COVID-19 Facts and Resources

The Facts:

  • What is it? A new kind of virus, a novel coronavirus, was identified in China’s city of Wuhan in late 2019. The disease the virus causes is called COVID-19. It stands for COronaVIrus Disease 2019 (For the year it was discovered). Since the first case was reported, the virus has spread across all 50 U.S. states and the world, becoming a pandemic. Pandemic refers to how widespread a disease is, not how severe it is.

  • Who gets it? Most people who develop COVID-19 symptoms are adults. Children do not seem to get sick from the virus, but they may be able to spread it as they can test positive for the virus. Researchers are still trying to understand children’s role in spreading the virus. People with chronic health conditions, especially heart disease, or those over 60 seem to have greater risk for developing severe symptoms and a greater risk of death.

  • How does it spread? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Preliminary studies indicate COVID-19 can survive in the air for 3 hours, and up to 3 days on steel surfaces.

  • How common are severe symptoms? According to the World Health Organization, 80% of covid-19 cases are mild or asymptomatic. But in this context, a mild case can refer to mild pneumonia. Additionally, a new analysis (new as of 3/18) from the CDC found that 20% of those aged 20-44 with COVID-19 have been hospitalized

How serious is this?

  • Very. But it is not the end of the world, and there is no need to stock up on more than a few weeks worth of groceries. Scientists and doctors are developing vaccines and treatments as you read this, although it will likely be about a year or so until we see a vaccine for COVID-19. There are also ways we can slow the spread of this disease. If we do not slow the spread, the concern is that the virus will spread too fast for our hospitals and healthcare system to keep up and treat patients.

  • You may have heard the phrase “flatten the curve.” When people say “flatten the curve,” they mean we need to slow the spread of the disease so serious cases do not overwhelm our hospitals and exhaust our medical supplies. Importantly, we could run out of hospital beds and ventilators if the spread of disease does not slow. 

What’s social distancing? Do I need to do it? What about self-quarantine?

  • Social distancing means limiting your contact with other people to slow spread of the disease. When in public, individuals should be at least six feet apart. The CDC advises holding off on all social visits, and as of 3/20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned gatherings of any size in New York state.
  • Quarantine may sound sinister, but it just means isolating someone who may have been exposed to a disease-causing germ before they show symptoms. 
  • It is important that everyone who can stay home from work and limit their interactions with people do so. You may have the virus but display no symptoms, and which means you could unknowingly spread the virus to 2-3 more people. Then, those people can each spread the virus to 2-3 others, and so on. 

Ok, but does it really make a difference?

  • Yes! By practicing social distancing, you are saving lives. Take this diagram from the New York Times:

By social distancing and self quarantining, you are helping to seriously slow down this pandemic. Because of these efforts, fewer people will get the disease. This means both that less people will go to the hospital with COVID-19 complications and less people will die from the disease. Less people in the hospitals also means more medical supplies to go around.  

How is this different from the flu?

  • In many ways. Firstly, we know how to treat and prevent seasonal flu. We have vaccinations and medicines that work quite well in treating it. We also know a lot about the flu. It has been around for a while, and scientists have been studying it for decades. The coronavirus is a different type of virus and there’s still a lot scientists don’t know about it, including the best ways to manage treatment. COVID-19 also has different symptoms, is more deadly, and is more readily transmissible to others.

Symptoms

  • The major symptoms are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after exposure.  
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that if you have any of the following emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

I think I have COVID 19 symptoms. What should I do?

  • If you have symptoms, you should stay home and call your primary care physician. If you develop any of the emergency warning signs (difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face) seek medical attention right away.
  • While hospitals in the area are now halting community testing and saving their test kits for the sickest patients and employees, if a healthcare provider thinks testing is necessary, they can still send samples to state labs to be tested.

Resources: