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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Coronavirus: What Your Fellow San Diegans Are Asking KPBS

Coronavirus: What Your Fellow San Diegans Are Asking KPBS

Credit: KPBS Staff

As information about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 changes daily, KPBS will keep you up-to-date with the latest information and answers to your questions.

But first, here are some quick facts about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by it.

Coronavirus: Quick facts

  • What is coronavirus?
    The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a virus that can infect animals and humans. It causes a range of respiratory illness, fever, cough and in more severe cases can cause pneumonia and even death.
  • What are the symptoms?
    The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • Get all coverage →

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Q: I have heard that one should not take Advil but to take only acetaminophen like Tylenol. Someone is circulating a message on Facebook that the overwhelming death rate in Italy was because so many people took Advil to relieve symptoms. – Donna Boyer, San Diego County

– 2:30 p.m., April 4, 2020

A: On Midday Dr. Francesca Torriani, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Clinical Epidemiology at UC San Diego Health, said: “So I think there is some suggestion that because of the type of anti-inflammatory that ibuprofen is and so the other same anti-inflammatories of that family may interfere in a bad way with this infection and therefore there is some hesitation to use Advil as an anti-inflammatory and clearly there is preference for acetaminophen. On the other hand, I would say that it is important to know that acetaminophen should only be taken at not above the dosage used and women and men are a little bit different so in general, we would recommend staying below the maximum dose because that going above could cause liver toxicity and acetaminophen is used primarily in the health care system is used as an antipyretic in this situation with ibuprofen really used much less.”

Currently, the WHO now does not recommend avoiding ibuprofen to treat COVID-19 symptoms and shared that updated information in a tweet on March 18. It added in a follow-up tweet, “WHO is aware of concerns on the use of #ibuprofen for the treatment of fever for people with #COVID19. We are consulting with physicians treating the patients & are not aware of reports of any negative effects, beyond the usual ones that limit its use in certain populations.”

BBC News posted this article on March 17 attempting to separate fact from fiction.

You can find more information about COVID-19 and ibuprofen on the following websites: Science Alert; WIRED; Politifact. — Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: Is the Cross Border Express still operating? My wife and I have tickets to Tepic for family business. — Charles Young

– 2:10 p.m., April 4, 2020

A: CBX is a lawful border crossing operated in accordance with federal policies and procedures of the United States and Mexico. In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across their borders, including CBX. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. At this time, there are no restrictions for passengers traveling to Mexico through CBX. However, all passengers traveling southbound through CBX will be required to complete a questionnaire prior to bridge access. Mexican health authorities will be reviewing the questionnaire for all passengers. — John Carroll, KPBS reporter

Q: We know that the virus originated in China, but how? There are stories about transmission from wild animals to humans. What do scientists, Chinese or otherwise, have learned about its origin? - Betsabe

– 1:55 p.m., April 4, 2020

A: The following answer comes from the Centers For Disease Control: The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as do some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn more about the spread of this newly emerged coronavirus. — John Carroll, KPBS reporter

Q: My HOA is trying to decide whether to close our community pool, which serves 721 homes. Our Board of Directors cannot agree. Some are saying that water and chlorine will kill the virus and the pool should stay open, leaving it up to users to make their own decisions. Others are saying that the risk of close contact between people calls for an abundance of caution and that it should be closed. — Muriel Vasconcellos.

– 5:30 p.m., April 2, 2020

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that pools and hot tubs are not a concern for spreading coronavirus as long as they are properly maintained and disinfected. The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health has guidance on this but also said that pool use should adhere to the public health officer’s order on gatherings and social distancing. Groups are limited to fewer than 10 people and individuals who are not part of the same family unit should stay at least six feet apart. — Tarryn Mento, KPBS health reporter

Q: While we are most interested in working & at home living in a cleansed virus-free environment. How long is the virus infectious on hard surfaces, and how long on soft surfaces? I’m an active Lysol wiper daily when I go to work, and washing my hands with soap & water regularly. — Les & Mari McDaniel

– 11:05 a.m., Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A: The National Institutes of Health looked into this earlier this month and found the virus can last on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic or stainless steel for around two to three days. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of cleaning products that can be used on surfaces against coronavirus, and Lysol is among them.

The NIH study also found that the virus could linger in the air in aerosols for up to three hours. However, this is primarily a concern in healthcare settings. During certain processes, such as intubation, the virus can become more of a fine mist that poses a greater risk. But in the community, the virus is usually spread from someone coughing or sneezing, which produces larger, heavier water droplets that can land on surfaces.

Further, the World Health Organization said on its website the findings on coronavirus in aerosol form should be reviewed with caution. The international body said the aerosol in the study was produced by a machine that “does not reflect normal human cough conditions” nor does it “reflect a clinical setting in which aerosol-generating procedures are performed.” – Tarryn Mento, KPBS health reporter

Q: Is pet grooming considered an essential service and can pet groomers stay open?

– 11:30 a.m., Friday, March 27, 2020

On the San Diego County website, there is a list of essential critical infrastructure workers that includes this listing as essential under other community-based government operations and essential functions: “Workers at animal care facilities that provide food, shelter, veterinary and/or routine care and other necessities of life for animals.” Dog grooming is not specifically included in that list.

PetSmart’s website states: “Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, all PetSmart Grooming salons are temporarily closed, and new group Pet Training classes have been suspended until May 4.”

As of March 19, PetCo’s national website posted about its grooming salons: “Reduced store hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The number of appointments has been reduced to allow our groomers to maintain a safe and healthy distance. Some salons have closed due to city mandates. Please contact your local store to confirm the status of your appointment.”

The official website of the Department of Homeland Security provides this information in deciding if your business or business activity is critical: “For businesses, the focus during this response is maintaining the businesses and services that enable continued economic and social vitality. It is not focused on maintaining business as usual nor is it trying to sustain the operating capacity of non-critical businesses and industries.”

You can call 211 for all non-emergency and non-medical inquiries about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have specific questions about the shelter-in-place Order issued on March 16, 2020.

The county of San Mateo offers an example that might be helpful to San Diegans when it posted an answer to this question about whether you can get your pet groomed during the stay-at-home mandate: “It is strongly discouraged, but would be allowed only if (1) the dog grooming services were provided as an auxiliary service by an essential business such as a pet food store, and (2) the sole purpose of the trip was not dog grooming. To be clear, dog grooming is not in itself an essential business. Under the County’s Order, essential businesses are not prohibited from selling non-essential items or providing non-essential services.* However, the Order does not allow people to leave their homes for the purpose of obtaining unnecessary goods and services. As an example, if you go to the grocery store to buy food and also end up purchasing books or clothing, that is permitted. However, you cannot travel to a grocery store for the sole purpose of purchasing non-essential goods or services. Individuals should also consider whether they should jeopardize the safety of themselves, their households or the community by engaging in activities that, while allowed, are unnecessary and may increase the likelihood of transmission.

A business that only tangentially offers products and/or services that support essential activities does not qualify as an Essential Business. Businesses should consider what their primary business is and whether it provides significant support to answer whether they should continue to operate.” — Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: Is it safe to travel in the U.S.? – Pam

– 2:40 p.m., March 26, 2020

A: The following constitutes general advice from the CDC on travel:

CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. However, cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been reported in many states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease.

Crowded travel settings, such as airports, may increase chances of getting COVID-19, if there are other travelers with coronavirus infection.

There are several things you should consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel. Please see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html for more detailed information on the question of travel. – John Carroll, KPBS News

Q: My HOA is split on whether to close our pool. Half of them say it should be closed. The other half say the chlorine in the pool kills coronavirus and so swimming is safe. Which is true? – Muriel

– 2:27 p.m., March 26, 2020

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

That being said, however, the city of San Diego closed all city pools days ago. The issue is people gathering together in one spot, not the safety of the pool itself. If there’s a chance anyone else would be around you, best to err on the side of caution and avoid using community pools for now. – John Carroll, KPBS News

Q: What can people do if they can't get through to the Employment Development Department? – M, Chula Vista

– 5:15 p.m., March 24, 2020

A: The Employment Development Department and its online benefit service, UI Online may be overwhelmed with claims and requests for information during the coronavirus pandemic. If you cannot get through to EDD, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which provides people with employment assistance and information on state benefits, has a Career Centers page to help you find centers near you that might be able to help or answer questions. – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: Are self-employed people eligible for unemployment? – Rachel, Carmel Valley

– 4:50 p.m., March 24, 2020

A: Those who have been laid off or had their hours reduced are eligible for unemployment and the waiting period to apply has been waived. Part-time workers and those who are self-employed may also be eligible. The Employment Development Department has online benefit services, such as UI Online, are accessed through Benefit Programs Online and you need to register for access. UI Online allows you to file or reopen a claim, certify for benefits, and get up-to-date claim and payment information

Due to current events, UI Online notes it is experiencing a large increase in claims filed and is extending staff resources to keep up with the demand. You can also contact the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which provides people with employment assistance and information on state benefits. – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: My child has recently been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder level two and was supposed to start in the stars program this Monday because of his behavior in school. He has a hard time with school work and we're given a packet that is supposed to be his homework for the time off, like he can concentrate long enough for this stuff. It takes a lot of effort to get him to do the work and he can't sit for long periods and needs help constantly, even though it's supposed to be familiar work. – Jay Dupuis

On KPBS Midday Edition, we asked our guest, SDSU special education professor Chris Brum if he had any advice for Jay? Here’s what he said:

– 4:01 p.m., March 24, 2020

A: Try to build that structure and routine at home. So have a designated space where you do your work and just be really clear about the expectations. For example, say ‘hey, we're going to sit down and we're going to work for 10 minutes.’ Outline the different tasks that you're going to do. Think of it like a story — we like when stories have a beginning, a middle and an end and we're very clear about those different segments. So say, you know ‘we're going to sit down and first we're going to look at this book and we're gonna talk about the characters and then read through it and we're gonna wrap up with some questions about what we read.’ Just try to be very clear with your child about what you expect them to do during that time. Don't be afraid to try things in small chunks with some breaks built in there, some opportunities for exercise or just to kind of give their brain a little break. – SDSU special education professor Chris Brum

Q: Theoretically if someone has already contracted and recovered from COVID-19, would their antibodies be helpful in the creation of a vaccine? – Kenny

– 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 19, 2020

A: Joel Wertheim, UCSD Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine, explained: “If somebody is recovered from COVID-19, we can actually use their antibodies to develop a convalescent serum, which can be used to treat people with the disease. We can use serum from people who've been infected with COVID-19, to develop convalescent serum, which unlike a vaccine, which is your own antibodies attacking the virus, this would use the antibodies from someone who recovered to attack your virus. We've used convalescent serum for other viral pathogens. It's very difficult to produce, but many of my medical colleagues are interested in obtaining some for use here in San Diego. We can use antibodies taken from people who've recovered to make convalescent serum but it's a very complex, laborious process and can't be used on a large scale. However, they could be used to treat particular cases. Convalescent serum won't be able to help us on a large scale. We will be able to use it to treat a handful of cases, but we'll really need something like a vaccine or an antiviral. We really want to treat the entire population who's been infected.” – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: How would a person know if they’ve had COVID-19 if they are a healthy adult and overcame a mild case rather quickly/easily? – Kenny

– 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 19, 2020

A: Joel Wertheim, UCSD Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine, answered: “The most sinister things about this new coronavirus is that people can get infected and never know it and they can still transmit. So unless somebody were to be tested based on a hunch or based on exposure, they could get the virus and transmit it and never know they were infected.” – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: If after getting the virus and symptoms have resolved is there an immunity to reinfection? – Connie Kemp and Carolyn Woodbury

– 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 19, 2020

A: Joel Wertheim, UCSD Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine, said: “This new virus is like other viruses in that once you've been infected, it's very unlikely that you'll be infected again. We have seen anecdotal evidence of people who've recovered from the virus still testing positive, but we don't know if that means that they've been re-infected. And research on this continues [because] we can't say with 100 percent certainty that you can't get this virus again because people have tested positive after recovering. But again, we don't know if that's infection with a new virus or that's just the original virus persisting longer.” – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: I assume that a negative coronavirus test only indicates that the patient is negative at that moment in time. The person would have to get repeated tests to determine that he remains negative. What does a negative result for a coronavirus test mean? – Sandra Stedinger , MD

– 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 19, 2020

A: Joel Wertheim, UCSD Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine, explained: “If you're tested for this virus and it comes back negative, that means that they were unable to detect the viral genome in your body where they swabbed for this test. Now that means that you don't have active viral replication there. That doesn't mean that you can't become infected later and a negative test means that at that moment we couldn't detect the virus in your body. But ideally, we would like to know everybody's status today, and we'd also like to know everybody's status a week or two weeks from now. But in the United States, we just simply don't have that many tests. So right now, we tend to be testing people who've been exposed or people who have symptoms. A negative test today doesn't necessarily mean a negative test tomorrow.” – Beth Accomando, KPBS reporter

Q: Is pet coronavirus the same kind as the COVID-19 that affects humans? – Guillermo A. Cornejo, 92154

– 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A: According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois, veterinarians are familiar with other coronaviruses, not the COVID-19, that cause common diseases in domestic animals. Many dogs are vaccinated for Canine Coronavirus as puppies. Part of the concern over pets and coronavirus came up when a dog in Hong Kong tested weakly positive for COVID-19.

The College of Veterinary Medicine points out that his canine patient was in close contact with an infected human, who was likely shedding large quantities of the virus. This led to the virus being in the dog’s nose. So there was coronavirus on the dog, just like there was coronavirus on the floor in the room, but the dog was not infected.

The 17-year-old dog has since died according to Time magazine, but no link to the disease has been proven at this time.

Currently, the CDC says “there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.” – Beth Accomando, KPBS arts and Culture Reporter

Q: What are the Governor’s plans for closing the Mexico U.S.border in regards to coronavirus concerns? — DM Parkhurst, 92106

A: The governor of California doesn’t have the authority to close an international border. That responsibility lies with the executive branch, and President Trump has already announced restrictions on asylum-seekers along the southwest border. He’s hinted at further restrictions along the border, but right now the border between the U.S. and Mexico remains open, with limited screenings for pedestrians on either side. Both U.S. and Mexican officials are in touch about regional efforts to contain the pandemic, but at this point the general spread of the virus from the U.S. to Mexico appears inevitable. — Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS reporter

Q: Where and how can a person be tested?

A: Right now, a person can be tested is if:

— that person traveled to a high-risk area;

— that person had contact with a confirmed case; or

— that person has a severe respiratory illness and does not have a history of travel or contact with someone with COVID-19.

The county lab has around 1,200 coronavirus tests right now for a region with more than 3 million residents. If cases explode, officials say they simply won't be able to meet the need.

“The testing is reserved for those who need it most,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “We will not be able to test everyone.”

If you think you might have the virus, officials say to contact your healthcare provider.

Additionally, people with suspected symptoms — fever or respiratory symptoms key among them — can call the Scripps Health hotline at (888) 261-8431. The line is staffed by nurses from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

If nurses think your symptoms warrant testing, they will direct you to one of three Scripps Health sites for testing.

Please note, a vast majority of people with mild illness from COVID-19 recover, according to the World Health Organization. Those with more severe illness may take up to six weeks to recover.

How long does it take to receive testing results? And what's the difference between "presumptive" and "confirmed case"?

Results are typically back within 24 hours. If the samples come back positive, it is categorized as "presumptive" — meaning the person has very likely contracted the coronavirus.

The samples will then be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation, a process that may take up to five days. Once the CDC confirms the result, it is then categorized as a "confirmed" case.

What is the most reliable source of data for cases of COVID-19 in our community?

The most reliable source for data is the county's Health and Human Services Agency's website. The website is updated once a day.

Is it safe for me, a 70-year-old with no chronic health conditions, to walk my dog around the block?

While it is generally "safe" for people to walk around the block, as long as they keep a social distance of at least 6 feet from another person, it is recommended that seniors and people with chronic conditions isolate themselves at home in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

As always, follow the advice of your doctor.

If a person tested negative for the coronavirus, does that mean the person does not have the virus?

Yes and no. If a person tested negative for the virus, it means that the person is negative for the virus at the time of testing, according to county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten. That person can still be a carrier and may later develop the disease, she said.

It is still important to practice good hygiene, self-quarantine at this time to stem the spread of the virus.

– Alexander Nguyen, web producer

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