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

Updated: April 2, 2020 @ 7:09 a.m.

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Colorado has 3,342 known positive cases of the novel coronavirus since the first ones were reported on March 5. Six-hundred-and-twenty Coloradans are hospitalized and there have been 80 reported deaths.

An important note about some of that data: The state acknowledges the positive test result data is old and incomplete, but it is all we have. Test results now require up to six days to process, then sorting and double-checking requires up to another two days, meaning the statewide total and county-level data could be more than a week old before it appears on the state site.

The number of known positives is likely to grow as the number of infected increases and as testing ramps up. Experts warn to focus on the trend, not the number, with the hope that, as time passes, the daily number will flatten, then fall.

We’re collecting and answering questions here and in our daily live blogs that follow the latest about coronavirus in Colorado.

Jump Ahead To Latest Questions

COVID-19 101

Are homemade face masks OK?

“I'm kind of just wondering if we made a bunch of masks, if we just like stood out in front of King Soopers and handed them out, I mean that's the way to go too, right?” asked Janine Meyers of Longmont, a semi-retired nurse who ran a seamstress business before her nursing job.

It’s not the way to go according to public health officials. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says handmade masks are not recommended unless it’s “a last resort.” And the agency says medical people using handmade masks should also use a plastic face shield. That shows you how much faith they have in the DIY masks. 

Colorado Department of Health and Environment guidelines stress that if you are not sick, there is no need to wear a mask. Sneeze or cough into your elbow, wash your hands thoroughly and clean surfaces regularly. If you are sick, yes, you should wear a mask, one that is medical grade, not handmade with fabric store materials.

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.

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