As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shut down daily life across the globe, thousands of our readers across the nation have asked us questions about COVID-19.
And we’re answering them.
But you’re curious and continue to ask important questions via our newsletter, Coronavirus Watch. (Not a newsletter subscriber? Sign up for it here!)
So below, you can find answers to questions such as: Is it OK to be outside? How old are people who are dying in the U.S.? Is it safe to get carry-out food?
If you don’t see an answer you’re looking for, check out our first batch of answers, addressing things like: Can testing show if someone has had coronavirus and then recovered? Can someone get the coronavirus more than once?
What else would you like to know? Ask us by filling out the form you can find here.
Is it advantageous for a younger healthy person to get the coronavirus to build immunity to it?
No, for several reasons, says Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
While a protective antibody is generated in those who are infected, scientists are not yet sure whether that immunity will last for a short period of time, for years or for life. Some say the possibility of reinfection is very likely.
Moreover, while initial reports out of China suggested that the virus posed low risk to younger people, reports out of Europe are causing “concern” among top U.S. health officials. “We have not seen any significant morality in the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of Italy and France,” Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday.
A recent study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children at all ages are susceptible to COVID-19 and that young children, particularly infants, are vulnerable to infection. Of more than 2,000 child patients in China, about 10% of infants less than 1 year old had severe and critical cases, followed by 7% among children 1-5, 4% among children 6-10, 4% among children 11-15 and and 3% for children older than 16 years. At least one 14-year-old boy has died in China.
Finally, it’s important to avoid getting and spreading the virus. While the young may not be the most at risk, they’re carrying the disease to those who are more vulnerable, such as older people and those with underlying conditions. Birx on Wednesday urged “the millennial generation” to take special precautions. “You have the potential to spread it,” she said.
Video: Top 3 coronavirus questions answered by an epidemiologistTop 3 coronavirus questions answered by an epidemiologist
Does getting pneumonia shots given to elderly people help if you get this virus?
– Linda from Hendersonville, Tennessee
Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. The vaccines simply guard against those specific bacterial infections.
The COVID-19 virus can in fact cause pneumonia, but the vaccines cannot prevent this pneumonia.
I see people in my neighborhood out running, riding bikes and walking their dogs. Is that OK?
– Patti from Carmel, Indiana
Yes, that’s OK! Just be sure to maintain distance from other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a distance of about 6 feet.
Even in some California counties where residents are being asked to stay home and “shelter in place,” it’s still fine to go for a run, hike or do other outdoor activities, as long as proper social distancing is observed, according to local health officials.
Just remember: The White House recommends that you should avoid social gatherings involving more than 10 people, as well as all nonessential travel, shopping trips and social visits.
Social distancing: Why it’s so important to stopping the spread of coronavirus
Are there any projections to estimate the spread of COVID-19 and a timeline of its passing?
– Dennis from Las Vegas
Yes, there are many projections, but scientists say they all hinge on how people behave. That’s why it’s essential to social distance and do what you can to prevent spread.
A conservative USA TODAY analysis based on data from the American Hospital Association, U.S. Census, CDC and WHO estimates that 23.8 million Americans could contract COVID-19, leaving almost six seriously ill patients for every existing hospital bed.
One researcher at the Global Center for Health Security estimated last month that as many as 96 million Americans could be infected. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security estimated that 38 million Americans will need medical care for COVID-19. The CDC’s prediction for a “worst case scenario,” revealed by The New York Times, estimated that anywhere between 160 million and 214 million people could be infected in the U.S., and anywhere from 200,000 to 1.7 million could die.
Outside the U.S., leaked British documents projected that a coronavirus outbreak could rage until spring 2021. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said 60%-70% of her country’s population could eventually become infected.
USA TODAY analysis: America’s coronavirus ‘curve’ may be at its most dangerous point
Is it safe to get carry-out food?
– Debby from Omena, Michigan
The CDC and WHO have not issued formal guidance on carry-out food.
While the CDC says that there is no evidence to support transmission associated with food, a person may get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own face. The virus can, for example, survive on cardboard up to 24 hours, according to a recent study.
The issue of carry-out food also raises concerns about the risk couriers are facing by interacting with various customers during their shifts. That’s why some companies are now offering “contactless” delivery options that help people maintain social distancing by allowing couriers to ring the doorbell and leave the package outside.
How soon after exposure can you test positive?
– Pam from Easton, Maryland
There’s no specific data on this question yet, according to Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.
However, we do know that someone infected with the virus may begin showing symptoms anywhere between one to 14 days after catching the virus, most commonly around five days, according to the WHO.
“The peak viral shedding occurs during the first five days after the onset of symptoms. My guess is that within a few days of being exposed, these patients are beginning to shed virus,” Poland said.
Do the symptoms for COVID-19 come together or can you have separate symptoms showing up at different times?
– Carlos from Los Angeles
The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough, according to the WHO. Shortness of breath is also among the most common symptoms, according to the CDC. In most cases where symptoms present, those symptoms come together, Hotez said.
“Usually it presents with fever and cough, or fever, cough, and shortness of breath,” he said. “It might present with one of those symptoms first, but then it rapidly progresses to the others.”
Some patients also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Some people do not have symptoms at all.
How do you actually die from the coronavirus? What happens?
– Catherine from Carson City, Nevada
In some cases, the virus ultimately damages tiny air sacs in the lungs, restricting oxygen to the bloodstream and depriving other major organs of oxygen, including the liver, kidney and brain.
In a small number of severe cases, that can develop into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which requires a patient be placed on a ventilator to supply oxygen. However, if too much of the lung is damaged and not enough oxygen is supplied to the rest of the body, respiratory failure could lead to organ failure and death.
What is the age range of US deaths from COVID-19?
– Becky from Bentonville, Arkansas
In the U.S., the ages range from people in their 50s to 90s, according to state and local health departments.
At least two people as young as 53 have died after contracting the virus. One was a person from Orleans Parish, Louisiana, who had underlying medical conditions, according to state health officials. Another patient was a 53-year-old woman in New York City who had diabetes and heart disease, the mayor said.
However, this range is not conclusive because health officials have not released the specific ages of several other patients, and new deaths are being reported each day.
If a person is sick with the coronavirus and gets tested for the flu, would the flu test be positive?
– Antonio from Patchogue, New York
No, the presence of the coronavirus would not turn a flu test positive. However, it’s possible to have both the coronavirus and the flu at the same time. In that case, the flu test would be positive.
The opposite is also true: Presence of the flu would not result in a positive coronavirus test. It’s important to note that, even if someone tests negative for the coronavirus, they still may be infected with the coronavirus.
I was told I should be tested if I could not easily inhale a large breath and hold it for at least 10 seconds. Is this good advice?
–Ted from Scottsdale, Arizona
No. While shortness of breath is among the most common symptoms of the virus, according to the CDC, that diagnosis does not necessarily involve holding a large breath for 10 seconds. Medically known as dyspnea, shortness of breath is often described as “an intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you think you may be sick, call your doctor and follow CDC guidance.
Can masks be reused by an infected person or used only once?
– Debra from Dayton, Ohio
The longer a mask is used and the more damp it becomes, the less effective it is, Poland said. “But it is definitely better than the alternative of no mask!” he added.