In these times of great uncertainty and rapid developments, readers have a lot of questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
We’ve tried to provide answers to some of the most common (and occasionally obscure) questions.
A glossary of coronavirus terms
What is social distancing?
Stated simply, social distancing means maintaining a distance between you and other people – one metre to two metres – and minimizing contact with people. In other words, assume everyone around you could be infected.
- The rules on social isolation are changing. André Picard has the answers to your latest questions
What does self-isolation mean?
Self-isolation requires you to stay at home, monitor for symptoms, and avoid contact with other people for 14 days, according to the Government of Canada website.
Expectations for those who are self-isolating include:
- Staying home from work and school;
- Avoiding public transportation;
- Arranging to have supplies, such as groceries, dropped off at their doors;
- Especially avoiding elderly people and anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions;
- Keeping any unavoidable interactions with other people brief, maintaining at least two metres’ distance from them and wearing a mask.
Advice for enhanced hygiene measures for those self-isolating at home include:
- frequent hand-washing, avoid touching their faces;
- coughing and sneezing only into the bend of their arm;
- and disinfecting surfaces at least once daily.
Those in self-isolation are advised to get lots of rest and eat a balanced diet. They are to monitor themselves for symptoms and immediately get in touch with their health-care provider or with public-health authorities if those symptoms worsen.
And some tips to maintain your health and wellness:
- Give your days some structure: Shower and put on jeans, says Lia Grainger. If you work from home, make a separate space for work. Try meditation.
- Don’t just binge Netflix; lift a little: Paul Landini suggests body-weight exercises, or skipping rope to get in some cardio.
- When you do need a break, try one of these 10 books that offer lessons from past pandemics or consult Barry Hertz’s guide to the best Canadian streaming options.
What is self-monitoring?
According to the Government of Canada website, self-monitoring is for people who do not have symptoms but have possible exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. Self-monitoring means to monitor for one or more symptoms, but to go about your normal day while increasing space from others and avoiding crowded places.
What does “flattening the curve” mean?
When diseases reach uninfected populations, a graph of the new infections will generally follow a curve: Infections rise, then peak, then fall.
Officials talk about “flattening the curve,” or preventing the peak infections from exceeding their health systems’ ability to handle them.
What is community spread?
Community spread is when a sick person transmits the coronavirus to someone in the community. Community spread is more problematic than “imported” cases – meaning a traveller contracted the illness in another country and returned home sick – because cases can multiply quickly.
What is a pandemic?
On March 11, the World Health Organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared coronavirus a pandemic, by which point the coronavirus was in more than 110 countries.
When the WHO last revised its guidelines for pandemics, it didn’t include a single, quotable definition of what a pandemic is. Instead, it described six phases from initial infections to pandemic, each giving national health authorities advice about what to do as the urgency increased:
- Animals are infected with a disease, but not humans.
- Some humans are infected with the disease.
- Small clusters of the disease have been reported, but not human-to-human transition.
- Human-to-human transmission has been verified and is able to cause sustained community-level outbreaks.
- The virus has caused sustained community-level outbreaks in two or more countries in one WHO region. This stage can also serve as a signal that a pandemic is imminent.
- Additionally to 5, the disease has caused sustained outbreaks in at least one other country or WHO region. It’s only at this stage that it can be considered a pandemic.
Later revisions to the influenza guidelines simplified and blended these stages. First there’s an interpandemic phase between outbreaks of a disease; then an alert phase, when a new disease type is observed in humans; then a pandemic phase, when the disease has spread globally; and finally a transition phase, when the global risk subsides. WHO risk-management documents acknowledge that the situation can quickly change between the stages.
Ultimately, the declaration of a pandemic is up to the WHO director-general.
What is coronavirus?
What is coronavirus?
The new illness that emerged last December in China – officially called COVID-19 – is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The coronavirus that is making global headlines, SARS-CoV-2, is “novel” because it has never been seen in humans, meaning everyone is susceptible to infection.
- COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate than the flu: About 3.4 per cent by recent estimates, which is lower than SARS (10 per cent) but much higher than seasonal influenza (0.1 per cent).
- On average, it takes about five days for people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms, according to a U.S.-based team’s estimates published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The incubation period for SARS was much longer, about 10 days.
In recent years, we have seen two other novel coronaviruses emerge – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. There are four other coronaviruses that circulate routinely – OC43, 229E, HKU1, NL63 – which generally cause colds.
How is it different from other viruses?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The coronavirus that is making global headlines, SARS-CoV-2, is “novel” because it has never been seen in humans, meaning everyone is susceptible to infection. In recent years, we have seen two other novel coronaviruses emerge – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. There are four other coronaviruses that circulate routinely – OC43, 229E, HKU1, NL63 – which generally cause colds.
What are the symptoms?
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can cause an illness known as COVID-19. The symptoms include fever and dry cough.
Unlike a common cold, people with COVID-19 generally do not have a runny nose or a sore throat.
According to a large study in China, the vast majority of those infected with the novel coronavirus:
- 81 per cent of patients have mild symptoms
- 14 per cent of patients had severe symptoms, including trouble breathing
- Just under 5 per cent of patients suffered critical illness, meaning they needed to be on a respirator
It is not yet clear how deadly COVID-19 is because many mild cases have likely gone undetected. The treatment is the same – you treat the symptoms with fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and bed rest. You should not treat fever with ASA-based painkillers such as Aspirin, especially in children. Antibiotics do not help; they only work for bacterial illnesses.
Isn’t the flu worse?
In sheer numbers, influenza has a much greater impact than coronavirus. Of the billions who contract the flu every year, about three to five million require hospitalization, and somewhere between 290,000 and 650,000 die – compared to roughly 100,000 cases and 3,500 deaths from COVID-19.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that harms a lot of people every year; public health officials around the world have mobilized because they hope to prevent a second respiratory illness from taking hold and returning every winter. So it’s not an either-or issue. On an individual level, we can get vaccinated against the flu as a way of easing the burden on the health system that could be challenged by an influx of COVID-19 cases.
Can someone without symptoms spread the virus?
There is a lot of debate about the role of so-called asymptomatic carriers. There is no question that some people can be infected, have no obvious symptoms and still infect others. What is unclear is how big a risk this poses. It’s important to keep these technical debates in perspective and remember that infected people can definitely infect you, so focus on keeping your distance from people who have symptoms such as a dry cough and fever.
Can you be infected with coronavirus more than once?
There is some evidence that people can be reinfected. We don’t know yet if the coronavirus will mutate, making people susceptible in the future, as happens with influenza. But that’s the least of your worries. We should focus on not getting infected in the first place, by practising good hygiene and social distancing.
How does it spread?
Navigate to a question: Where has coronavirus been reported? • Can you contract it Antarctica? • Is food delivery safe? • Can I go to a restaurant, food court or bar? • Is it safe to go shopping? • Is money a risk?
Where has coronavirus been reported? How many cases are in each province, country and region?
The number of reported and confirmed cases changes rapidly. Consult the Globe’s guide to to provincial, national, and worldwide numbers for updates.
Each province and territory has a different website where they list how many cases they’ve detected or tests they’ve performed:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
Can you contract coronavirus in Antarctica?
Oddly, several people have asked this question.
Coronavirus needs a human host, so it can spread person-to-person anywhere in the world. However, Antarctica has not permanent settlements; the only residents are in scientific bases so there is little opportunity for large gatherings.
Also implied in the question is whether coronavirus can spread where it’s cold. It can, in fact. Respiratory viruses spread more easily in winter conditions because people tend to huddle outdoors. But, so, far, Antarctica is the only continent where there are no COVID-19 cases.
I’m trying to stay inside but I need to eat. Is food delivery safe?
Coronavirus can live on surfaces, including the packaging used by food delivery surfaces but, again, the risk is relatively small. Some people wipe down the outer layer of packaging, like the pizza box.
Companies such as Foodora and Door Dash are also experimenting with “contactless delivery” – where they leave your order at a set spot so you don’t interact with the delivery person (some apps allow you to send a photo of the precise location).
Remember that food-delivery people are low-wage workers who are being run off their feet during the pandemic. Tip generously.
Can I go to a restaurant, food court or bar?
Ideally, no. People should use drive-thru, pickup or delivery options whenever possible. However, some provinces allow restaurants to operate but at greatly reduced capacity to ensure diners are at least two metres apart.
Restaurants and bars are being shut down. Is it safe to go shopping?
Social distancing is about minimizing close contact with others.
If you are in isolation – you are infected with coronavirus, have a suspected case or have returned from travel abroad – you should not leave the house. Arrange for a family member or friend to do your shopping.
If you are not in isolation, you can go about your life, including shopping. But physically distance yourself from others. Stores are also starting to limit the number of customers at any one time. If you’re in a queue, keep one metre to two metres apart. And respect the no butting in rule.
Keep in mind, too, that the person at greatest risk in the equation is the cashier, who is often dealing with hundreds of people in a shift.
My local café, which was cash-only, now only takes debit cards. They say it’s to protect customers from coronavirus. Is money a risk?
Coronavirus is spread by droplets - the spittle when you cough. It can live on surfaces like money but, relatively speaking, the risk is low.
You should probably be more worried about all the germs left behind by people who punch the keys on the card reader. Use tap if you can. And, hopefully, the café wipes down its card reader regularly.
What can be done to stay safe?
Navigate to a question: How can I protect myself? • I’ve close contact someone infected; what do I do? • Is expired hand sanitizer effective? • How often should I wash my hands? • Should I carry anti-bacterial wipes? • Should I wear a mask? • Should I be taking extra precaution around pregnant women? • Should I be stocking up?
How can I protect myself against the virus?
The best way to protect yourself against coronavirus infection is to follow the age-old advice of mothers around the world: Keep your fingers out of your mouth and nose, your hands off your face and cover your mouth when you cough. And, of course, wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly.
You can also practice “social distancing” – keeping at least two metres from someone with a cough. The “Wuhan shake” (tapping feet) and the elbow bump are also displacing handshakes and cheek kisses.
What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has been infected?
If you have had close contact with someone who has been infected with coronavirus, public health officials urge you to limit your contact with others by self-isolating, and to get tested.
If you have symptoms (dry cough, fever, but not a runny nose or sneezing) and think you may be infected you should seek medical assistance. However, don’t go directly to the emergency room or a medical clinic, because you risk infecting others.
Call public health authorities by dialing 8-1-1 in most provinces (1-866-797-0000 in Ontario). Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they will send a nurse to your home to do testing, or an ambulance to bring you to hospital. The test is simple – a cotton swab in your nose, and the results will come back quickly. Several provinces are also creating testing facilities that will be off-site from hospitals.
There’s no hand sanitizer anywhere! I have a bottle from 2012—is it still effective?
There is nothing in sanitizer that can go bad, so it won’t harm you. The important ingredient is alcohol and it can lose its potency a bit over time. So old sanitizer is better than no sanitizer.
You can also easily make your own sanitizer with rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel.
But avoid the expensive “essential oil” products. They may smell good, but don’t contain anything that kills viruses so they don’t work. Soap and water is still your best bet.
How often should I wash my hands? Do I really need to wash them for 20 seconds?
There is no set number of times you should wash your hands. Rather, it depends on your activities.
You should wash your hands after:
- blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
- after using the bathroom;
- before eating and cooking;
- after cleaning around the house;
- after social or work activities that include lots of interaction or touching of public surfaces (i.e. taking the subway);
- after touching animals, including family pets;
- before and after visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives.
The 20-second hand-washing rule is to ensure you have time to adequately scrub surfaces, and under the nails, where germs accumulate. There are many videos online that demonstrate proper technique.
A common trick is to sing a song while you wash your hands, to make it less tedious, like Happy Birthday or the chorus of Another Brick In The Wall.
Should I carry anti-bacterial wipes everywhere?
Wiping down surfaces is useful for minimizing the spread of germs. But coronavirus is a virus, not a bacterium, so you don’t need anti-bacterial products. Look for alcohol-based products. Baby wipes don’t contain alcohol. Neither do popular products such as Wet Ones. Lysol and Clorox wipes do contain alcohol.
Should I wear a mask?
Masks should be worn by sick patients, and by health care workers caring for sick patients. Healthy people wearing masks will do nothing to minimize the spread of coronavirus and will deprive others of this much-needed protective equipment (which is actually in short supply).
Should I be taking extra precaution around pregnant women?
Pregnant women experience changes to their immune systems that can make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Women who have been infected with other coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, have slightly higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirth. It is not clear if the fetus is at greater risk if a woman is infected with COVID-19 but it is established that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. There is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted via breast milk.
In short, it is always a good idea to not expose pregnant women (and other with compromised immune systems) to infectious illnesses, and this is especially true during flu (and coronavirus) season.
Should I be stocking up on my prescriptions, food or supplies?
It’s never a bad idea to be prepared for an emergency, whether it’s an ice storm, an earthquake or coronavirus. But stocking up really depends on your personality – whether you’re a worrier or not.
However, you may be quarantined or isolated in your home for two weeks. So it’s a good idea to ensure you have up-to-date prescriptions, some toilet paper, food (especially dry goods) and so on. But you don’t need to clear the shelves at Costco.
What is the test for coronavirus?
I got tested for coronavirus but I never got results. How long does it take?
The test is simple – a swab in the nose – and it takes only a few hours to get results, in theory. However, despite operating seven days a week, labs are slammed, especially as provinces try to ramp up testing dramatically.
While awaiting results you should act as if you are infected, meaning remain in isolation – no contact with other people. In most provinces, you will only get a called if you have positive test result, and it will come within 24-48 hours.
The “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach is not ideal. Some provinces have established a “negative results line” to confirm your test is negative, but you have to wait at least 72 hours because the paperwork takes time.
Can I know if I have coronavirus without being tested?
If you are infected, you will likely develop symptoms such as dry cough, fever and shortness of breath, two to 14 days after exposure.
Public-health officials recommend that you call 811 (or 1-866-797-0000 in Ontario) where you will be asked some screening questions and told if you should be tested or not.
Keep in mind, however, that the testing guidelines are changing rapidly, especially now that tests are running low. 811 lines are overwhelmed. You may get a busy signal or wait hours for a call back.
Depending on your answers to a series of questions, these assessments can tell you whether you require emergency medical care (this is only if you experience any of the following: severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, a very difficult time waking up, confusion, loss of consciousness).
Online self-assessments tool can also tell you whether to call 811 (or 1-866-797-0000 in Ontario, 1-888-315-9257 in Manitoba, 867-975-5771 in Nunavut) and wait until someone is available to answer, or whether you need to be tested at all.
If you have symptoms such as serious shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, the inability to be aroused, or bluish lips or face (signs of oxygen deprivation), you should call 911 immediately.
Emergency numbers to call:
Here are the local numbers for public-health authorities across Canada.
- British Columbia: 811
- Alberta: 811
- Saskatchewan: 811
- Manitoba: 1-888-315-9257
- Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
- Quebec: 811
- New Brunswick: 811
- Nova Scotia: 811
- Prince Edward Island: 811
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 811 or 1-888-709-2929
- Nunavut: 867-975-5771
- Northwest Territories: 911
- Yukon: 811
Why don’t we just test everyone?
Two reasons: We don’t have an unlimited number of tests or laboratory capacity, and secondly the test is not effective in people who don’t have symptoms. For now, public-health officials are concentrating on testing those at greatest risk of suffering harm, people with symptoms, especially if they are in high-risk groups such as the frail elderly or those with chronic health conditions.
How does coronavirus affect children?
My children are asking about coronavirus. What should I tell them?
The virus can be scary or confusing for young children, so it’s important to keep it simple.
- Explain to them that the coronavirus is a germ, and because it is a new germ people are trying to learn more about it and are taking it seriously.
- Let them know what the symptoms are and what to look out for: coughing, fevers and breathing trouble.
- Explain that children are less vulnerable to the virus, but they still can get it – so the best thing they can do to is to wash their hands properly.
Finally, tell them that anyone can get the coronavirus. It has nothing to do with a person’s background or what they look like.
With school out, my kids are going stir crazy. Can I arrange playdates?
Sorry beleaguered parents, your snotty, noisy housemates may be distracting, especially if you’re working from home, but that’s still a hard no. Children are very hands-on when they play. You have to do the social distancing for them. Obviously, if you have more than one child they will interact, but minimize contact with the outside world.
So how can I keep my kids entertained? Can I take them to the park?
If you are social distancing but not in isolation (meaning you have been diagnosed with symptoms or have returned from travel abroad), you can go outside. A visit to the park might be okay, put keep your kid away from other kids. And be aware that a lot of germs accumulate on playground equipment.
Globe staff compiled suggestions for keeping kids busy. They include:
- For kids 4-9: Implement school structure as much as possible, with outdoor time, free choice (playdough, drawing, Lego), homework, and inevitable screen time. Create obstacle course. Pull out “old” digital cameras, and give kids a scavenger hunt (a list of photos to shoot).
- For kids 10-15: Baking or learning how to make an easy meal or two from a recipe. Check the free online resources of your local public library, and use your library card to register for Kanopy or Hoopla. Start a family jigsaw puzzle.
What experts say:
- Create some structure to your day, with an hour of quiet time and time for physical activity
- Ask your children to put together a performance (play or dance routine)
- Create assignments (like planning future road trips or meal planning)
Obviously, it’s hard to work in these circumstances so you have to make alternative work arrangements. (Telecommuting is also social distancing measure.) In some countries, child care has been provided for parents who work in essential services.
Can I drop my child off at daycare?
This is a tough one because the recommendations are all over the map. Some provinces have closed daycares, some have closed only public daycare and some not at all. Also, families who work in essential services need daycare. If a child is going to be in care, the groups should be kept as small as possible and the children should be monitored closely (taking their temperature at least a couple of times a day).
Are children immune? Are they carriers and do they put people with compromised immune systems at risk?
Children do not seem to be getting seriously ill from coronavirus; however, that doesn’t mean they are immune – in Calgary, a child at a daycare centre tested positive for COVID-19. When children do get sick, they’ve generally experienced mild, cold-like symptoms, according to public health officials.
However, children are likely carriers and, as such, could put people with compromised immune systems at risk.
And: While deaths from COVID-19 are highest among older people, younger people are not immune. A series of studies show that a significant percentage of people being hospitalized for severe symptoms of COVID-19 are under are much younger, between 20 and 54.
What about older or immuno-compromised people?
Navigate to a question: Can I visit grandparents in their nursing home? • Can I visit my elderly parents at home? • I’m young and immuno-compromised. Should I stay inside? • I’m 75 and healthy • My mom is 75. How do I keep her safe?
Can I visit grandma and grandpa in their nursing home?
No. All visitors should stay away from nursing homes and retirement or long-term care facilities unless they are professional care providers.
Can I visit my elderly parents at home?
No. It is also recommended that people older than 70, even if living independently, self-isolate. Visitors should be kept to a strict minimum, for example delivering food and medicine. It is, however, important to stay in touch – but by phone, Skype and other means.
I’m 34 and immuno-compromised. Should I just not leave the house?
Individuals have to make personal choices based on their own risk tolerance. But people who are immune-compromised – because of chronic illnesses, medical treatments or medications – are at much greater risk of both contracting and suffering more severe symptoms from infections, including COVID-19. Aggressive social distancing is wise and total isolation probably a good idea, if you can tolerate it.
Quebec is telling everyone over the age of 70 to stay home for at least two to three weeks. I’m 75. I’m healthy and have no symptoms. Should I stay home?
So far, the global data show that people older than 70 (and 80 in particular) have dramatically higher death rates than younger people. But most of those deaths are among people with underlying chronic conditions.
Quebec says its recommendations are being made “out of an abundance of caution.” The province is especially concerned about older citizens in care, so it has banned all visitors to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
So, should a healthy 75-year-old self-isolate? You should definitely practice social distancing – minimize your contacts with others – but a walk or a trip to the store for groceries probably won’t hurt.
My mom is 75 and lives alone. She insists on going shopping even though it’s recommended that people over 70 not leave the house. How can I keep her safe?
Some people will not heed the public health pleas to practice social distancing. If that is the case, like your mom, try and preach harm reduction. If she’s going to shop do it when the risk is lesser, when stores are less crowded – morning rather than just before dinner. Some stores, like Shopper’s Drug Mart, have set aside special hours for high-risk people, such as seniors. Finally, there are a lot of Good Samaritans offering to shop for their cooped-up neighbors, and maybe your mom would accept one of those offers.
How is coronavirus treated?
How is coronavirus treated?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Only the symptoms can be treated. If you have mild symptoms such as a cough and fever, then you need rest, plenty of fluids and maybe Bubbe’s chicken soup. Fever can be treated with medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), but you should not treat fever with ASA-based painkillers such as Aspirin, especially in children. The French health minister (who is also doctor) has said that NSAIDs can worsen symptoms but, according to pharmacologist Dr. David Juurlink that claim “is not based on very much.”
Antibiotics do not help; they only work for bacterial illnesses. There are no licensed antivirals for COVID-19 but one drug, Remdesivir, is being studied and used experimentally. In more serious cases, COVID-19 patients may develop pneumonia (inflammation or fluid build-up in the lungs) and a physician may prescribe steroids. In the most severe cases, people can develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and require breathing support, a ventilator or ECMO (extracorporeal machine oxygenation). ARDS is what kills.
Why is quarantine set at 14 days?
That numbers is based on the incubation period of the virus – the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from one to 14 days, most commonly around five. In other words, if you don’t have symptoms in that two-week period, it’s highly unlikely you have COVID-19.
Can coronavirus be cured with chloroquine?
There reports of COVID-19 being treated successfully with the anti-malaria drug chloroquine as well as with the HIV drug combo lopinavir/ritonavir (sold under the brand name Kaletra).
But anecdote is not evidence and we should always be leery of people who claim to have miracle cures, especially when their “evidence” is published in the tabloid Daily Mail and not a reputable scientific journal.
What’s the state of a vaccine for the disease?
Developing a vaccine is one of the top priorities in the coronavirus response. There are more than 20 potential vaccine candidates being studied. However, creating a vaccine is a complex, time-consuming process. There are currently no coronavirus vaccines (efforts to create vaccines against SARS and MERS have stalled) so, best-case scenario, is that a vaccine will take at least 18-24 months to be on the market.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would take at least a year to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 and at least 18 months before it would become “deployable.”
In other words, while multiple companies have vaccine candidates under study, a vaccine is not going to stop the pandemic spread of the disease – a least not in 2020. The best approach in the short-term is tried and true public health measures to try and limit spread and developing better treatments for those who are sick. One drug, remdesivir, has shown promise against other coronaviruses and, anecdotally, has worked well for some COVID-19 patients. Drug-maker Gilead is ramping up testing.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
Influenza and cold infections plummet in the summer, because warm, humid weather can make it harder for respiratory droplets to spread viruses. When temperatures rise, human activity also changes – we spend less time cooped up indoors. But scientists caution that we should not assume that, just because coronavirus is spread by droplets, warm weather will stop its spread. Neither SARS nor MERS – the two other novel coronaviruses to emerge in recent years – proved to be seasonal.
What’s the deal with toilet paper? Why are people stockpiling?
The empty toilet paper aisle in the grocery store has become an iconic image of the coronavirus outbreak. People are being told to prepare for the worst – which means two weeks of isolation – by stocking up on essentials. One of the staples in every home is toilet paper. But the reason stores are being emptied out is not because people are buying more Charmin than Ramen noodles, it’s because TP is a big bulky item and stores have limited space. Psychologically, seeing those empty shelves makes us want to buy more – panic begets panic. One cheeky Australian newspaper printed eight blank pages and told readers they could use them as emergency toilet paper if they run out. Yet another reason to subscribe to a newspaper.
The WHO declared coronavirus to be a pandemic. Is that good or bad? What does that mean practically?
Practically, nothing has changed. “Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
But, politically, the shift from “outbreak” to “pandemic” sends a powerful message that the coronavirus is not only a public health crisis, but an economic crisis. It’s a diplomatic way of telling countries to start taking COVID-19 more seriously. A pandemic declaration should also make it easier to free up money for the fight.
Dr. Tedros said the WHO hesitated to declare a pandemic for two reasons: 1) it worries that the public will interpret it as meaning the coronavirus is now more lethal (which it isn’t) and 2) it fears countries will give up on trying to stop outbreaks and shift to a treatment mode.
He stressed that mitigation measures must continue and even be stepped up. “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
Can my pets catch the virus?
There has been one case recorded of a dog contracting coronavirus from its owner, a Pomeranian in Hong Kong – the first case of human-to-canine transmission. However, the chance of that happening appears to be very low. It is also quite unlikely that you would contract coronavirus from a pet.
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