will be kept private and only shared with those who may need to know, like your health care provider.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your name will not be shared with those you came in contact with. The health department will only notify people you were in close contact with (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) that they might have been exposed to COVID-19. Each state and jurisdiction use their own method for collecting and protecting health information.

August 5, 2020

Are the face masks with plastic vents just as good as the other masks?

Face masks with plastic vents do help the person wearing it breathe better. The plastic vents help the wearer from breathing in other people’s respiratory droplets but it doesn’t really keep the person wearing the mask from exhaling their droplets into the air. This could put other people at risk during the pandemic.

Experts recommend choosing a face mask made of cloth or paper cloth instead. Here’s more from the CDC on face coverings.

Do I need to keep my face mask on while going through a drive-thru?

You may notice that many drive-thrus now have plastic barriers at the windows to protect the person inside. The worker should be wearing a mask too. It’s not specified in any orders, but it would be nice for you to wear a mask when you pull up to the window just as an extra precaution for both you and the worker. It’s unlikely either of you will be infected in such a quick interaction, especially since it’s outdoors.

If someone walks up to your window, you should for sure be wearing a mask.

[Will kids have recess?]Edit Info

What drugs are working for COVID patients right now?

Houston Methodist Hospital is making national headlines this week after doctors used a new drug to help treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Methodist was the first to report the rapid recovery of patients on ventilators and those with severe medical conditions after three days of treatment. The drug is called RLF-100 and is also known as aviptadil. It has been approved by the FDA for emergency use at multiple clinical sites in patients who are too ill to enter the FDA’s Phase 2/3 trials.

According to a press release from the drug maker Relief, independent researchers have reported that aviptadil blocked replication of the SARS coronavirus in human lung cells and monocytes. You can read more about this here.

July 31, 2020

We are traveling across Texas, is it safe to use public bathrooms?

Good timing with this question, we just did a story on this! In the sophisticated world of physics, there’s a well-studied topic called “the toilet plume.” By studying what happens when you flush, scientists determined a cloud of aerosols float in the air almost three feet. Plus, studies have found evidence of coronavirus in fecal matter. So, do public restrooms pose a serious threat of infection?

Infectious disease expert Dr. Linda Yancey, with Memorial Hermann in Katy, said viral droplets may stay in the air or land on surfaces in the bathroom. Which means, the risk exists. However, there’s no real evidence of transmission from public restrooms. Therefore, Yancey said the best thing to do is know how to keep yourself safe while using the bathroom.

[Are people in businesses required to wear masks? ]Edit Info

How do I participate in the Houston COVID trial?

Researchers with the Texas Center for Drug Development are still looking for participants for several trials happening here but with volunteers starting the study this week, health leaders believe we are on track for an early 2021 vaccine.

In America: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Moderna are getting a lot of attention for having vaccine candidates almost ready to go. The group of researchers with Houston Fights COVID is still in need of hundreds of people to participate in various trials. You will be paid for your involvement.

They’re hoping for a diverse group to determine which vaccines are most effective to a large population. Pharmaceutical companies are also conducting their own trials. Ventavia Research Group is also looking for participants in Houston to test drug maker’s vaccines.

Other vaccines from China and Britain’s Oxford University are also entering final testing stages.

I am having a question about an employee returning to work. He and his partner both tested positive. They retested 14 days later, he was negative, she was still positive. Does he (negative test) need to continue to quarantine?

Here is the business guidance information from the CDC and also the information about patients at home with COVID. Most of the time this depends on the company policy and I know a lot of companies across our area pretty much say if there are no symptoms, get back to work. However, if you own your own business, this is up to you and I recognize that’s a tough decision. Other companies ask employees to stay home if anyone in their family has pending test results.

July 29, 2020

Do you have any examples of how schools are going to prepare for in-person learning?

We found that school districts are busy making thoughtful plans when it comes to social distancing. At KIPP charter schools, only siblings can sit by each other on the bus. Desks are six feet apart in Aldine, with two students diagonally across from each other and sneeze guards to shield them. In school cafeterias, seats may be marked off to demonstrate social distancing.

Grab-and-go meals might be the new norm so students aren’t standing in line for lunch. We will keep updating the measures schools will take to keep kids and staff safe.

What states make visitors from Texas go into quarantine?

Texans are required to quarantine when visiting 12 states. The states are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island. Some states allow you to skip the quarantine if you provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival to the state. In May, Governor Greg Abbott lifted travel restrictions for visitors to Texas.

[Eating disorders and compulsive exercise on the rise]Edit Info

Our son would like to visit us (75 yr old parents). The verdict is still out. We’ve been living in a virtual bubble. Is there protocol he can follow before coming; is there protocol we can follow while he is here?

There are no good recommendations on what you should do. This will depend on what everyone is comfortable with, how many precautions everyone wants to take, and without knowing how he’s traveling to you and how far away he lives, it’s harder to say. If he lives close by, some people prefer to have outdoor visits from a distance.

If he’s staying in your home, some people may prefer both sides quarantine before he arrives. Symptoms typically show up after about 5 days after infection (although it may take up to 14 days), so you should know by then if you had the virus. There is the fear that some people are asymptomatic, although, the World Health Organization believes people without symptoms are just pre-symptomatic. Having an infection and never getting any symptom, they say, is very rare. In some cases, some people get tested before family visits. Others take precautions more loosely and choose to just be vigilant about washing hands. We interviewed one doctor who said that older people often recover from COVID and if you take measures to protect yourself, the mental health aspect of visits may outweigh the risks.

July 27, 2020

How can schools really make social distancing work?

The new CDC guidelines on returning to school put a lot of importance on kid’s social-distancing. That includes canceling any activities when distancing isn’t possible and configuring groups of students that always work together. So if one gets sick, only that group is monitored for symptoms and it shouldn’t require an entire campus to shut down. Some districts are installing sneeze guards and others are utilizing different spaces as classrooms to keep class sizes small.

[HCC reopening during COVID-19]Edit Info

What hand sanitizer is being recalled?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an update to a warning about a Mexican-made hand sanitizer gel that it said is dangerous because it contains large amounts of poisonous methanol or wood alcohol.

The FDA said the methanol “can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested,” and recommended consumers dispose of nine brands of gel sanitizers made by Eskbiochem SA de CV. There are 50+ various names of the hand sanitizer including Blumen Clear Advanced Hand Sanitizer and DDI Multinacional’s Hand Sanitizer Agavespa Skincare. Check here for the complete list of recalled hand sanitizers.

Is self-administered testing as accurate as the professional tests?

More companies are coming out with at-home COVID-19 tests. The key to getting an accurate result is to get a really good sample for testing. We do know getting enough material for the sample is key to getting an accurate result. So you have to really get the swab up in your nose to get enough. Usually, with these tests, you are on video chat with an expert who is coaching you along. As long as you are being coached appropriately, the results should be the same.

July 24, 2020

What are the new rules about returning to work after a COVID-19 diagnosis?

The Centers for Disease Control have released new guidelines about returning to work after you test positive for COVID-19. Except for rare situations, a test-based strategy is no longer recommended to determine when to allow HCP to return to work. (But keep in mind, the employer could still ask for a test.)

Here’s the new CDC guidance just updated this week for employees who had mild to moderate illness. They can return to work if:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the first symptoms
  • At least 24 hours have passed since their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
  • Symptoms like cough or shortness of breath need to show improvement

If you don’t have any symptoms and have never been tested, health officials say don’t get tested right now.

[Pregnant during the pandemic?]Edit Info

Why are kids not being tested as much for COVID-19?

At most testing sites, if you want a test for a child, they want a pediatrician’s referral. Pediatricians like Charisma Garcia, MD, with Texas Children’s Health Plan the Center for Children and Women, say unless the caregiver of a small child is elderly, diabetic or otherwise vulnerable, it’s not necessary.

When talking about teenagers, Michael Chang, an infectious disease pediatrician with UT Physicians and UTHealth, agrees. Since kids and teens seem to do well with the virus, they say they’d rather preserve the tests for people who really need them. Parents should be on the lookout for symptoms. You can read more about that here.

Do you have additional guidance for if I should decide to send my child back to school later in the fall?

The CDC just released a decision-making tool to help parents and caregivers decide if in-person school is best for them. You answer a few questions about possible underlying conditions or home life situations and more information is given based on your answers. This really is a personal decision for each family to make. Some children, however, need in-person learning for special education or to have their nutritional needs met.

July 22, 2020

Can people who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, but test positive, still spread the virus to others?

When people cough or talk, they spread droplets of saliva and mucus into the air. And yes, even if a person is not showing active symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others - and maybe to someone who could get very sick with the virus. Researchers found pre-symptomatic people shed the virus at an extremely high rate. This means, the days before the person starts feeling sick - they are already spreading the virus to others.

What about the homeless population and COVID-19?

We don’t have numbers for homeless people in Houston who have COVID-19. Many of the recommendations to prevent COVID-19 may be difficult for a person experiencing homelessness to do. Although it may not be possible to avoid certain crowded locations (such as shelters), people who are homeless should try to avoid other crowded public settings and public transportation. If possible, they should use takeaway options for food. As is true for everyone, they should maintain a distance of about 6 feet (two arms’ length) from other people. They also should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible, and cover their coughs and sneezes. Homeless shelters in our area are screening clients.

[Tips for isolating in your home with a COVID-19 patient]Edit Info

Someone in our house has COVID-19, should everyone else in the home get tested?

Doctors say even if someone else in the home has COVID-19, you should isolate in the home and not run out to get additional tests right away. Experts are telling people who have been around a COVID-19 patient to stay indoors and watch symptoms. This is true even for children. Children specifically are not being tested as frequently as adults.

July 20, 2020

If a child has COVID-19 and is asymptomatic, can they spread it to their teachers, other students, and then back to their families at home?

Yes, if someone has COVID they can spread it to others even if they are not showing obvious symptoms. Here is what Dr. Charisma Garcia, pediatrician, Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women told us about kids and COVID:

About half of the cases we are seeing, they are asymptomatic carriers. They get tested because mom or dad got sick, and they had COVID and the child got tested. About half of them are asymptomatic or very mild. A case of running nose, or maybe they vomited once and now they are perfectly healthy. The other half just look like they have a really bad cold. There’s a couple that looked like they had pneumonia. In general, they are largely well. Which could mean they are more likely to spread it because they may not actually know they are ill because they are fighting it off so well.”

If someone who had COVID-19 and recovers but later shows symptoms should they quarantine again?

It is possible to get COVID-19 twice. The CDC recommends if someone develops new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 more than three months after the date of symptom onset of the most recent illness episode should be retested. Persons with recurrent symptoms after the first three months who test positive should be considered infectious and remain isolated until they again meet the criteria for discontinuation of isolation or of transmission-based precautions.

If reinfection is suspected, repeat isolation and contact tracing may be needed. The determination of whether a patient with a subsequently positive test is contagious to others should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with infectious diseases specialists and public.

[Find COVID-19 testing site near you]Edit Info

I’m worried about my child returning to school. Is there anything I can do to prepare them?

Staying up late has just been the norm for a lot of kids for months. This means returning to class, whether on campus or online, is bound to be a rude awakening for some. Pamela Sanders, MD, from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Sugar Land, said children need 9-11 hours of sleep. Teens and adults should get 8-10 hours of sleep.

In order to begin waking up earlier, Sanders said students should start an effort of going to sleep slightly earlier than they’re used to right now every night until they’re waking up closer to time for school. She recommends shifting bedtime by about 15 minutes or so each night, starting now.

For online learning, Sanders said the most important thing you can do is create some kind of structured schedule to set them up for success.

July 17, 2020

I missed a blood drive that was offering a free antibody test. How do I find another one?

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center says they are so desperate for people to donate convalescent plasma, they are testing every blood donation for antibodies. If someone who donates blood has the antibodies, they’ll be contacted about donating plasma. If you are curious about antibodies the blood center says you can donate blood anywhere and find out! Also, if someone who gives blood does not have antibodies, the results will be posted on your donor profile.

Someone I was around last week now has COVID but we had on masks when around each other. So, does that count as close contact?

Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a cloth face covering while you were around someone with COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are meant to prevent someone from transmitting the disease to others, and not to protect someone from becoming infected.

If you have been around someone who was identified as close contact with a person with COVID-19, you should closely monitor yourself for any symptoms of COVID-19. You do not need to self-quarantine.

[COVID-19 or Lyme Disease?]Edit Info

Can COVID-19 spread through drinking water?

The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in treated drinking water. Here is what the CDC says about this: Water treatment plants use filters and disinfectants to remove or kill germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates water treatment plants to ensure that treated water is safe to drink.

Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people by drinking treated water. COVID-19 is spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person.

July 13, 2020

Are kids protected from COVID because of the current childhood vaccines they get?

We’ve heard fewer children are getting COVID-19 and this is a good question. We asked Dr. Charisma Garcia, a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women. She says there is not a magic vaccine to prevent COVID-19 right now and there’s no connection to current vaccines that may help kids fight off COVID-19. Dr. Garcia points out that in general kids are pretty healthy meaning they don’t have diabetes, they are outside exercising and they usually get pretty good sleep. Sometimes it’s our medical history that makes us more sensitive to coronavirus and kids don’t often have long medical histories.

If outdoors is safer than indoors, do I still have to worry about staying six feet apart and wearing a mask?

Experts agree the benefit of being outdoors is increased airflow and droplets released by a person become diluted in the air more quickly than compared to being indoors. Droplets can be spread 1-2 meters in the air before falling to the ground, so keeping that 6-foot distance is preferred. Wearing a cloth mask adds another layer of protection to those around you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cloth masks worn in public and when around people who don’t live in your household. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a mask mandate requiring most Texans to wear masks in public and in businesses.

[School nurses advocating for strict precautions]Edit Info

I have COVID-19. How long do I need to quarantine? 14 days from first symptoms or since last symptoms?

The CDC recommends you wait at least three days after you recover, which is defined as having no fever without medication and improved respiratory symptoms. You should also wait at least 10 days after your symptoms first appeared. Your health care provider may or may not test you for COVID after your symptoms go away. Check with the CDC for a complete list of the differences between quarantine and isolation.

July 10, 2020

I’ve seen that experts recommend stopping wearing contacts during the pandemic. But I have to wear them. What precautions can I take?

You should always wash and dry your hands before using contacts. Hydrogen peroxide-based systems for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses should be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. For other disinfection methods, such as multipurpose solution and ultrasonic cleaners, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to determine efficacy against the virus. Always use a solution to disinfect your contact lenses and case to kill germs that may be present. Handle your lenses over a surface that has been cleaned and disinfected.

[Cases in Texas on the downturn?]Edit Info

What can a person diagnosed with COVID-19 expect to happen during contact tracing?

Here is what the CDC says about contact tracing: If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, a case investigator from the health department may call you to check-in on your health, discuss who you’ve been in contact with, and ask where you spent time while you may have been infectious and able to spread COVID-19 to others. You will also be asked to stay at home and self-isolate if you are not doing so already.

  • Your name will not be revealed to those you may have exposed, even if they ask.
  • Self-isolation means staying at home in a specific room away from other people and pets, and using a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Self-isolation helps slow the spread of COVID-19 and can help keep your family, friends, neighbors, and others you may come in contact with healthy.
  • If you need support or assistance while self-isolating, your health department or community organizations may be able to provide assistance.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, the new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If your symptoms worsen or become severe, you should seek medical care. Severe symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.

How can it be safe to visit the dentist during the pandemic?

Dentists can’t eliminate all risks, but they are taking steps to minimize the chances of spreading the coronavirus. You’ll likely notice changes as soon as you enter the office. Many dentists have removed magazines from waiting rooms, for example, as well as some chairs to encourage social distancing. They also are spacing out appointments to avoid crowding their offices. You may be asked to arrive for your appointment with a facial covering and to wait in your car until the equipment is cleaned and the dentist is ready. Before receiving care, you can also expect staff to take your temperature and ask about COVID-19 symptoms. Procedures are changing too - here is more information on how.

July 8, 2020

I had COVID-19 and I want to help others by donating plasma. How do I do this?

If you have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and are now fully recovered, with no symptoms for at least 28 days or recovered with no symptoms for 14 days and a second test with negative results, YOU can help others in their recovery. You can contact the hospital or Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. They will have to do tests to make sure you have antibodies before you can donate.

I am a severely claustrophobic person with health issues. I have not been able to see a doctor to get a note that I don’t have to wear a mask. What are my rights?

You do not need a doctor’s note to prove you cannot wear a mask. The current mask order states that anyone with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask does not have to wear one. There are 10+ exemptions for the mask order, read more here.

What kind of face shield is best?

There are a lot of options for face shields in a variety of styles but they are not all the same at protecting you. The key is to look for a face shield with maximum coverage. This means the shield should go to the back of your ear and down past your chin and well above your eyes. A smaller face shield is going to be less protective against droplets. You also need to be careful about cleaning the face shield. Our expert explains the best way to clean it and what to use.

July 6, 2020

How do I begin the process of getting tested for COVID-19 in Houston? Do I just show up at one of the testing sites?

The process of getting a COVID test can be overwhelming. Each week there are new sites that open up and there are sites that close down. If you are in Harris County, go to readyharris.org and use the test finder to look for a location near you. There will be options for free testing and also options where you can pay to have a test done. Some of these sites are rapid tests, others are the ones where it could take days or more than a week to get results. As more people are getting tested, the labs are getting busier and test results are taking longer. You should get a call with your results, but do not miss the call because they won’t leave a message and it could be a few days before you get a callback.

How do I know if I need to quarantine if I was around someone with COVID? What counts as close contact?

You should stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. Even if you test negative or feel healthy, you should stay home since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

The CDC says close contact means:

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (touched, hugged, or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you

[Find Coronavirus Hot Spots]Edit Info

My husband is in isolation and he’s lonely. Is it OK if the family cat hangs out with him?

There is not a lot of information about pets and COVID, but we do know in some scenarios, pets can get COVID. It’s also not known if the virus can get on the pet’s fur and then get passed on to another person. The CDC says it would be very rare, but they are not 100% sure it couldn’t happen. For that reason, the sick person really should avoid people and pets. Being lonely in isolation is hard, but do little things to make the person feel better including writing cards, doing facetime calls and doing little things to help them feel better.

July 3, 2020

Are there any at-home COVID tests available?

You really need to be careful about at-home tests, after warnings from the FDA. You may have seen that Kroger was approved to sell at-home COVID tests this week. But, you can’t get it in Texas just yet. The Kroger Health COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit will initially be available in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. Kroger noted that additional states will be added in the coming weeks. A few other companies sell at-home kits including Pixel by LabCorp. The CDC has more information on what to look for when investigating at-home tests.

I have a 39-year-old autistic son he will not wear a mask. Will I get a ticket for him? Do you have to wear a mask in your own car?

You will not get a ticket for your special needs son not wearing a mask. There are certain exemptions for the mask order and this is one of them. And you don’t have to wear a mask while driving your car, but our expert suggested removing the mask when you get home to prevent cross-contamination. Also, you might see someone driving with a mask if they have COVID and don’t want to spread it to someone else in the vehicle.

I have breathing problems. How do I get exempt from the mask order?

Contrary to what you may see on social media, you do not need to show proof that you have medical issues that prevent you from wearing the mask. (There is a post going around saying the ADA is issuing cards - this is not accurate.) The governor says we are going on the honesty method here and anyone with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask does not have to wear one.

July 1, 2020

I need cataract surgery so I can see. Is it considered elective surgery?

Cataract surgery is considered elective surgery in most instances. While there is an order for hospitals to stop doing elective procedures in many counties, some are still doing it.

The order was intended to help free up space in hospitals where ICU beds are needed as coronavirus cases rise. We found out some hospitals, who say they have plenty of capacity, have chosen to continue with elective procedures because they say they’re NOT taking away from COVID resources. So, your best bet is to check with your doctor to ask these questions. You may be able to get your cataract surgery right now.

Does the updated mask order for Harris County apply to gyms? Do people have to wear masks while working out?

Harris County Commissioners voted to extend the county’s disaster declaration till August 26 and this includes the mask order. The rules are the same as before for the gym. You need to wear a mask in common areas and while leaving or entering the gym establishment. You can remove the mask if you are on a machine but then you should put it back on when you are moving around in the gym area. Here are some other tips for keeping safe while at the gym.

[Are you more likely to get COVID?]Edit Info

After a person tests positive for COVID-19 do they go to the hospital or quarantine at home?

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are told to quarantine in their home and treat any symptoms they might be having. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider.

Here’s what the CDC says about when to seek emergency medical attention:

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

June 29, 2020

I got tested over a week ago. I never got a call with results but found them online. What does abnormal mean?

An abnormal test result means the test could not determine if you had COVID-19. There is a chance the test was performed too early in the course of COVID to get a good result. You should repeat the test just in case, especially if you have since developed symptoms. There are more testing sites open this week. Check here for information on where you can go to get tested.

[Data and charts for COVID in Houston]Edit Info

Face masks are too hot to wear what can I do about this?

We understand wearing a mask in the heat can get uncomfortable. Just like if you wear light-colored clothing you will stay cooler, you can do the same for masks. Dark-colored masks will get hotter than lighter ones. Also, you can take measures to make sure the mask is comfortable on your skin. Experts recommend applying lotion on your face before putting on the mask.

With the Sahara dust in our area, how do I know if I’m suffering from COVID symptoms or it is just the dust?

If you have allergies, they are probably acting up and those symptoms may be misinterpreted as a coronavirus infection since symptoms are similar. Ashley Wenaas, MD, from Texas ENT Specialists, said both can cause shortness of breath, nasal congestion, nasal drainage and cough.

The main difference, according to Wenaas, is allergies caused by the dust storm should not cause a fever, muscle or body aches, loss of smell or digestive problems. Those are all symptoms linked to COVID-19. Sneezing is also a major sign of allergies and not COVID.

June 26, 2020

Will Fort Bend County stop elective surgery? I’m having a total ankle replacement on July 7th.

Your surgery will most likely be postponed. The executive order from the Governor called for all elective and non-emergency surgeries to be put on hold. There is no end date for the order, so we can’t tell you when you might be able to schedule it. Your doctor’s office should call you soon to let you know about the change. But, right now the order is for Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties. So, for someone living in Montgomery county, for example, might still be able to have surgery.

Please address the apparent contradiction about not enough hospital beds and then plenty of hospital beds. Why did this change in two days?

The Texas Medical Center (TMC) dashboard where you can track cases, beds, ventilators, etc does show they are at 100% capacity on the ICU beds. While this sounds alarming, hospital leaders yesterday said they have a plan to convert other areas into ICU rooms. So, while the current ICU beds are full, TMC as a whole says they have plenty of space right now for ICU patients.

All four CEOs agreed they are concerned about the increasing number of coronavirus cases and asked Houstonians to do everything they can to help flatten the current curve. However, the hospitals in the Texas Medical Center are equipped to deal with a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

[Symptoms from Saharan dust or coronavirus?]Edit Info

If someone tests positive for the virus, then they wait 2 weeks and get retested does that count as 2 positives or only one?

If someone tests positive for COVID twice, it will still be counted as one. Harris County Health Department contact tracers tell us they are recording results by the person.

June 24, 2020

Are private doctors/labs required to report COVID cases to the city/county health departments? I’m concerned the case numbers only reflect government-run testing sites.

Here’s what the Houston Health Department told us about this: COVID-19 is reportable by law so yes, medical providers and labs are required to report cases to the jurisdiction where the person lives. Case totals reflect both private providers and government sites; for example, the large testing sites (Butler and Delmar stadiums) use LabCorp and Quest and they report to the state health department, which then sends the information to the local health departments.

What about gyms? How can someone wear a mask while exercising at the gym?

The mask rules do apply for entering a gym and walking around the gym, but you don’t have to wear the mask when you are actively working out. So, for example, if you are on the treadmill you can remove your mask. If you walk over to the weights station you should have your mask on. Really, as long as you have on the mask when you are in the dressing rooms and leaving/entering the gyms you should be just fine.

[Diffusing arguments about masks]Edit Info

Have you or your station investigated the oxygen deprivation risk when wearing these masks?

We do keep seeing the claims on social media that masks deprive you of oxygen. Our local infectious disease experts have said it’s not true. Dr. Hasbun at UT Health told us masks are not recommended for people with special needs, COPD, emphysema and other lung diseases. However, he said normal healthy people will not lose oxygen or increase CO2, it’s been shown in studies with healthcare workers who wear masks for 10-12 hour shifts.

RELATED: Trust Index: Can masks increase CO2 levels?

June 22, 2020

Are the coronavirus numbers just higher because testing expanded?

More people are for sure getting COVID-19. One way to judge what is going on is by looking at the positivity rate. How many people took a test and out of those, how many were positive?

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, there have been more than 1.5 million viral tests performed in the state. More than 111,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state. That works out to a positivity rate of about 6.8%.

[New look at the Coronavirus cases curve]Edit Info

Is it OK to have playdates with other families now?

We are still being asked to social distance. So, technically - you shouldn’t be mixing with other families right now.

Here’s what the CDC says about this: The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household.

What are the newest treatments for COVID-19?

The hope of a vaccine is still many months away. For now, you’ve probably heard a lot about antibody treatments when we talk about convalescent plasma. Some of our local hospitals are using blood plasma from survivors to help sick patients make a recovery. This is also a common way to treat cancer.

Now, some companies have learned to recreate those antibodies for COVID-19 and are hoping it will give some people a boost of immunity (at least short-term) before vaccines are available. Regeneron and Eli Lilly are among American favorites to develop antibody treatments. They could potentially give a dose of immunity to the virus, although, it’s unknown how long the immunity would last.

June 19, 2020

Does wearing a mask increase Co2 levels?

No. Wearing a regular cloth or surgical mask will not increase CO2 levels. Infectious Disease Specialist with UT Health, Rodrigo Hasbun, MD told us there’s no real evidence that it can increase CO2 levels in healthy subjects. Surgical masks or cloth masks are definitely preferred because they’re more comfortable and you can have some air coming in and out instead of the N95 that’s really tighter and can give you more sensation that you’re being asphyxiated by the mask but in reality, studies in healthy healthcare workers show that there are no increased levels of CO2. (The average person shouldn’t be wearing an N95 mask anyway.)

[Are public pools safe? ]Edit Info

Wearing my mask in the heat is causing a rash on my neck. What is the best mask to avoid this?

Actually, you might be able to use lotion to help avoid a rash. Our expert gave some tips on wearing your mask on hot days. You can apply lotion to your skin before putting on your mask to protect the skin. Otherwise, you could try switching to a bandana tied around your nose and mouth, that will leave the bottom area of your face without something resting on it.

If you test negative for COVID should you take an antibody test?

If you test negative for COVID that just means you did not have COVID when you took the test. If you like, you can take the antibody test to see if you might have had COVID before. Just this week the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center announced all donations made after June 15 will automatically be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

June 17, 2020

I work in a store where employees were masks but few customers do. At the end of the night, after the customers are gone, some employees will take their masks off. How long would any germs left by unmasked customers linger in the store?

That’s actually such a good question! There are differing opinions on this. The evidence is pretty clear, the virus can linger in the air for hours but the question remains, is it at high enough levels to make someone sick? Some experts think it’s not really enough to make you sick. Of course, if you’re touching things other people have touched, it’s best practice to wash your hands. Think, “impeccable hand hygiene.” Has there been any discussion to make masks a requirement for customers or is there a fear that would hurt business?

Are there any places in Houston that offer rapid testing for persons who are not first responders, healthcare workers, elderly with health issues?

Yes. Readyharris.org is a great resource to find the best place to get tested near you. You can use the tool to help determine whether you need further assessment or need to be tested for COVID-19. Many of these places are free.

[Feeling stressed? Meditation can help]Edit Info

When will I be able to visit my grandmother in a nursing home?

Right now there are no plans to allow family members inside to see residents. The Texas reopening guidelines state that people are still asked to avoid nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities. As you probably know, nursing homes account for nearly half of all COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. The solution in Texas was shutting them down to non-emergency visitors.

June 15, 2020

I think I’m losing my sense of smell but I’m not sure. I know that’s a possible sign of coronavirus. Is there a way to test your sense of smell?

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery released information about how to test your sense of smell or taste. Here’s how: first, hold your nose. Then, find a particular food or treat like a mint, put it in your mouth, and chew it. While chewing release your nose. If you have a sense of smell you’ll suddenly get the odors and taste of what you are eating. Just keep in mind, not everyone who fails the smell test has coronavirus. This has just been one of the most common symptoms people are experiencing.

How are Covid-19 deaths in The Texas Medical Center recorded if the victim resides in a county or than Harris County?

COVID-19 deaths are recorded where the victim resides. So, if someone from Montgomery County died at the Texas Medical Center from COVID-19, it would say Montgomery County on the death record (even though they actually died at the TMC).

[Coronavirus Cases Trends]Edit Info

Will there really be a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year?

It’s hard to say. There are several COVID-19 vaccines in human clinical trials right now, and more than 100 worldwide in development. We are learning more about a new vaccine candidate from scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. The drug would be administered to patients on a small patch the size of a postage stamp.

The vaccine would work in the same way as some flu shots, building the body’s immunity by inserting lab-made pieces of the virus. It has been successfully tested in mice. The researchers have had discussions with the FDA regarding drug approval before they can begin human trials. They’ve called the vaccine “PITT-CO-VACC,” the Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.

June 12, 2020

Are schools going to reopen if the cases keep going up? And is that up to the state or each school district?

We’ve noticed school districts are starting to release details of what the school year might look like. Many districts have added extra breaks during the year. Others have said they are thinking about having students wear facial coverings while in the hallways, for example. It’s still a changing situation and the districts are adjusting as new information comes out from the CDC and also testing. For now, it would be up to individual districts. (In other words, it’s not like the Texas Governor has issued blanket recommendations on this topic.)Our database of more than 140 Houston area schools and districts is a helpful resource for this information.

[Keeping cool during the summer heat while wearing a mask ]Edit Info

Are daycares required to shut down if the teacher is positive? This is happening but the place won’t shut down.

There are certain guidelines for daycares and summer camps to follow regarding a positive test. The CDC recommends the establishment closing for two days and doing a deep, professional clean. But we’ve seen daycares close for longer periods just in case.

Are N95 masks a good option for everyday use?

You don’t necessarily need an N95 mask for everyday use. A cloth covering or cloth mask is all that the CDC is recommending. Just a reminder, the CDC shifted its guidelines to recommend that we should wear “cloth coverings” in public places where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

The updated guidance was in light of new evidence of the high percentage of people spreading the virus asymptomatically. This means the virus can easily spread between people interacting in close proximity by coughing, sneezing or even talking -- even if those people aren’t exhibiting symptoms.

June 10, 2020

I keep hearing different opinions on the asymptomatic spread. Who do we believe?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, says the World Health Organization had to backtrack on its statement about the asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus being rare because that simply “was not correct.”

WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic has tried to clear up “misunderstandings” about comments she made that were widely understood to suggest that people without COVID-19 symptoms rarely transmit the virus. Fauci said the range of ways symptoms manifest is “extraordinary” in that some infected people have no or barely noticeable symptoms while others have more severe symptoms that require them to be hospitalized in intensive care.

I’m still having a hard time finding hand sanitizer. Some of the hand sanitizer I see seems to have lower amounts of alcohol.

Experts agree handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

[Diffusing arguments about wearing masks]Edit Info

Is a face shield as good as a face mask?

There have been more people wearing face shields. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, face shields should not be used alone but with a face mask, because they lack the sealing that a mask offers. Face shields do offer eye protection that face masks do not and are easier to disinfect. People find them easier to breathe in, which may make a shield an option for some who are unable to wear a mask.

June 9, 2020

What are the capacities for restaurants/bars and stores like Ulta? I’m confused.

The regulations are changing so it is understandable that you might be confused! Just last week Governor Abbott expanded store capacity allowances. Restaurants were already permitted to be open at 50% capacity. Abbott is allowing them to immediately increase their table size from six people to 10, and on June 12, they can ramp up their capacities to 75%. Stores fall in the same category.

Do we have to self-quarantine for 14 days for travelers from California to Texas?

Some state and local governments may require people who have recently traveled to stay home for 14 days. You can check the latest CDC guidelines and the breakdown of individual states here. For Texas, you are not required to self-quarantine after returning from California.

[Do you need a pulse oximeter?]Edit Info

Have we heard yet if the marches and protests have caused an increase in COVID-19 cases?

It might be too soon to say if there was an impact in cases because of large groups of people gathering. Here is a look at the number of cases based on the tests being performed. Just yesterday Governor Abbott said Texas will be poised to react to any surge in cases that may come from exposure in large public demonstrations. Remember, symptoms of COVID-19 can show up 2-14 days after exposure so it could be too soon to tell.

June 5, 2020

What are experts saying about the spread of coronavirus because of the protests and rallies?

It’s true, there are thousands of people gathering together without practicing proper social distancing guidelines. Medical experts are warning about a resurgence in cases following the gatherings in Houston and around the country. While many people are wearing masks at these demonstrations, others are taking off their masks to yell.

[Coronavirus Cases vs Tests]Edit Info

Does my child need to wear a mask while at summer camp?

Face coverings should be worn by staff and campers (particularly older campers) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. For example, when moving in the hallways or changing rooms. The CDC recommends that cloth face coverings should not be placed on any children younger than two years old. Face coverings may be challenging for campers (especially younger campers) to wear in all-day settings such as camp.

Do I have to have a doctor’s note to get a coronavirus test?

No, you do not need to have a doctor’s note to get a test for COVID-19. There are drive-thru tests and testing available at places like Walgreens. Harris County leaders have put together a tool where you can see if you need to get tested.

June 3, 2020

Should I try not to stop at rest stops on my way to a vacation spot?

While you may be traveling this summer, there is a list of guidelines to follow to protect yourself from the coronavirus. In any situation, you should always try to follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask. For example, if you take a taxi or rideshare you can ask the driver to open the window for better ventilation. Also, if you are traveling, don’t forget to frequently disinfect your vehicle, especially if you are making various stops along your route.

What about splash pads? Is it safe to go to one of those right now?

As we enter the summertime in Houston, we’ve had a lot of questions about pool and water safety with coronavirus. The CDC just released guidelines about this.

In part, here is what they say: There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus. You are encouraged to wear masks when you are outside of the pool and avoid touching common areas like handrails.

[Will summer heat kill coronavirus? ]Edit Info

I am seeing fewer people wearing masks. Is this safe?

There is no doubt that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of coronavirus and now we are seeing proof. We are getting a first look at a study that shows mask-wearing and social distancing works when it comes to stopping the spread of coronavirus. Researchers concluded single-layer cloth masks are less effective than surgical masks, while tight-fitting N95 masks provide the best protection. A distance of 1 meter (more than 3 feet) between people lowers the danger of catching the virus, while 2 meters (about 6 1/2 feet) is even better.

Eye protection such as eyeglasses or goggles can help too. It’s important to note, one of the strategies work perfectly and more rigorous studies are needed.

June 1, 2020

We get questions daily about hospitals changing visitor policies. Several have made changes as of June 1st.

St. Luke’s statement: We continue to have a strict no visitor policy, but our latest visitor policy does allow one visitor per COVID patient. However, as you stated, we do make further exceptions (more than one visitor) in extraordinary end-of-life situations. If you send me the patient’s name, or at least the family member’s name and contact information, we will contact the family immediately to work out an arrangement.

Memorial Hermann statement: All visitors will be required to clear a health screening and will be provided a mask to wear upon entry and throughout their entire visit. Additional details of the updated visitor policy include: One visitor (over the age of 18) will be allowed per patient per day. Age restrictions do not apply to visitors 18 and under who present in the Emergency Center with a patient. Minors who accompany Emergency Center patients may remain with the patient. No overnight visitors are allowed. No visitors will be allowed for any patient in isolation. Visitors may utilize hospital cafeterias and cafés.

Very limited compassionate exceptions to the modified visitor policy will be made for areas including Palliative Care, Supportive Care, Hospice, NICU, Pediatrics and Labor & Delivery, and will be managed by each facility.

Houston Methodist statement: We are currently allowing one designated visitor per patient. Visitors must 18 and older. Patients who have tested positive or are under evaluation for COVID-19 will not be permitted to have visitors. The designated visitor is not allowed to change during the patient’s stay, as we need to limit the number of visitors in our hospitals. Compassionate exceptions will be made as appropriate. Thank you for adhering to these restrictions as we try to protect everyone in our facilities from the spread of COVID-19.

The Texas Children’s Hospital statement is here.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center statement is here.

I can’t seem to find the latest coronavirus numbers anymore. Are you still reporting them?

Yes, we report the daily totals and recoveries each day. You can always find the information on our main KPRC page. Here is the article where the latest numbers can be found. Here you can find the number of cases in Texas compared to tests being performed.

May 29, 2020

What are doctors in Houston doing to diagnose children with the multisystem inflammatory syndrome?

We want to start by stressing that this condition is very rare. Doctors are taking several steps to diagnose the children, including taking a close look at their symptoms. Multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) has similar characteristics of Kawasaki disease, including high fever, rash on the chest, back and abdomen, red eyes or conjunctivitis, swelling and inflammation of the mouth, lips and throat, enlarged lymph glands in the neck, and redness and swelling of the hands and feet.

The difference between MIS-C and classic Kawasaki disease are the fact that MIS-C does seem to affect older children, and abdominal pain appears to be common in those with MIS-C, according to the hospital. Doctors at Texas Children’s say in some cases the children never even had symptoms of COVID-19. If you have any questions about random symptoms

While school is out, can my child hang out with friends?

We get this question often. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just updated guidelines and they mentioned this. Here’s what they said:

The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household. To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.

If someone gets a positive antibody test could they then donate plasma?

A positive antibody test is one way to identify if someone can donate plasma. If they have the presence of antibodies, this could show they could donate plasma. There are several other factors that are involved in the screening process. Hospitals have issued an urgent call for plasma donors. For one plasma donation, three patients could be helped.

May 26, 2020

What are they advising seniors do about dental cleanings?

We have not seen any new warnings to cancel or reschedule dental appointments. The dentist’s appointment should be much different than in the past. They should be wearing PPE, they might ask you to wait in your car. Check with your dentist to see what the new protocol is and see if you feel comfortable with it. You can also expect to pay a little more at your visit. Dental offices got the OK to pass along expenses for PPE to the patient.

I’ve heard people say over and over again the flu kills and sickens as many people as does the coronavirus. I have seen very little flu vs virus comparisons and wanted to see if that is something you could discuss.

The number of flu deaths is from an entire year. The number of deaths from coronavirus has happened in a much shorter time period, really only a few months. Therefore, it’s not apples to apples to look at the number of deaths because the timespan does not match.

Experts are looking at the percentage of people who die from an infection. Every year the flu kills about 0.1% of people who get it, and it’s possible that number is even smaller since so many of the flu cases where people treat themselves at home might go unreported. Unfortunately, the percentage of people who die from coronavirus appears to be much larger. The numbers are still fluctuating, worldwide it might be about 3% of the people who get coronavirus die from complications but here in the United States it looks like that might be even higher.

The fear would be if no precautions were taken and coronavirus became as common as the flu, patients could weigh down the resources at hospitals and more people would die. That’s why you hear about the importance of “flattening the curve” which basically means keep the infections small enough that the hospitals can handle the load.

One more thing, infectious disease doctors have what’s called a “reproduction measurement” (R0) which is how they measure contagion. Coronavirus appears to have an R0 of more than 5, which means someone with coronavirus could infect 5 or more other people. The flu is considered less contagious and has an R0 of about 1 to 2, meaning someone with the flu can infect 1 to 2 other people.

I am 80 years old. Should I worry about other walkers, most without masks, not following social distance when I meet or pass them?

If they are staying six feet away from you, you should be safe. The president and CEO of Houston Methodist said coronavirus is mostly droplet transmitted (like from drops expelled by a cough or sneeze). What is airborne, he said, is more likely to be blown away in the wind if you’re outside. If you are worried, you can also wear a mask just to be safe.

May 22, 2020

What are the chances that I had coronavirus and didn’t know it?

There is new information out this week about this topic! It is possible that you had COVID-19 and did not know. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says about 35% of coronavirus patients don’t have symptoms. Sometimes people might have minor symptoms and don’t even realize it. This could make the case for the importance of wearing masks in public.

When is the City of Houston going to open the hospital and rehabilitation centers so that at least one visitor can come in?

It’s not up to the City of Houston to open medical facilities. Right now, each hospital and center has its own policies in place. As you mention, most are saying no visitors. Certain conditions allow visitors, such as women who are having a baby. This article has more details about what each hospital system in our area is doing in regards to visitor policies.

[Can masks increase Co2 levels?]Edit Info

What does an antibody test show exactly?

An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. The tests are different from the nasal swab tests that determine if you’re currently sick.

But studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last. For now, the tests are most helpful for researchers trying to track how the virus spreads in communities.

May 21, 2020

What is the CDC saying about schools in the fall?

Earlier this week The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted 60 pages of detailed guidelines on how to reopen the United States from coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders on the agency’s website. The document was very descriptive, providing a detailed road map for schools, restaurants, transit and child care facilities on the categories to consider before reopening.

For schools, guidelines included desks being six feet apart all facing the same direction, consider eating food in rooms, no changing out classes, no shared devices, and more about what to do if someone in the building got coronavirus. In all, there are 30+ recommendations for schools to follow.

My grandma can’t leave her home. What are her coronavirus testing options?

The Houston mayor has appointed two directors of the mayor’s office for People with Disabilities to tackle this issue, who are themselves disabled.

If people can’t leave their homes, testing can be arranged to come straight to them where a sample can be collected at home. Another option is that a vehicle can be scheduled to drive to the person’s home to pick them up and take them to the testing site.

There are also a few mobile testing sites up and running. Here’s another way to find a testing site near you.

[How to clean and store masks]Edit Info

Is there any new evidence coronavirus has been in our area for longer than we thought?

We’ve looked into this before and yes, there are many people who say they think they had COVID-19 earlier this year. The anti-body testing will help answer this. Just last night we heard from a Houston woman who was sick in early February and her anti-body test came back positive, meaning she did have COVID-19 at some point. She was very sick and describes having trouble breathing along with other common COVID-19 symptoms.

May 20, 2020

My employer is insisting I show a negative coronavirus test before I can return to work. I only went home sick for one day, then felt fine. Can they do this?

Yes, your employer can request that you show a negative coronavirus test before returning to work. They have the right to screen employees to keep everyone else at the company safe. There are more testing sites now open across the Houston area. Here’s a map of the locations so you can find one close to you.

Do you have any updates on the childhood condition related to COVID19?

Experts are learning more about the illness this week. It’s becoming clear that many of the children with the new syndrome have damage to their hearts and need immediate treatment, they said at the Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) briefing. And they believe it’s increasingly clear that Covid-19 is involved, even though many of the children test negative for the virus at first and never seemed to have had symptoms of infection.

The syndrome appears to develop two to six weeks after infection with Covid-19 and affects mostly children who were perfectly healthy beforehand. The CDC issued a health alert last week warning pediatricians to be on the lookout, and at least 20 states plus Washington, DC have reported they are investigating possible cases.

Can coronavirus spread through food?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety.

May 19, 2020

Can you find out how many coronavirus patients are actually hospitalized?

The state of Texas tracking website shows out of 19,065 active cases statewide, 1,732 are in the hospital. We also have a breakdown of the coronavirus cases by county.

Does Corona survive the hot temps? Or does it die from heat?

There is no clear answer about coronavirus surviving the hot temps. In theory yes, the virus may die in heat, but there’s no proof of that yet. Dry air tends to support viruses floating around while humid air, with more water droplets, has those airborne viruses falling to the ground. Thus, humid air may help slow infection rates. Fewer virus molecules in the air the better.

[Child camps opening up, parents return to work ]Edit Info

I’m having surgery in a few weeks. Can my daughter and closest friend be in the waiting room?

Most hospitals still do not allow visitors. If you are going under anesthesia, you’ll need to ask your hospital if someone can come with you. The hospital will have rules for who can pick you up and whether they can come inside. Each hospital is different. This article includes visitor policies for hospitals in Houston.

May 18, 2020

How do you calm elderly parents during this time?

We addressed this question today in our Facebook Live on mental health with Houston Methodist Psychologist, Dr. William Orme.

Here’s what he had to say about talking with elderly family members during this time: The vulnerable community is one that is especially worried right now. It’s important to give them a sense that you understand where they are coming from. There’s an impulse for us to want to rush in and fix the problem. It’s hard for us to see the ones we love in distress. Turns out, a lot of times what someone is needed is not direct and quick advice. They need someone to listen to them and give them a sense that they understood. Be willing to listen to them and not rush in for advice. The person may just want to express what they are feeling, share their fears, etc. Of course, if they ask for advice, you can help them get the answer. The sense of connection is so important.

I am worried about returning to work. At my office, no one seems to care. What do I do?

This is another question addressed by Dr. Orme today during our Facebook live today.

Here’s what he had to say: The increase of stress and anxiety when you see people not observing the guidelines is normal. We can’t control other people’s behavior. But seeing what other people are doing, we have to ask ourselves, how can we change our behavior to make ourselves feel safe. That may mean having more distance while still engaging or it may mean you set aside more time to sanitize, wash hands, etc. If you see people doing things you really disagree with, you could say something. But keep in mind, people are approaching this in different ways and trying to do the best they can with what they have. So, be mindful of how you have the conversation. Raise your concern with caution.

[Important Areas to clean in your car]Edit Info

Why don’t we see public service messages on proper handwashing? Seems there is more on reporting the numbers.

Good point! We did cover proper handwashing techniques when all of this started, but it’s a great idea to revisit it. Especially since things are starting to open back up.

The timing, friction, and use of freshwater are very important. The recommended method from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  • Turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Then, rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

If you think you’re doing it right, try singing happy birthday twice to feel how long experts say you should be scrubbing. Obviously, do this every time you’re in a bathroom, but also:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before eating food.
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.child..
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After feeding pets or handling pet waste.
  • After touching garbage.

Doctors prefer good handwashing over hand sanitizer unless you’re away from a sink and the sanitizer is your only option.

May 15, 2020

With the Abbott ID NOW test missing 15-48% of people that have the virus, how do you tell which testing sites are using a more accurate test? If we tested negative with the ID NOW test and have symptoms, should we be retested?

As you mention, a new study released yesterday suggests the COVID-19 test Abbott ID NOW frequently missed cases of the virus. If you had this test and got a negative result, you could get another test.

See if your doctor can provide you a referral or a test. If it can be any comfort, the percentage of the false negatives are of the negative samples taken by NYU, which was a small study, not the overall number of tests. This means it’s a smaller number than it seems, but they are not accurate all the time.

[Find a testing site near you]Edit Info

I’m so excited for gyms to open but still a little worried. How do I stay safe?

Almost all gyms said they’ll have equipment spaced out or every other machine powered off so they cannot be used in close distance to other members. Other safety tips include: Clean everything you touch, wash your hands, wear a mask and wear workout gloves. And consider where your workout towel has been. If you’re using it on seats or the gym floor, don’t put it on your face.

Is it true that UltraViolet light can be used to kill the Covid-19 virus?

Ultra-violet (UV) lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of your skin. The World Health Organization warns that UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes. Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing your hands with soap and water are the most effective ways to remove the virus.

May 14, 2020

Can coronavirus infection show up in routine blood work? For example, you are asymptomatic but have routine blood work done with your physician as part of your well-check, is it possible for COVID 19 to show up in your blood work?

It will not show up in routine blood work because they’re not looking for COVID during a routine check.

Routine bloodwork normally looks for your A1C, kidney function, etc., they would need to specifically have the lab look for COVID (if the lab had the ability to test for it because not all of them do).

I see some people wearing gloves around town. Is this really necessary?

The CDC says gloves are mainly needed when caring for someone who is sick with coronavirus or if you are in a hospital setting. Wearing gloves when using a shopping cart or using an ATM will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs.

The best way to protect yourself from germs when running errands and after going out is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Do you have any new information about coronavirus and kids?

The multisystem inflammatory syndrome is now being investigated in more states. (This is very rare.) At least 150 kids have shown symptoms of the syndrome.

Symptoms include persistent fever, inflammation, and poor function in organs such as the kidneys or heart. New today: we are learning children may also show evidence of blood vessel inflammation, such as red eyes, a bright red tongue, and cracked lips.

This information is from Dr. Moshe Arditi, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. So far, no cases have been reported in the Houston area.

May 13, 2020

Are there any cases in Houston of the syndrome related to COVID-19 in children?

So far, hospitals in Houston have not reported any cases of Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome.

Most cases are out of New York but other states have reported cases. Nearly 100 children in the US are getting sick from a mysterious illness believed to be related to COVID-19 and officials want parents around the country to be aware.

We want to stress - this is very rare. The symptoms are mirroring more commonly-known inflammatory illnesses like Kawasaki Disease and toxic shock syndrome. The newly identified syndrome appears to be the result of a child’s immune system going into overdrive after a COVID-19 infection.

How many ventilators are being used in our area right now?

Remember, the main reason we are trying to “flatten the curve” is that we don’t want to overwhelm the hospital systems with sick patients. So far our area has not been overwhelmed with cases. It’s hard to say how many ventilators are in the entire area. The Texas Medical Center gives us a good look at how they are handling this. On April 28th, they say there are 6% total ventilators were being used. They haven’t updated that information since then.

[Common coronavirus question answered]Edit Info

Can you get the virus and never feel sick?

It would be rare to never feel anything. There is a chance someone has mild symptoms and didn’t know they had it. Remember, some people think earlier this year they may have had coronavirus and didn’t know it. Now experts are saying any kind of symptom (even mild) is something you should stay home for, just to be safe. Especially since many coronavirus patients are experiencing unusual and odd symptoms.

May 12, 2020

I had a dentist appointment today and after I paid the bill I noticed on my receipt that they charged me an extra $8 fee for PPE. What is that?

Dental offices are open for non-emergency patients again but don’t expect the appointment or prices to be the same. Many offices have added extra safety measures to the office in addition to having extra PPE for staff and patients if needed. According to the American Dental Association, it’s unfair for the cost to fall on dentists and therefore that fee can be passed on to patients. There is no standard amount to get reimbursed for the protective equipment necessary to maintain a dental business. Therefore, dentists could charge what they want.

[Dental Hygienists Concerned ]Edit Info

Should dogs social distance?

We actually get quite a few questions about pets and coronavirus. The CDC says at this time there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. Just to be on the safe side, you could wipe your dog down if they have been with other dogs. But, it still appears that dogs don’t play a role in the virus spread.

I saw your story on the childhood illness linked to coronavirus. Do certain kids have a bigger risk of getting this?

So far, doctors say there is no way to know which kids are at risk. (For example, it’s not like only kids with preexisting conditions are getting this illness.) While Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome is rare, doctors and researchers are on an urgent search for answers. The newly identified syndrome appears to be the result of a child’s immune system going into overdrive after a COVID-19 infection. Experts know this can develop up to six weeks after the coronavirus infection even if children who did not know they had COVID-19.

May 11, 2020

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.

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.

[Texas Coroanvirus cases on the downturn]Edit Info

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!!

May 8, 2020

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.

[Are pools safe?]Edit Info

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.

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.

May 7, 2020

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. (Haley’s story for Thursday afternoon will go more into this.) Other than that, since this virus is so new, researchers are studying the lasting impact of the virus in patients.

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.

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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.

May 6, 2020

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.

[Who is getting tested for coronavirus in Houston?]Edit Info

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.

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.

May 5, 2020

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.

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 bc 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.

Where can you get a coronavirus test?

This is one of the most common questions we get, so it’s worth revisiting. More testing sites are opening up in the Houston area. There are options like drive-thru and even mobile testing for those who can’t get out of the house. Check Txcovidtest.org for a complete list. For most testing sites, you need to reserve your spot ahead of time and be pre-screened. If you or ever family member ever get sick you can put your zip code and schedule a test near you.

[Drive-thru Testing Sites]Edit Info

Is tightness in the chest a symptom of coronavirus?

Yes, chest discomfort could be a sign of coronavirus. At the point where you feel tightness and you are short of breathing, for sure go see a doctor. Do not ignore these symptoms. In fact, we did a story in April about how doctors are seeing fewer heart attack and stroke patients during this time and they are concerned about the lasting impact this may have. People should never ignore the signs of a heart attack or stroke.

May 4, 2020

Is it OK to spray washable face masks with Lysol rather than washing them after every wearing?

It is recommended that you wash your cloth face mask with hot water and put it in the dryer each time you use it. Spraying it with Lysol might not kill all of the bacteria. Experts also recommend waiting until you get inside your home before taking off your mask, so you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate the mask (so that’s why you might see people wearing masks in their cars).

What exactly is contact tracing? Who is doing it and when does it start?

Contact tracing is basically tracking the virus person by person to help stop the spread. We did a story last week showing how it works. If you test positive in Harris County for Coronavirus the Harris County Public Health Department will touch base with you asap. You will be asked to tell them the people you have been around, places you have visited, and to log your symptoms as you fight the virus.

[Harris County to hire contact tracers]Edit Info

I need hospital care but am afraid to be left alone for a medical diagnosis not COVID-19 related. Can I have someone with me?

Most hospitals in the Houston area are still not allowing people to have visitors (or bring anyone with them for appointments). However, there are some cases where visitors are allowed including for maternity patients, disabled patients, critical patients, and discharge patients. Contact your doctor ahead of time and share your concern. Depending on what you are dealing with, you might be allowed to bring someone with you.

May 1, 2020

How do I know what antibody testing places are approved?

As of this week, there are 150 antibody tests on the market without having faced Government review. The FDA has only approved a handful of companies to do antibody testing. Most of the testing you see in Houston that are run through diagnostic testing centers are approved.

Does a business that has been closed for weeks and now reopening need to be cleaned?

Here’s what the CDC says about this: If your workplace, school, or business has been unoccupied for 7 days or more, it will only need your normal routine cleaning to reopen the area. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.

What are the health guidelines for restaurants now that some of them are open?

In part, the guidelines include: Maintain at least 6 feet of separation from other people who are not in your party. If social distancing is not possible, you should try other measures like wearing a face covering while not seated at the table, maintain hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation.

[Restaurant Guidelines]Edit Info

Where can I find a COVID-19 testing site?

This week more options for coronavirus testing opened up all across the Houston area. From mobile testing to stop and go testing, there are new options for testing. Check here for the latest testing locations.

April 30, 2020

Is it true if your COVID-19 antibody test comes back positive, you would be immune to the illness?

Experts don’t know for sure. It could mean you are safer. In one study 1 in 4 New Yorkers had antibodies. They do know some do come back positive with antibodies, but they are not sure whether or not that means they are for sure safe forever?

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How long after COVID-19 infection can antibodies show up in the blood?

Likely they will develop in days. Some of the antibody tests require you to be symptom-free for 10 days before you can get the test.

What are the cons of antibody tests?

They do get false positives. This means you get results back that says you had Coronavirus but you never did. This could give people false confidence that you have immunity and you don’t. 10-15% of these tests are showing false positives. For reference, scientists aim to have 2-4% false positives on other medical tests. Another con - there could be a lot of fake tests out there. The FDA has only approved less than 10 tests so far but there are more than 150 on the market.

I’m hearing a lot about Remdisivir again but I thought studies showed it failed?

The reason Remdisivir is getting so much attention right now is that the company who makes it - Gilead - released results of their study and it looks good. It basically showed that patients who take the drug recover faster than those who don’t. (31% faster.) The nation’s top Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci says the FDA is planning to issue an emergency use authorization for the drug. The company says they have 1.5 million doses of the IV medication to go. That would be enough to treat 140,000 patients.

April 29, 2020

What is the difference between being indoors vs outdoors when it comes to the virus spreading?

Being outdoors is helpful because the air and breeze help stir around any possible germs and virus in the air. The World Health Organization says: the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors or surfaces.

When walking or riding bikes do you have to wear a mask?

This has been addressed on KPRC before, but we continue to get these questions daily and in different forms, so it’s worth repeating. If you are exercising by yourself, you do not need to wear a mask. The CEO of Houston Methodist says the chances of the virus spreading outdoors is less than spreading indoors when close to people. It’s up to you if you want to wear a mask outside when exercising.

My daughter had the virus but is well now, I’ve have never felt ill or showed any symptoms, how to do I get tested? I am 66 years old.

If you are not showing any symptoms, you don’t need to get a test. However, if you want to get one, you can. Harris County and the city of Houston are using COVID-19 testing kits that allow individuals to administer the test themselves. An on-site medical professional will oversee the self-administered test. You need to pre-register.

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How long does it take after exposure to COVID-19 to develop symptoms?

The time between exposure to COVID-19 and the moment when symptoms start is commonly around five to six days but can range from 1 – 14 days.

April 28, 2020

Now, that the “stay-at-home” order has been lifted, is social distancing still in effect? Is there a limit to the number of people at a social gathering?

Yes, social distancing is still included in the Phase 1 plan to reopen Texas. 6 feet from all people other than your family members at restaurants, malls, movies, museums, and churches. As for the number of people, it’s supposed to be 6 people or less.

How often do you need to clean masks?

If you have one of those homemade masks, you can put them in hot water to wash them or use a bleach solution to use them. The easiest thing to do with cloth masks is to throw them in the washing machine. The heat in the dryer is good to kill germs too. This is information from the CDC. Masks can be used over and over again. However, surgical masks cannot be cleaned. The CDC says you can reuse them more than once and replace them frequently.

[Are you wearing your mask the right way? ]Edit Info

Just to clarify, H-E-B requires shoppers to wear a mask, and Kroger is just encouraging it?

Most grocery stores we talked to are recommending masks.

Has Houston reached its peak?

Information about the peak changes often. First, we were told April 19th, it’s changed. We think this is information they won’t really have until after because we will look back and see the information after. Some experts say we still haven’t hit the peak. We are bound to be close because we do know the social distancing has helped the numbers. However, there also hasn’t been testing available from the beginning, so determining if we have hit the peak can be debated.

April 27, 2020

Need info on requirements for the adult disabled to wear masks in public. I have a 21 year old autistic son who does not want to keep the mask on.

Your son does not have to wear the mask. Judge Hidalgo specifically mentioned any adults with special needs who cannot wear a mask, do not need to do so. If wearing the mask would cause them undue stress. She did mention if this was the case, to limit exposure to public areas. But, even then, if you must go out it is OK.

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.

I am not showing signs of COVID-19, but I am curious about my status. What are my testing options?

There are many options for testing right now. Mayor Turner announced a new Houston COVID-19 testing site Monday that he said will be close to neighborhoods with vulnerable populations considered at high risk for severe illness from the virus.

The United Memorial Medical Center testing site will be located at Barnett Sports Complex, which is at 6800 Fairway. Mayor Turner said the testing site is for people with and without symptoms. Officials are also looking to get mobile units in order to go into communities and test more people.

April 24, 2020

What are experts seeing as the underlying causes of coronavirus or the top 5 or 10?

This is what we continue to report from the CDC as the people most at risk:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

What are the PPE (personal protective equipment) needs in our community? Is there enough?

Yes, luckily there is enough PPE. The biggest challenge for the local hospitals is that they are used to working with at least a month supply stored away to prepare for a surge in patients at any moment, most tell me they’re working with just a few days supply at a time. They’ve been coming up with ways to keep their staff protected through donations, sterilizing what’s in stock or UT Health is using 3D printers to make their own. Here’s one example.

What is the ventilator count in Harris County now and compared to last year?

The Houston area does not have a shortage of ventilators. The Texas Medical Center ventilator updates are current and updated every week. It does not compare year to year. We first introduced viewers to ventilator updates last month.

[Rice Develops Low Cost Ventilators ]Edit Info

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.

April 23, 2020

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.

[How to sanitize your deliveries ]Edit Info

Can you tell me how a face mask is not able to stop you from obtaining the COVID 19 virus, but at the same time prevents you from spreading?

Wearing a mask will protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. It does also help protect you but may not keep all germs out because of cross-contamination with your hands or maybe touching your eyes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains how this may prevent you from getting sick.

Is there a way to know the number of people that have unfortunately died from Covid19, whether they had gotten the regular flu vaccine by the end of December 2019?

We have gotten a lot of questions about the flu vaccine and if this has helped people regarding the Coronavirus. The bottom line right now - we just don’t know how the flu vaccine may have impacted this pandemic. Harvard Health explained it this way: getting a flu shot can help protect you against the seasonal flu. Staying healthy keeps your immune system up and able to fight other virus infections. We are keeping tabs on any news related to the flu vaccine and coronavirus and will update you as soon as we get any new information.

April 22, 2020

Why do I see people wearing masks while they are driving alone in their cars?

Experts actually recommend to put your mask on inside your home and keep it on until you get back home. This is so you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate the mask (and yourself). You should also try not to touch the face part of the mask and remove it by the handles/strings each time. For cloth masks, experts recommend washing your mask each time you wear it.

Those folks who are tested “positive” is anything being given to lessen the impact? Or do you just sweat it out and isolate?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. Doctors are treating patients depending on their condition. We interviewed a woman in Liberty County who was given high doses of Vitamin C, cough medicine and Tylenol for headache and pain. Experts have asked that you self quarantine at home unless your symptoms become severe like you have problems breathing.

Now that elective procedures are allowed, how long should I expect to wait to get in to see a doctor?

Beginning April 22nd, restrictions on elective procedures and surgeries are lifted. But that doesn’t mean you will get in to see a doctor quickly. We reached out to all of the major hospital systems in the Houston area to see when they’ll be starting elective procedures. Each has a different plan, prioritizing patients based on several factors. Mostly outpatient surgeries and procedures like mammograms or CT scans will start first.

[See what area hospitals are doing to prepare for elective procedures]Edit Info

April 21, 2020

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.

Could you please show daily totals with like a 3 or 5-day trend?

Good point! Creating graphs for every scenario isn’t always possible but we’ve put a lot of the information on our website. There is a complete list of KPRC articles where you can find details for other numbers you’re interested in tracking by area, zip code, and daily cases.

Let’s say I just touched the virus somewhere and I am contaminated. How much time do I have to go to wash my hands?

You should wash your hands immediately if you know you touched something that might have the virus on it. Most important - don’t touch your face before. Or, if you are wearing a mask, don’t touch the mask portion. You’ll want to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

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.

April 20, 2020

My husband and I have been at home with no outside contact in our home and we have not been out except in our yard. We have no symptoms except coughing at times. We are age 85 and 78. We are afraid if we go for testing more risk for us outside of the home.

While it’s probably best to ask your doctor, I assume they will tell you there’s no reason to test if you aren’t showing symptoms. Plus it sounds like you’re taking all the right precautions to protect yourselves. More testing sites keep opening up in our area, but you are right to ask about trying to get tested if you might not need it.

How do I know if my elective procedure will be allowed later this week?

Beginning Wednesday, 22 restrictions on elective medical procedures will be loosened. Gov Abbott cited a diagnostic test for suspected cancer as an example. Each hospital system is handling the elective procedures in a different way. If you have an elective procedure you are wondering about, it’s best to contact your doctor. Most hospital systems are reviewing guidelines and taking appropriate steps to reintroduce patients.

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.

April 17, 2020

I’m a medical esthetician and am really nervous about everything reopening. With my line of work, there’s no way to socially distance myself. My question is, will my employer need to provide me with PPE and what recourse do I have if she doesn’t?

Good question! And you’re not alone. We have gotten similar questions and I see a new poll shows 66% of America is worried about reopening businesses too soon. The short answer is, no, I do not think they’ll be required to provide you with any PPE but consumer reporter Amy Davis did this really good Q&A that sort of touches on what you’re asking.

Remember, they’re still rolling out the guidelines on how businesses should reopen and we don’t have a date yet on when that will happen so this information could change A LOT before then.

If a person tests positive for Covid-19, they self-isolate for 14 days, then test negative 2X, can they confidently go out without risk to themselves or others, i.e., are the “Recovered” free to move about?

You should check with your doctor just to be safe, but you should be recovered and free to move about after two negative tests and self-isolation. They’ll probably tell you to continue taking precautions like wearing a mask and frequently washing hands. There’s no evidence yet on whether someone can get the virus again after the first infection.

Where can I find a cloth mask?

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a high demand for respiratory masks and shields, companies that typically make vastly different products are dropping everything and switching to one common cause. Here’s a good list of companies that are now producing masks or shields to help fight the pandemic as possible.

[Make sure you are wearing your mask the right way ]Edit Info

Is high blood pressure considered a “high risk” category?

Yes, it seems so. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the globe, people with high blood pressure are among those who are at heightened risk for more severe complications should they contract Covid-19. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from February 12 to March 28 showed that 9% of Covid-19 patients in the United States also self-reported a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.

April 16, 2020

I have developed a case of hives on one upper leg. I have never had hives before. Is it a coincidence that I have hives at this time of COVID-19 crisis?

We have not heard of hives as being a symptom but we have heard of very weird symptoms that aren’t common: pink eye, loss of smell. You should check with your doctor if you think you may have Coronavirus. Remember they’ll ask you about other common symptoms too: cough, fever, shortness of breath.

[READ: Odd Symptoms of Coroanvirus ]Edit Info

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.

You mentioned the name of a testing facility here that could send personnel over to our homes if we are immunocompromised like diabetes. What is the company’s name?

United Memorial is offering free mobile coronavirus testing in the Houston area. Mayor Turner also announced a city partnership with Russell Westbrook Why Not Foundation to help provide free testing. Anyone with a disability who cannot access a testing site due to their disability should contact MOPD at 832-394-0814 or email them at mopdmail@houstontx.gov.

April 15, 2020

Where can people go to get tested if they’ve been exposed to the virus but don’t have symptoms?

This week is the first-week people without symptoms are able to be tested for the coronavirus in our area. If you want to be tested, there are four locations where you can go. You’ll have to pre-register by phone or online. Two are in Houston, at Butler Stadium and Delmar Stadium. Galveston County has one already in Texas City. They are opening one Thursday at Fire Station number 5 in Galveston.

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.

[Tips for using disinfectant wipes]Edit Info

Is it OK to reuse masks?

That depends on the kind you’re using. When sanitizing your cloth on homemade masks, it is easy since you can put them in hot water, wash them with a bleach solution, or even easier, throw them in the washing machine. After a spin in the hot dryer, masks are ready for the next use and can be used over and over. If you’re using a surgical mask, (the kind that are just a bit stronger than a paper towel) the harsh cleaning agents can damage them and make them less effective.

You can reuse them more than once but should replace them frequently, using your best judgment on when to do so.

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.

April 14, 2020

Is there any data that shows that if you had the pneumonia vaccine, it will offer protection from getting a more serious case of the coronavirus if you happen to get the virus?

The answer is no, the pneumonia shot won’t help according to the World Health Organization. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and the World Health Organization is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Why would I need to wear a mask if I am walking alone and not near people?

Droplets from a cough can spread pretty far and stick around for a few minutes. In fact, Finnish researchers just released an eye-opening simulation that shows the spread of cough droplets in a grocery store environment. Check it out here. The research found that people even a dry cough (like you might have with coronavirus) spread droplets way down the grocery store aisle and sometimes over to the aisle next to you.

[MORE FROM HALEY: Are you making these common mask mistakes? ]Edit Info

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.

April 13, 2020

How long is the incubation period for Coronavirus?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These are just estimates. Researchers are looking into current cases and will update this information once they learn more by studying what is happening.

Now I’m hearing more about other coronaviruses. Is there more than one coronavirus?

Yes, there are many different kinds of coronavirus. Some have been circulating among human beings for years, causing mild colds. Others have caused small, severe human disease outbreaks in the past, such as the coronaviruses that caused SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012. The new coronavirus is different from these and was only identified in December 2019.

Where can I go for drive-thru coronavirus testing?

A new drive-thru testing site opened up today in southeast Houston. The site at Cullen Middle School at 6900 Scott Street is the fourth of the sites that has been opened by University Memorial Medical Center with help from U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Houston). There are now 10+ sites like this open in the Houston area.

Can you please advise me of any restrictions for driving between Houston and Dallas at this time? I have stayed home for 5-6 weeks now, with no symptoms of the COVID 19.

There are no laws to keep families apart so you have to use your best judgement on this. The only real travel restrictions are by air and only by car if coming from Louisiana. The stay home order encourages people to stay away from each other to limit and reduce infection rates and discourages any travel outside of your home that isn’t essential (grocery shopping, medical needs, caregiving for adults or children) but how you choose to interpret that is kind of up to you.

April 10, 2020

Is there any info on whether people who have had current flu vaccines and pneumonia shots fair better during this pandemic?

We have heard this commented on before by the White House advisory board. The answer is -- the flu shot won’t protect you from the coronavirus.

However, the symptoms between the two viruses are similar so getting the flu shot to reduce your risk of sickness (and anything getting confused with Coronavirus) can help. This will also be greatly appreciated by hospitals who do not want to get overwhelmed with patients right now.

The same goes for the pneumonia vaccine, according to WHO.

Can you please help me understand why some people are given the nasal cavity and other oral procedures?

We don’t know why some people are given one and others are given another. However, I can tell you those tests are not perfect. In fact, you could argue the tests are pretty bad at confirming cases. Yet, they’re all we’ve got right now.

The National Academy of Sciences sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday, explaining that the Coronavirus test sometimes misses positive cases. One study missed 16 cases out of 51. But who’s to blame? This virus is so new, most of the experts in this field are just doing what they can to serve the community as fast as possible and it’s not perfect yet. There is also uncertainty about whether people develop immunity after recovering from the Coronavirus.

Are you aware of any estimates for the number of coronavirus cases at Houston’s peak?

For Houston in particular, no, we haven’t seen that data but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there. I do have some information for the peak in Texas and unfortunately, it changes literally every single day.

Earlier this week, KPRC’s Joel Eisenbaum did this easy-to-digest report on the peak in Texas. The good news from that report is the predicted number of deaths at the peak is down to 2,000 (if that can be considered good news?). The bad news is, just yesterday the officials who are making predictions about this peak once again moved the expected date from April 19th to April 22nd. Meaning, we still have three more weeks before we get there.

April 9, 2020

What is convalescent plasma? How could it help people with COVID-19?

When people recover from COVID-19, their blood contains antibodies that their bodies produced to fight the coronavirus and help them get well. Antibodies are found in plasma, a component of blood.

Convalescent plasma is literally plasma from recovered patients. This has been used for more than 100 years to treat a variety of illnesses from measles to polio, chickenpox, and SARS. Antibody-containing plasma from a recovered patient is given by transfusion to a patient who is suffering from COVID-19. The donor antibodies help the patient fight the illness, possibly shortening the length or reducing the severity of the disease.

[READ: Answering your coronavirus questions: Why is it still hard to find toilet paper?]Edit Info

Who can donate plasma for COVID-19?

In order to donate plasma, a person must meet several criteria. They have to have tested positive for COVID-19, recovered, have no symptoms for 14 days, currently test negative for COVID-19, and have high enough antibody levels in their plasma. A donor and patient must also have compatible blood types. Once plasma is donated, it is screened for other infectious diseases, such as HIV.

Each donor produces enough plasma to treat one to three patients. Donating plasma should not weaken the donor’s immune system nor make the donor more susceptible to getting reinfected with the virus.

If donors qualify, they can call 713-791-6373 Mon.-Fri. from 8am to 4pm to get on the waitlist.

[Houston, Harris County parks, trails closed for Easter weekend]Edit Info

How can people with disabilities get tested for coronavirus if they can’t drive to a testing site?

Good news! There is a new mobile testing site that will come to you. United Memorial Medical Center has rolled out a new tool in the fight against coronavirus. This mobile testing unit is the first of its kind in the Houston area.

Does heating things or freezing them get rid of COVID-19 bacteria?

From food you get delivered to food you get at the grocery store, food does not transmit the coronavirus. Heating or freezing your food won’t get rid of any virus that might be on the food. We’ve talked about disposing of to-go containers and sanitizing other packages that may come into your home. Your best bet is to get in the habit of washing your hands often, including before and after preparing meals, eating meals and after you come home if you have gone out.

April 8, 2020

My husband was told on Friday afternoon that one of his coworker’s wife tested positive for the virus. The coworker is negative. If my husband is not showing symptoms should he quarantine to be on the safe side?

I would recommend talking to your doctor if you’re concerned but I imagine they’ll tell him there’s nothing he can do unless he shows symptoms. It’s true, you can have the virus without feeling bad and test negative if you test too early but that’s really why leaders are stressing social distancing. I understand how important it is to keep going to work right now, so most of our leaders and doctors are saying to just take all the necessary precautions at work (handwashing, social distancing 6 feet away and covering coughs) and you should be OK.

[NEWSLETTER: Get the Healthy In Box delivered as a newsletter to you every day.]Edit Info

What is the role of Respiratory Therapist in first-line treatment of COVID? Are only doctors and nurses the first-line health care workers?

No, it’s not just doctors and nurses on the front lines. Hospital staff includes specialists, surgeons, technicians, nurse practitioners, etc. The role of a respiratory therapist will be particularly important during this pandemic because they are responsible for managing oxygen and they operate the ventilators. All you’ve heard about the high demand for ventilators right now means the respiratory therapists are going to be critical to all the patients who need them. Therefore, they’re crucial in the fight against COVID-19.

Should my kids wear masks?

We asked Dr. Stan Spinner, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care about this one. Here is what he said:

The CDC now has guidelines stating that cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years of age. These recommendations do not pertain to surgical or procedural masks, as they are acceptable for children younger than 2 years of age. Children older than 2, should be advised to wear masks to help reduce the spread of the virus.

I saw the new expected peak date for COVID-19 in our area is now April 19. Do you think that means we can stop social distancing as much?

Good question. These new projections take into account that people will continue social distancing through April as planned. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, is looking at the numbers and advising the city on stay-at-home policies. For now, Hotez does not recommend a change in the stay-home policy for Harris County.

April 7, 2020

Does Microban disinfectant work as advertised for 24 hours compared to Lysol?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that for “disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.” There is a list of approved disinfectants and how you can easily see if what you have will work.

I see various companies making hand sanitizer, but I thought you said homemade hand sanitizer wasn’t a good idea.

CDC does not encourage the production and use of homemade hand sanitizer products because of concerns over the correct use of the ingredients and the need to work under sterile conditions to make the product. However, you may see local industries working to make homemade hand sanitizer. Most likely they are using the World Health Organization guidance.

The CDC says: Do not rely on “Do It Yourself” or “DIY” recipes based solely on essential oils or formulated without correct compounding practices. To be effective against killing some types of germs, hand sanitizers need to have a strength of at least 60% alcohol and be used when hands are not visibly dirty or greasy.

Is the COVID19 Pandemic overblown? Can someone explain why we are taking such extreme measures over the COVID19 virus?

We get a variation of this question almost daily. Let’s compare COVID19 to the flu virus. Basically, the flu has been around a lot longer so the death count is higher but the percentage of people killed by Coronavirus is higher than the percentage of fatalities from the flu, therefore, our leaders want to stop the spread before Coronavirus becomes as common as the flu (and could kill more people and certainly strain our hospital system).

The new coronavirus appears to be more contagious with a higher fatality rate than the seasonal flu. Globally, about 3.4% of COVID-19 cases have died. So, while the numbers of flu cases are higher, the percentage of people that COVID-19 kills is greater. Dr. Marc Boom, the president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said the fatality rate for COVID-19 gets higher, the older you are. We are also seeing people with coronavirus with random symptoms.

April 6, 2020

Could I have had COVID-19 in early February?

Actually, some doctors think yes. One UT infectious disease doctor thinks there was community spread of the illness before we ever realized it. The good news for you is that the majority of people recover without complications and some people don’t get sick at all. So, you can contact your primary care doctor but I assume they’ll tell you you’re OK and it’s passed. There’s no good test right now to determine if you ever had it.

“I was extremely sick 5 weeks ago. I had a dry cough, headaches, pain in my chest, fever and night sweats. The meds he gave me was a Zpac and Azythromicine. This finally killed the fever after three days. I still have some sharp pain in my chest. Since I was never tested for coronavirus, I only have the suspicion that I had it. Has anyone ever shared how long their side effects are lasting? Also, I understand the FDA approved a test for antibodies... who would I call to get that info? If I had it and recovered, I would love to be able to help in some way.”

This is a good question and one I’ve actually gotten a lot. Some doctors think the virus was going around before we had confirmation of community spread. Therefore, according to them, you might have had it. There have not been any studies to show the symptoms last longer than 14 days, but this is still considered a new virus so that information may change. There are blood tests in existence to evaluate if you’ve ever had a certain type of virus before (its called a serology test) but they don’t have one readily available yet for Coronavirus. The good news is, one is on the horizon.

Does the Coronavirus affect those with Fibromyalgia differently?

Just last week the CDC released information on underlying conditions and Coronavirus. Fibromyalgia was included in neuro conditions and only 7% of hospitalizations were patients with these kinds of conditions. Here’s the info: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6913e2.htm Also, here’s a helpful article from NFA on reducing flare-ups right now.

Is a lost sense of smell a symptom of COVID-19? What should I do if this happens to me?

Just last week we detailed the strange symptoms some people with COVID-19 are experiencing. Loss of smell is one of them. Increasing evidence suggests that a lost sense of smell, known medically as anosmia, may be a symptom of COVID-19. This is not surprising, because viral infections are a leading cause of loss of sense of smell, and COVID-19 is caused by a virus.

Still, loss of smell might help doctors identify people who do not have other symptoms, but who might be infected with the COVID-19 virus — and who might be unwittingly infecting others. But, this could also be a sign of allergies. Either way, you should tell your doctor right away if you find yourself newly unable to smell.

April 3, 2020

Last week had body aches and feeling feverish. Feeling a lot better now. The problem now I can’t go back to work. Can I get tested without a fever?

You probably wouldn’t be approved for testing since you don’t have a fever. Doctors are screening patients before they are allowing tests. You could call your doctor and get work clearance that way? Another option is that you could buy your own at-home testing kit, but that may take longer to get results.

I had a negative COVID-19 Test. Is there a chance I took the test too early and it just didn’t give the right results?

If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later.

Should you have separate clothes and shoes to wear in public?

If you’re in healthcare or working closely with the public, it’s advised that you have clothes and shoes you wear at work and don’t bring them into your house. It’s not a guarantee this will make you sick, it’s just being extremely cautious during these uncertain times.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed coronavirus can live on cardboard for 24 hours and on stainless steel and plastic for up to three days. It can live on soft surfaces for even longer. It’s possible the virus can survive on synthetic materials for as long as five days.

Are people with disabilities considered “higher risk” for getting Coronavirus?

The CDC says most people with disabilities are not inherently at higher risk of becoming infected with or having severe illness from COVID-19. Some people with physical limitations or other disabilities might be at a higher risk of infection because of their underlying medical condition. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health or how your health condition is being managed.

April 2, 2020

I heard there were new guidelines for who is considered recovered from the coronavirus?

Yes, on April 1, the CDC changed the guidelines for who is considered “recovered” from COVID-19. The CDC used to say a person who had or thought they had coronavirus was considered recovered only after symptoms disappeared after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Now the CDC says those who have or may have coronavirus may also be considered recovered if they are fever-free for three days without the help of fever-reducing medication and if it has been at least 7 days since symptoms first appeared.

The CDC warns some patients may be contagious for longer than others. The test-based strategy is preferred for patients who are hospitalized or severely immunocompromised or being transferred to long-term care or assisted living facility.

What is a good hand cream to put on your hands to prevent redness itchy skin from washing your hands numerous times daily?

Handwashing strips natural oils so your hands may be super dry. Consider using hand creams to help relieve dry skin (instead of lotions). For sensitive hands, opt for fragrance-free products that may have dimethicone, polyuronic acid or shea butter. Hand cream suggestions include Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula Hand Cream or just good ole Vaseline.

Another note: Choose a tube over a tub. Dipping your fingers into a tub of lotion may just spread germs.

Can I get coronavirus from food?

You might be worried about produce or other items that someone else could have touched before it got to you. The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization say that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus. The information available from outbreaks of SARS and MERS, caused by coronaviruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19, is reassuring. The evidence showed that those illnesses were not transmitted by food.

It’s still a good idea to practice good food safety habits including washing your hands, wash fruits and vegetables and don’t eat raw dough or batter.

April 1, 2020

How many tests does someone need to be deemed virus-free?

We asked Harris County Public Health when a patient is deemed fully recovered. There are several steps for that criteria. First, the patient has to be free and clear of any symptoms. Then, the patient has to have a negative result for the virus and then be tested again in 24 hours. After the patient tests negative both times, they are considered recovered. However, tests are not easy to come by at this time.

My son does not drive. What if he gets sick from the virus? How can he get a test?

Just last week an at-home test became available for people in our area. There’s lots of other “start-ups” across the country too but I think this one is already available. It’s expensive, $135, but it might be the best option if a loved one is unable to get to a testing site. If someone is very sick and needs immediate help, you should call 911.

We keep hearing about some people with “mild” cases. What symptoms are they having?

We are learning more about the virus as more cases of coronavirus show up in our area. So, it’s worth revisiting this. We are seeing about 80% of coronavirus cases are non-severe. These mild symptoms include sniffles, coughing, sore throat and a low-grade fever. Basically, a rough cold. Either way, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have questions. Telemedicine services are now provided with most heath insurance plans.

We have a vaccine schedule, should I try and take my kids in for their vaccines right now?

This may depend on many factors and you should call your doctor and ask what they think. Experts agree for children older than two years, waiting for scheduled vaccines is probably fine. (However for some children with special conditions you might not want to get behind on the schedule.) For babies and toddlers, consult your doctor. Also consider that a trip to the doctor may expose them to COVID-19 so there is that to think about too.

March 31, 2020

If my family or friend has quarantined for two weeks as I have can we then see each other in person?

It depends. Was the person sick? When a person with COVID-19 becomes sick they must quarantine. Then, they must wait until they go three days without any symptoms before then starting a 14-day quarantine. After that period of time, the person can be in contact with other people. The usual six feet social distancing rules still apply. Just yesterday we heard from a woman who is almost fully recovered from COVID-19. While she does feel better, she still has to wait for her symptoms to completely disappear before she can then start the 14-day quarantine.

How many total numbers of tests are done and how many came positive and how many come negative?

As of Monday, 35,880 tests have been conducted in Texas. Texas reported 325 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, bringing the total number of known cases to 2,877. Nearly half of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Seth Christensen, a spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said on March 26 the state received 15,000 test kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and another shipment of 15,000 test kits came in on March 28. Each kit can test one person.

What amount of time is expected when getting COVID results? My husband Is a first responder and I am 37 weeks pregnant with twins. It’s been 6 days.

Each individual testing center has different turn around times. The most accurate timetable would come from the testing center. But right now, we’re hearing the average is 4-7 days. Other centers are indicating 7-10 days. With the influx of testing, the tests only go to a few labs for results and these labs are backlogged.

March 30, 2020

How does COVID-19 compare to H1N1?

The number of flu deaths is higher because the flu is more common. However, the coronavirus kills a larger percentage of people infected, so the fear is if it becomes as common as the flu, it could kill a lot more people. It could certainly crowd our hospitals.

That’s why you see strict measures being taken to stop the spread.

One tip I keep seeing is to clean all “highly touched” surfaces. What are some examples of this?

It is recommended to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas. These areas include tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.

My family is staying home and being very careful. Still, I’m terrified one of us will get sick. Is there anything else I can do besides the obvious things to stay healthy?

We understand this is such an unknown time and there are so many questions. Part of feeling safe is knowing that you have a plan. It may sound simple, but have you come up with a family plan for just in case one of you gets sick? This will make you feel more in control of the situation because you know what you would do. Some of the family planning guidelines include creating a household checklist, preparing a quarantined area just in case and keeping in touch with neighbors.

March 27, 2020

If you get coronavirus once, can you get it again? Do you get any immunity from this virus that could keep you safe from getting another infection?

Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn explains when you get infected you developed antibodies. They take 3-6 weeks to be generated. As patients recover their antibodies generate a high level of immunity. This is the concept behind the use of convalescent plasma. What we don’t know is how long the immunity lasts. It might be like influenza which is during a short period of time. This is why a vaccine would help.

What do I do if someone in my house gets sick with coronavirus?

If someone in your home gets sick, there is a guideline for what you should be doing in your home. Part of the advice recommends having the person stay in one room away from people. If possible, have them use a separate bathroom. Avoid sharing household items and wear facemasks. You’ll want to clean all surfaces that are touched each day and use gloves while doing laundry. Follow the usual handwashing guidelines.

Are people with asthma more susceptible to getting the virus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with asthma may be at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. This is because COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). This can cause an asthma attack and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

March 26, 2020

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.

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.

March 25, 2020

I have masks I can donate, where do I take them?

People can go to www.texas.gov/covid19 to sell or donate PPE to the state’s effort.

What about our daily mail delivery? Even if the carrier is wearing gloves, can’t the mail be carrying the virus? How should we handle our mail delivery?

The chance of paper/cardboard carrying the virus is very low. Imagine all that has to happen for the virus to get on the exact mail you open and then make you sick. When I’ve asked doctors about it they address it like an extremely hypothetical situation.

If you want to take all the precautions that you can, take a look at this demo.

March 24, 2020

Why is coronavirus worse than the flu?

The number of flu deaths is higher because the flu is more common. Coronavirus kills a larger percentage of people infected, so the fear is if it becomes as common as the flu, it could kill a lot more people. It could certainly crowd our hospitals. That’s why you see strict measures being taken to stop the spread.

The measures being taken to stop the spread are a prevention to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed/ to keep healthcare workers safe from illness so they can save lives. We know it can happen and have seen it happen in China, Spain, Italy.

I know of a hospital that closed down. Why can’t we use the empty building for the coronavirus outbreak?

That might already be in the contingency plans for our leaders but they’re not at that point yet. Right now, they say, the number of Coronavirus patients is manageable in our hospitals or at home. Here are more details on the hospital’s current capacity: https://www.click2houston.com/health/2020/03/21/as-coronavirus-cases-in-the-houston-area-surge-will-the-healthcare-system-be-able-to-handle-it/

Do people need to change their home A/C filters more often with concerns about coronavirus?

There is no data on a/c filters and the coronavirus, according to Dr. Ronald Walters, President of Harris County Medical Society.

If someone is in isolation, can they spread illness throughout the house via air ducts?

The major ways the virus is transmitted is through touch and droplets, according to Dr. Ronald Walters, President of Harris County Medical Society.

March 23, 2020

How do people apply for government checks? Is there an online form?

You should not have to apply. They will use your tax return from 2018 to determine how much you will get, unless you already filed for 2019 and then they might use that tax return. Keep in mind, you could get taxed on this later: Read more.

I have a CPAP machine that funnels air to me during the night. In the absence of a ventilator would this help coronavirus patients at all?

From the American Academy of Sleep medicine, “It is unclear whether CPAP could make the Coronavirus worse. But using CPAP could increase the risk of spreading the virus to others around you. Talk to your medical provider about your treatment options for sleep apnea.”

Why can’t you tell me more about the patients? The public deserves to know.

I understand your frustration. Local leaders disagree about what is needed to know.

Coronavirus test results are reported to the city or county health department and then that information is made public. Those departments are not required to give us more information about the patients, they claim privacy laws as the reason why we can’t know more about them.

How does being tested help the person that is clearly sick?

Then you know for sure you have it. Then you take isolation VERY seriously and do not come in contact with anyone. Then you know if your symptoms worsen, go to a hospital.

There is no cure for a virus.

True but there are drugs being fast tracked to market and have been given to the sickest patients. Here’s more on that.

March 20, 2020

If someone recently had pneumonia are they more susceptible to COVID19?

Not exactly. The current data only shows people with an underlying reason they developed pneumonia such as immunodeficiency or a history of structural lung disease like COPD, could make someone more susceptible to COVID19 infection but not simply having previously had pneumonia, according to Dr. Jill Weatherhead from Baylor College of Medicine. Lung damage and COPD can put individuals at risk for all respiratory viruses.

Does your blood type make you more susceptible to COVID19?

If you’ve questioned the validity of this rumor, you were right to do so!

There is no recommended screening criteria based upon blood type, said the President of the Harris County Medical Society Dr. Ronald Walters.

All the advice about how to clean and what to clean but what about your cell phone?

Yes, 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.

Will COVID cases go down during summer like the flu does?

That’s a good point that I bring up here, which basically says there’s hope the heat will kill the virus (the virus is not very heat resistant) but there’s no confirmed data yet.

People are encouraging take-out food but what if the handler is sick? Isn’t that dangerous?

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 doorstep, you not taking it from their hand

-Take the container out of the bag

-Put the food on your plate

-Microwave food for 30 seconds would kill the virus

-Throw all packaging away


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

March 19, 2020

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.

Can we kill it by inhaling boiling water stream? 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?

Will ibuprofen worsen the virus?

There was a lot of concern after the French Minister of Health tweeted to avoid anti-inflammatory medications 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.

With all that is going on, I have not heard anything on 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.

How many people have been tested? Why don’t you say how many people test negative instead of just how many do have it?

By law, providers (hospitals, physicians, etc.) are only required to notify Public Health of POSITIVE results.

However, Montgomery County did let KPRC 2 know they’ve received 27 negative results, there are six positive cases and 102 pending tests. Not all of the counties provide this information.

March 18, 2020

Once you have coronavirus, will you have it forever?

The American College of Physicians found it takes 5-12 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

March 17, 2020

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 off of how other viruses in the Coronavirus family act. Examples of other Coronaviruses include SARS and MERS.

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.

What is happening to Meals on Wheels recipients?

Meals on Wheels is still working, according to their website.

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.

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 any more 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.