FAQ: Got Questions About Coronavirus? We’ve Got (Some) Answers

Updated: April 7, 2020 @ 2:23 p.m.

The FAQ is shutting down...

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches into April, Colorado Public Radio is constantly evaluating how we can best keep the state informed. To that end, the questions we can answer here and the number of people seeking those answers has fallen off. At the same time, readers have gravitated to our daily live blogs and social channels on Twitter and Facebook for answers. We'll continue to provide you with the latest coronavirus news there and thank you for your initial FAQ questions.

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Jump Ahead To Questions

COVID-19 101

Is there a food shortage? My grocery shelves looked empty

"What you're seeing is, customers are coming in and they're bulk-purchasing items," said Jessica Trowbridge with King Soopers and City Market. "They're collecting it off the shelf just as fast as we're putting it on the shelf. Our teams are working to get those shelves replenished as quickly as possible."

While there’s plenty of supply, what grocery stores are in need of is more employees to help with the workload. Trowbridge the demand they face is unprecedented. 

"With the increased customer traffic in our stores and the increased demand on product, we've had to really reevaluate the way that we do things so that we can still be efficient for our customers,” she said.

I have asthma. Am I at a greater risk of getting the disease? 

Since this is a new virus, people tend to have fewer antibodies to fight it off. That’s why health experts tend to agree people have about an equal risk of contracting COVID-19, whether they have asthma or other respiratory conditions.

But May Chu, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, said asthmatic people are at greater risk if they catch it.

“Once the asthmatic people get it, they’re more likely to get more serious symptoms than those who do not have asthma,” she said.

The World Health Organization agrees, but other research offers a more complicated picture. One study of 140 patients with the disease in China found none of them reported asthma or severe allergies.

Another study found other risk factors — such as age, sepsis and blood clotting issues — created the highest likelihood of death. While scientists are still sorting through these questions, everyone should follow public health recommendations like hand washing and social distancing.

What if I am pregnant? Is there any risk I spread the disease to my unborn baby?

Pregnant women have challenged immune symptoms and are generally at higher risk of contracting diseases, according to Dr. May Chu at the Colorado School of Public Health. That means they should be extra careful to avoid coming into contact with the novel coronavirus.

At the same time, early evidence has yet to suggest pregnant women are at any greater risk of catching the disease or developing severe symptoms. A WHO report cites an investigation of 147 pregnant women who appeared to have contracted the virus. Eight percent contracted the disease and 1 percent developed critical conditions. It’s a small sample size, but it’s actually a little better than statistics for the general population.

There’s little research about whether mothers can spread the disease to newborns, but the early results are promising. One study found three infants born to infected mothers showed no signs of the disease. That follows another study of nine pregnant women who tested positive and gave birth via cesarean. All of the infants proved healthy. Early reports suggest babies who do contract the disease experience more mild symptoms. 

“The take home is, of this very small number, infected mothers gave birth to healthy babies,” Chu said. “There is not enough data out there, but right now we haven’t seen anything alarming.”

The Basics

How do I protect myself?

Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces you touch a lot, cover your cough (with your elbow) and avoid touching your face. Because of the fragility of their outer membrane, coronaviruses are killed easily with disinfectants.

Follow proper social distancing and adhere to public health warnings and instructions about working from home or self-isolating when necessary.

How worried should I be?

The risk to any individual is unclear. Most people don't get severe symptoms, although even a "mild case" can be pretty unpleasant. But public health officials say this is a really critical time. If people take aggressive steps to prevent a widespread outbreak, then the chances that multiple vulnerable populations get hard hit goes down. If too many people get infected and require care, they'll overwhelm the emergency capacity of our hospitals. That means people in hospitals may not have staffing and resources to treat people with COVID-19 or experiencing other medical crises.

Will a mask protect me?

A mask is not the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus. But it could help limit the spread of illness from you to other people.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC said patients with COVID-19 report mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.