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Haley’s Health Inbox: What are the chances that I had coronavirus and didn’t know it?

A medical worker takes swabs for the coronavirus test from a conscript during a medical checkup at a military conscription office in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 22, 2020. The Russian military has launched a regular draft despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Kirill Zykov, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)
A medical worker takes swabs for the coronavirus test from a conscript during a medical checkup at a military conscription office in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 22, 2020. The Russian military has launched a regular draft despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Kirill Zykov, Moscow News Agency photo via AP) (Moscow News Agency)

KPRC Channel 2′s health reporter Haley Hernandez has been answering some of your emailed questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 here in the Houston area.

We are answering a few of the top questions each day. You can scroll down and read questions and answers from previous days.

May 22, 2020

What are the chances that I had coronavirus and didn’t know it?

There is new information out this week about this topic! It is possible that you had COVID-19 and did not know. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says about 35% of coronavirus patients don’t have symptoms. Sometimes people might have minor symptoms and don’t even realize it. This could make the case for the importance of wearing masks in public.

When is the City of Houston going to open the hospital and rehabilitation centers so that at least one visitor can come in?

It’s not up to the City of Houston to open medical facilities. Right now, each hospital and center has its own policies in place. As you mention, most are saying no visitors. Certain conditions allow visitors, such as women who are having a baby. This article has more details about what each hospital system in our area is doing in regards to visitor policies.

What does an antibody test show exactly?

An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. The tests are different from the nasal swab tests that determine if you’re currently sick.

But studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last. For now, the tests are most helpful for researchers trying to track how the virus spreads in communities.

May 21, 2020

What is the CDC saying about schools in the fall?

Earlier this week The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted 60 pages of detailed guidelines on how to reopen the United States from coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders on the agency's website. The document was very descriptive, providing a detailed road map for schools, restaurants, transit and child care facilities on the categories to consider before reopening.

For schools, guidelines included desks being six feet apart all facing the same direction, consider eating food in rooms, no changing out classes, no shared devices, and more about what to do if someone in the building got coronavirus. In all, there are 30+ recommendations for schools to follow.

My grandma can’t leave her home. What are her coronavirus testing options?

The Houston mayor has appointed two directors of the mayor’s office for People with Disabilities to tackle this issue, who are themselves disabled.

If people can’t leave their homes, testing can be arranged to come straight to them where a sample can be collected at home. Another option is that a vehicle can be scheduled to drive to the person’s home to pick them up and take them to the testing site.

There are also a few mobile testing sites up and running. Here’s another way to find a testing site near you.

Is there any new evidence coronavirus has been in our area for longer than we thought?

We’ve looked into this before and yes, there are many people who say they think they had COVID-19 earlier this year. The anti-body testing will help answer this. Just last night we heard from a Houston woman who was sick in early February and her anti-body test came back positive, meaning she did have COVID-19 at some point. She was very sick and describes having trouble breathing along with other common COVID-19 symptoms.

May 20, 2020

My employer is insisting I show a negative coronavirus test before I can return to work. I only went home sick for one day, then felt fine. Can they do this?

Yes, your employer can request that you show a negative coronavirus test before returning to work. They have the right to screen employees to keep everyone else at the company safe. There are more testing sites now open across the Houston area. Here’s a map of the locations so you can find one close to you.

Do you have any updates on the childhood condition related to COVID19?

Experts are learning more about the illness this week. It’s becoming clear that many of the children with the new syndrome have damage to their hearts and need immediate treatment, they said at the Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) briefing. And they believe it’s increasingly clear that Covid-19 is involved, even though many of the children test negative for the virus at first and never seemed to have had symptoms of infection.

The syndrome appears to develop two to six weeks after infection with Covid-19 and affects mostly children who were perfectly healthy beforehand. The CDC issued a health alert last week warning pediatricians to be on the lookout, and at least 20 states plus Washington, DC have reported they are investigating possible cases.

Can coronavirus spread through food?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety.

May 19, 2020

Can you find out how many coronavirus patients are actually hospitalized?

The state of Texas tracking website shows out of 19,065 active cases statewide, 1,732 are in the hospital. We also have a breakdown of the coronavirus cases by county.

Does Corona survive the hot temps? Or does it die from heat?

There is no clear answer about coronavirus surviving the hot temps. In theory yes, the virus may die in heat, but there’s no proof of that yet. Dry air tends to support viruses floating around while humid air, with more water droplets, has those airborne viruses falling to the ground. Thus, humid air may help slow infection rates. Fewer virus molecules in the air the better.

I’m having surgery in a few weeks. Can my daughter and closest friend be in the waiting room?

Most hospitals still do not allow visitors. If you are going under anesthesia, you’ll need to ask your hospital if someone can come with you. The hospital will have rules for who can pick you up and whether they can come inside. Each hospital is different. This article includes visitor policies for hospitals in Houston.

May 18, 2020

How do you calm elderly parents during this time?

We addressed this question today in our Facebook Live on mental health with Houston Methodist Psychologist, Dr. William Orme.

Here’s what he had to say about talking with elderly family members during this time: The vulnerable community is one that is especially worried right now. It’s important to give them a sense that you understand where they are coming from. There’s an impulse for us to want to rush in and fix the problem. It’s hard for us to see the ones we love in distress. Turns out, a lot of times what someone is needed is not direct and quick advice. They need someone to listen to them and give them a sense that they understood. Be willing to listen to them and not rush in for advice. The person may just want to express what they are feeling, share their fears, etc. Of course, if they ask for advice, you can help them get the answer. The sense of connection is so important.

I am worried about returning to work. At my office, no one seems to care. What do I do?

This is another question addressed by Dr. Orme today during our Facebook live today.

Here’s what he had to say: The increase of stress and anxiety when you see people not observing the guidelines is normal. We can’t control other people’s behavior. But seeing what other people are doing, we have to ask ourselves, how can we change our behavior to make ourselves feel safe. That may mean having more distance while still engaging or it may mean you set aside more time to sanitize, wash hands, etc. If you see people doing things you really disagree with, you could say something. But keep in mind, people are approaching this in different ways and trying to do the best they can with what they have. So, be mindful of how you have the conversation. Raise your concern with caution.

Why don’t we see public service messages on proper handwashing? Seems there is more on reporting the numbers.

Good point! We did cover proper handwashing techniques when all of this started, but it’s a great idea to revisit it. Especially since things are starting to open back up.

The timing, friction, and use of freshwater are very important. The recommended method from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  • Turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Then, rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

If you think you’re doing it right, try singing happy birthday twice to feel how long experts say you should be scrubbing. Obviously, do this every time you’re in a bathroom, but also:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before eating food.
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.child..
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After feeding pets or handling pet waste.
  • After touching garbage.

Doctors prefer good handwashing over hand sanitizer unless you’re away from a sink and the sanitizer is your only option.

May 15, 2020

With the Abbott ID NOW test missing 15-48% of people that have the virus, how do you tell which testing sites are using a more accurate test? If we tested negative with the ID NOW test and have symptoms, should we be retested?

As you mention, a new study released yesterday suggests the COVID-19 test Abbott ID NOW frequently missed cases of the virus. If you had this test and got a negative result, you could get another test.

See if your doctor can provide you a referral or a test. If it can be any comfort, the percentage of the false negatives are of the negative samples taken by NYU, which was a small study, not the overall number of tests. This means it’s a smaller number than it seems, but they are not accurate all the time.

I’m so excited for gyms to open but still a little worried. How do I stay safe?

Almost all gyms said they’ll have equipment spaced out or every other machine powered off so they cannot be used in close distance to other members. Other safety tips include: Clean everything you touch, wash your hands, wear a mask and wear workout gloves. And consider where your workout towel has been. If you’re using it on seats or the gym floor, don’t put it on your face.

Is it true that UltraViolet light can be used to kill the Covid-19 virus?

Ultra-violet (UV) lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of your skin. The World Health Organization warns that UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes. Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing your hands with soap and water are the most effective ways to remove the virus.

May 14, 2020

Can coronavirus infection show up in routine blood work? For example, you are asymptomatic but have routine blood work done with your physician as part of your well-check, is it possible for COVID 19 to show up in your blood work?

It will not show up in routine blood work because they’re not looking for COVID during a routine check.

Routine bloodwork normally looks for your A1C, kidney function, etc., they would need to specifically have the lab look for COVID (if the lab had the ability to test for it because not all of them do).

I see some people wearing gloves around town. Is this really necessary?

The CDC says gloves are mainly needed when caring for someone who is sick with coronavirus or if you are in a hospital setting. Wearing gloves when using a shopping cart or using an ATM will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs.

The best way to protect yourself from germs when running errands and after going out is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Do you have any new information about coronavirus and kids?

The multisystem inflammatory syndrome is now being investigated in more states. (This is very rare.) At least 150 kids have shown symptoms of the syndrome.

Symptoms include persistent fever, inflammation, and poor function in organs such as the kidneys or heart. New today: we are learning children may also show evidence of blood vessel inflammation, such as red eyes, a bright red tongue, and cracked lips.

This information is from Dr. Moshe Arditi, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. So far, no cases have been reported in the Houston area.

May 13, 2020

Are there any cases in Houston of the syndrome related to COVID-19 in children?

So far, hospitals in Houston have not reported any cases of Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome.

Most cases are out of New York but other states have reported cases. Nearly 100 children in the US are getting sick from a mysterious illness believed to be related to COVID-19 and officials want parents around the country to be aware.

We want to stress - this is very rare. The symptoms are mirroring more commonly-known inflammatory illnesses like Kawasaki Disease and toxic shock syndrome. The newly identified syndrome appears to be the result of a child’s immune system going into overdrive after a COVID-19 infection.

How many ventilators are being used in our area right now?

Remember, the main reason we are trying to “flatten the curve” is that we don’t want to overwhelm the hospital systems with sick patients. So far our area has not been overwhelmed with cases. It’s hard to say how many ventilators are in the entire area. The Texas Medical Center gives us a good look at how they are handling this. On April 28th, they say there are 6% total ventilators were being used. They haven’t updated that information since then.

Can you get the virus and never feel sick?

It would be rare to never feel anything. There is a chance someone has mild symptoms and didn’t know they had it. Remember, some people think earlier this year they may have had coronavirus and didn’t know it. Now experts are saying any kind of symptom (even mild) is something you should stay home for, just to be safe. Especially since many coronavirus patients are experiencing unusual and odd symptoms.

May 12, 2020

I had a dentist appointment today and after I paid the bill I noticed on my receipt that they charged me an extra $8 fee for PPE. What is that?

Dental offices are open for non-emergency patients again but don’t expect the appointment or prices to be the same. Many offices have added extra safety measures to the office in addition to having extra PPE for staff and patients if needed. According to the American Dental Association, it’s unfair for the cost to fall on dentists and therefore that fee can be passed on to patients. There is no standard amount to get reimbursed for the protective equipment necessary to maintain a dental business. Therefore, dentists could charge what they want.

Should dogs social distance?

We actually get quite a few questions about pets and coronavirus. The CDC says at this time there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. Just to be on the safe side, you could wipe your dog down if they have been with other dogs. But, it still appears that dogs don’t play a role in the virus spread.

I saw your story on the childhood illness linked to coronavirus. Do certain kids have a bigger risk of getting this?

So far, doctors say there is no way to know which kids are at risk. (For example, it’s not like only kids with preexisting conditions are getting this illness.) While Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome is rare, doctors and researchers are on an urgent search for answers. The newly identified syndrome appears to be the result of a child’s immune system going into overdrive after a COVID-19 infection. Experts know this can develop up to six weeks after the coronavirus infection even if children who did not know they had COVID-19.

May 11, 2020

I had a positive viral test and a negative antibody test. What does this mean?

We’ve had a few questions from people trying to interpret their test results. There is a chance you got a positive viral test and a negative antibody test. One reason why: You most likely do currently have an active COVID-19 infection but your body hasn’t started producing antibodies yet. With these tests, there are a number of variables for each. The Government has a handy chart that helps you figure out what your tests might mean.

Where can you go to retest to see if recovered from the virus?

You can go to any of the testing sites to be re-tested for coronavirus. Here is a map of the latest testing sites. For most of these sites, you need to pre-register. At that point, you could let them know that you are getting re-tested to be cleared of the virus.

My sister tested positive for Covid-19 in March and is still not better. PCP says to wait it out. Any doctors in Houston seeing moderate cases?

We have heard that some cases could last six weeks or more. Houston Methodist touched on this, saying it could even take months to get back to normal. Others are left with lingering effects. Once the fever has subsided and your symptoms have been gone for several days, it’s important to keep in mind that you may still be contagious. We hope she feels better soon!!

May 8, 2020

As we decide about summer traveling, what is the risk of getting COVID-19 on an airplane?

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control says about this topic: Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Do testing locations allow asymptomatic patients to get a test?

It depends on where you go for the test. The regulations depend on what agency is running the testing. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services released an interactive map where you can find the best testing location near you.

Are there any updates on the use of Hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients?

A new study finds no evidence of benefit from a malaria drug widely promoted as a treatment for coronavirus infection. Just yesterday researchers from the New England Journal of Medicine released a study about this. They found Hydroxychloroquine did not lower the risk of dying or patients needing a breathing tube in a comparison that involved nearly 1,400 patients treated at Columbia University in New York.

May 7, 2020

What are the long term effects of the coronavirus?

Doctors have seen patients with lasting lung damage after recovering from coronavirus. We are just learning that some patients are suffering from heart damage after getting Coronavirus. (Haley’s story for Thursday afternoon will go more into this.) Other than that, since this virus is so new, researchers are studying the lasting impact of the virus in patients.

How many people have actually been tested for coronavirus in Texas?

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, there have been more than 430,000 tests performed in the state as of Thursday morning. More than 34,400 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state. That works out to a positivity rate of about 7%.

Health officials have warned of an increase in coronavirus cases if things reopen without adequate testing in place. As of Thursday morning, a little more than 1% of the state’s estimated total population has been tested for the virus.

Have you heard about the link between COVID-19 and Kawasaki disease in children?

Some children are experiencing inflammation of organs because of coronavirus. It imitates Kawasaki disease but it might not the same thing. Other symptoms include fever for 4 days, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting.

May 6, 2020

What are the complications of rashes related to coronavirus?

A rash can be a rare symptom of coronavirus. If you are getting redness or hives, that is something to look at. Rashes could also be a side effect of coronavirus in children. Sometimes kids fight off viruses with a rash and you may not see any other symptoms. When in doubt, contact your doctor.

Is it safe to swim in pools this summer?

Public swimming pools fall under the governor’s plan to reopen businesses starting Friday if they operate at 25% capacity. There’s no evidence the new coronavirus can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also says at the pool, proper operation and maintenance, including disinfection with chlorine, should inactivate the virus in the water.

If you test negative for antibodies does that mean you never had Coronavirus?

If you tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies, you probably did not have a previous infection. However, you could have a current infection. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently since antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies and some may not develop antibodies at all.

May 5, 2020

If you are asymptomatic, how long are you a carrier or contagious?

The World Health Organization says you are mostly asymptomatic in the beginning but most people will eventually see some symptoms.

WHO says, in their study, it was rare that someone had zero symptoms for the duration of the infection. Most of the time, people did have some sort of symptom but they “didn’t think it counted,” because they dismissed the symptom as minor. It might be minor, like headaches and sore throat.

Most people carry the virus for anywhere from 5-14 days.

Can you hug people in your immediate family who are staying at home with if no one is showing symptoms? What do the doctor’s recommend?

Yes, you can. In fact, in all the guidelines about how many people can be in groups together/seated at a table/seated together at church, it specifically says you and the people in your household bc everyone knows you’re living in close quarters and therefore sharing a lot already. There is no point in putting rules against you within your own home.

Where can you get a coronavirus test?

This is one of the most common questions we get, so it’s worth revisiting. More testing sites are opening up in the Houston area. There are options like drive-thru and even mobile testing for those who can’t get out of the house. Check Txcovidtest.org for a complete list. For most testing sites, you need to reserve your spot ahead of time and be pre-screened. If you or ever family member ever get sick you can put your zip code and schedule a test near you.

Is tightness in the chest a symptom of coronavirus?

Yes, chest discomfort could be a sign of coronavirus. At the point where you feel tightness and you are short of breathing, for sure go see a doctor. Do not ignore these symptoms. In fact, we did a story in April about how doctors are seeing fewer heart attack and stroke patients during this time and they are concerned about the lasting impact this may have. People should never ignore the signs of a heart attack or stroke.

May 4, 2020

Is it OK to spray washable face masks with Lysol rather than washing them after every wearing?

It is recommended that you wash your cloth face mask with hot water and put it in the dryer each time you use it. Spraying it with Lysol might not kill all of the bacteria. Experts also recommend waiting until you get inside your home before taking off your mask, so you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate the mask (so that’s why you might see people wearing masks in their cars).

What exactly is contact tracing? Who is doing it and when does it start?

Contact tracing is basically tracking the virus person by person to help stop the spread. We did a story last week showing how it works. If you test positive in Harris County for Coronavirus the Harris County Public Health Department will touch base with you asap. You will be asked to tell them the people you have been around, places you have visited, and to log your symptoms as you fight the virus.

I need hospital care but am afraid to be left alone for a medical diagnosis not COVID-19 related. Can I have someone with me?

Most hospitals in the Houston area are still not allowing people to have visitors (or bring anyone with them for appointments). However, there are some cases where visitors are allowed including for maternity patients, disabled patients, critical patients, and discharge patients. Contact your doctor ahead of time and share your concern. Depending on what you are dealing with, you might be allowed to bring someone with you.

May 1, 2020

How do I know what antibody testing places are approved?

As of this week, there are 150 antibody tests on the market without having faced Government review. The FDA has only approved a handful of companies to do antibody testing. Most of the testing you see in Houston that are run through diagnostic testing centers are approved.

Does a business that has been closed for weeks and now reopening need to be cleaned?

Here’s what the CDC says about this: If your workplace, school, or business has been unoccupied for 7 days or more, it will only need your normal routine cleaning to reopen the area. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.

What are the health guidelines for restaurants now that some of them are open?

In part, the guidelines include: Maintain at least 6 feet of separation from other people who are not in your party. If social distancing is not possible, you should try other measures like wearing a face covering while not seated at the table, maintain hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation.

Where can I find a COVID-19 testing site?

This week more options for coronavirus testing opened up all across the Houston area. From mobile testing to stop and go testing, there are new options for testing. Check here for the latest testing locations.

April 30, 2020

Is it true if your COVID-19 antibody test comes back positive, you would be immune to the illness?

Experts don’t know for sure. It could mean you are safer. In one study 1 in 4 New Yorkers had antibodies. They do know some do come back positive with antibodies, but they are not sure whether or not that means they are for sure safe forever?

How long after COVID-19 infection can antibodies show up in the blood?

Likely they will develop in days. Some of the antibody tests require you to be symptom-free for 10 days before you can get the test.

What are the cons of antibody tests?

They do get false positives. This means you get results back that says you had Coronavirus but you never did. This could give people false confidence that you have immunity and you don’t. 10-15% of these tests are showing false positives. For reference, scientists aim to have 2-4% false positives on other medical tests. Another con - there could be a lot of fake tests out there. The FDA has only approved less than 10 tests so far but there are more than 150 on the market.

I’m hearing a lot about Remdisivir again but I thought studies showed it failed?

The reason Remdisivir is getting so much attention right now is that the company who makes it - Gilead - released results of their study and it looks good. It basically showed that patients who take the drug recover faster than those who don’t. (31% faster.) The nation’s top Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci says the FDA is planning to issue an emergency use authorization for the drug. The company says they have 1.5 million doses of the IV medication to go. That would be enough to treat 140,000 patients.

April 29, 2020

What is the difference between being indoors vs outdoors when it comes to the virus spreading?

Being outdoors is helpful because the air and breeze help stir around any possible germs and virus in the air. The World Health Organization says: the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors or surfaces.

When walking or riding bikes do you have to wear a mask?

This has been addressed on KPRC before, but we continue to get these questions daily and in different forms, so it’s worth repeating. If you are exercising by yourself, you do not need to wear a mask. The CEO of Houston Methodist says the chances of the virus spreading outdoors is less than spreading indoors when close to people. It’s up to you if you want to wear a mask outside when exercising.

My daughter had the virus but is well now, I’ve have never felt ill or showed any symptoms, how to do I get tested? I am 66 years old.

If you are not showing any symptoms, you don’t need to get a test. However, if you want to get one, you can. Harris County and the city of Houston are using COVID-19 testing kits that allow individuals to administer the test themselves. An on-site medical professional will oversee the self-administered test. You need to pre-register.

How long does it take after exposure to COVID-19 to develop symptoms?

The time between exposure to COVID-19 and the moment when symptoms start is commonly around five to six days but can range from 1 – 14 days.

April 28, 2020

Now, that the “stay-at-home” order has been lifted, is social distancing still in effect? Is there a limit to the number of people at a social gathering?

Yes, social distancing is still included in the Phase 1 plan to reopen Texas. 6 feet from all people other than your family members at restaurants, malls, movies, museums, and churches. As for the number of people, it’s supposed to be 6 people or less.

How often do you need to clean masks?

If you have one of those homemade masks, you can put them in hot water to wash them or use a bleach solution to use them. The easiest thing to do with cloth masks is to throw them in the washing machine. The heat in the dryer is good to kill germs too. This is information from the CDC. Masks can be used over and over again. However, surgical masks cannot be cleaned. The CDC says you can reuse them more than once and replace them frequently.

Just to clarify, H-E-B requires shoppers to wear a mask, and Kroger is just encouraging it?

Most grocery stores we talked to are recommending masks.

Has Houston reached its peak?

Information about the peak changes often. First, we were told April 19th, it’s changed. We think this is information they won’t really have until after because we will look back and see the information after. Some experts say we still haven’t hit the peak. We are bound to be close because we do know the social distancing has helped the numbers. However, there also hasn’t been testing available from the beginning, so determining if we have hit the peak can be debated.

April 27, 2020

Need info on requirements for the adult disabled to wear masks in public. I have a 21 year old autistic son who does not want to keep the mask on.

Your son does not have to wear the mask. Judge Hidalgo specifically mentioned any adults with special needs who cannot wear a mask, do not need to do so. If wearing the mask would cause them undue stress. She did mention if this was the case, to limit exposure to public areas. But, even then, if you must go out it is OK.

Why is the sign language person not wearing a mask? He is not 6 feet away from the judge.

Judge Hidalgo mentioned this last week in one of her press conferences. She said the sign language person will not be wearing a mask because his facial expressions and lip movement are part of the communication that he is doing. Wearing a mask would shield this part of the communication he is doing for the audience.

I am not showing signs of COVID-19, but I am curious about my status. What are my testing options?

There are many options for testing right now. Mayor Turner announced a new Houston COVID-19 testing site Monday that he said will be close to neighborhoods with vulnerable populations considered at high risk for severe illness from the virus.

The United Memorial Medical Center testing site will be located at Barnett Sports Complex, which is at 6800 Fairway. Mayor Turner said the testing site is for people with and without symptoms. Officials are also looking to get mobile units in order to go into communities and test more people.

April 24, 2020

What are experts seeing as the underlying causes of coronavirus or the top 5 or 10?

This is what we continue to report from the CDC as the people most at risk:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

What are the PPE (personal protective equipment) needs in our community? Is there enough?

Yes, luckily there is enough PPE. The biggest challenge for the local hospitals is that they are used to working with at least a month supply stored away to prepare for a surge in patients at any moment, most tell me they’re working with just a few days supply at a time. They’ve been coming up with ways to keep their staff protected through donations, sterilizing what’s in stock or UT Health is using 3D printers to make their own. Here’s one example.

What is the ventilator count in Harris County now and compared to last year?

The Houston area does not have a shortage of ventilators. The Texas Medical Center ventilator updates are current and updated every week. It does not compare year to year. We first introduced viewers to ventilator updates last month.

I saw a new story about a cat getting coronavirus. Should I worry about my cat?

The CDC just released new information about pets and coronavirus. They show it does appear coronavirus can spread from humans to animals in some situations. There has only been a small number of pets, including cats, infected with the virus. These are pets that had close contact with a person with COVID19. It doesn’t appear there is a huge risk to pets or that they might place a significant role in spreading the virus.

April 23, 2020

I bought some masks from Amazon. They came from China in plastic bags of 25. Do you think they are safe to use? Should I quarantine them or separate them or Lysol them first?

A lot of medical supplies like masks are made in China so I’m not surprised they came from there. The CDC stands by its statement that there is a very low risk of anything being transmitted by mail since the virus doesn’t survive on surfaces for more than 1-3 days (probably less time than your package was in transit). They recommend if you want to take a lot of extra precautions then you can wipe down products with a disinfectant and throw away the box it came in.

Can you tell me how a face mask is not able to stop you from obtaining the COVID 19 virus, but at the same time prevents you from spreading?

Wearing a mask will protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. It does also help protect you but may not keep all germs out because of cross-contamination with your hands or maybe touching your eyes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains how this may prevent you from getting sick.

Is there a way to know the number of people that have unfortunately died from Covid19, whether they had gotten the regular flu vaccine by the end of December 2019?

We have gotten a lot of questions about the flu vaccine and if this has helped people regarding the Coronavirus. The bottom line right now - we just don’t know how the flu vaccine may have impacted this pandemic. Harvard Health explained it this way: getting a flu shot can help protect you against the seasonal flu. Staying healthy keeps your immune system up and able to fight other virus infections. We are keeping tabs on any news related to the flu vaccine and coronavirus and will update you as soon as we get any new information.

April 22, 2020

Why do I see people wearing masks while they are driving alone in their cars?

Experts actually recommend to put your mask on inside your home and keep it on until you get back home. This is so you don’t accidentally cross-contaminate the mask (and yourself). You should also try not to touch the face part of the mask and remove it by the handles/strings each time. For cloth masks, experts recommend washing your mask each time you wear it.

Those folks who are tested “positive” is anything being given to lessen the impact? Or do you just sweat it out and isolate?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. Doctors are treating patients depending on their condition. We interviewed a woman in Liberty County who was given high doses of Vitamin C, cough medicine and Tylenol for headache and pain. Experts have asked that you self quarantine at home unless your symptoms become severe like you have problems breathing.

Now that elective procedures are allowed, how long should I expect to wait to get in to see a doctor?

Beginning April 22nd, restrictions on elective procedures and surgeries are lifted. But that doesn’t mean you will get in to see a doctor quickly. We reached out to all of the major hospital systems in the Houston area to see when they’ll be starting elective procedures. Each has a different plan, prioritizing patients based on several factors. Mostly outpatient surgeries and procedures like mammograms or CT scans will start first.

April 21, 2020

Where is this curve everyone is talking about?

If you’re talking about flattening the curve which refers to hospitals, we are doing a good job of that and researchers think the social distancing is what helped. The hospitals are currently below what’s manageable for them and therefore overwhelming the system isn’t as big of a problem for us as it was in NY, Italy or China. If you live in Harris County or Houston, you might be interested in this site.

Could you please show daily totals with like a 3 or 5-day trend?

Good point! Creating graphs for every scenario isn’t always possible but we’ve put a lot of the information on our website. There is a complete list of KPRC articles where you can find details for other numbers you’re interested in tracking by area, zip code, and daily cases.

Let’s say I just touched the virus somewhere and I am contaminated. How much time do I have to go to wash my hands?

You should wash your hands immediately if you know you touched something that might have the virus on it. Most important - don’t touch your face before. Or, if you are wearing a mask, don’t touch the mask portion. You’ll want to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

When will Veterans Administration start testing at VA Hospital and VA Clinics in the Houston area?

All Veterans should call your VA if you have symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath before going to any of our VA facilities. Houston VA has been and will continue to test symptomatic inpatients for COVID-19. Veterans who are at home experiencing symptoms are encouraged to call their primary care doctor or email them through myhealthetvet for assistance. Testing is available for outpatients in the community through many drive-thru sites.

April 20, 2020

My husband and I have been at home with no outside contact in our home and we have not been out except in our yard. We have no symptoms except coughing at times. We are age 85 and 78. We are afraid if we go for testing more risk for us outside of the home.

While it’s probably best to ask your doctor, I assume they will tell you there’s no reason to test if you aren’t showing symptoms. Plus it sounds like you’re taking all the right precautions to protect yourselves. More testing sites keep opening up in our area, but you are right to ask about trying to get tested if you might not need it.

How do I know if my elective procedure will be allowed later this week?

Beginning Wednesday, 22 restrictions on elective medical procedures will be loosened. Gov Abbott cited a diagnostic test for suspected cancer as an example. Each hospital system is handling the elective procedures in a different way. If you have an elective procedure you are wondering about, it’s best to contact your doctor. Most hospital systems are reviewing guidelines and taking appropriate steps to reintroduce patients.

Are ventilators only used once?

Ventilators are used more than once. They undergo cleaning and disinfection between patients. Every ventilator used does not have to be new to be safe for patients. So far in Texas, there has not been a shortage of ventilators for people who need them.

April 17, 2020

I’m a medical esthetician and am really nervous about everything reopening. With my line of work, there’s no way to socially distance myself. My question is, will my employer need to provide me with PPE and what recourse do I have if she doesn’t?

Good question! And you’re not alone. We have gotten similar questions and I see a new poll shows 66% of America is worried about reopening businesses too soon. The short answer is, no, I do not think they’ll be required to provide you with any PPE but consumer reporter Amy Davis did this really good Q&A that sort of touches on what you’re asking.

Remember, they’re still rolling out the guidelines on how businesses should reopen and we don’t have a date yet on when that will happen so this information could change A LOT before then.

If a person tests positive for Covid-19, they self-isolate for 14 days, then test negative 2X, can they confidently go out without risk to themselves or others, i.e., are the “Recovered” free to move about?

You should check with your doctor just to be safe, but you should be recovered and free to move about after two negative tests and self-isolation. They’ll probably tell you to continue taking precautions like wearing a mask and frequently washing hands. There’s no evidence yet on whether someone can get the virus again after the first infection.

Where can I find a cloth mask?

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a high demand for respiratory masks and shields, companies that typically make vastly different products are dropping everything and switching to one common cause. Here’s a good list of companies that are now producing masks or shields to help fight the pandemic as possible.

Is high blood pressure considered a “high risk” category?

Yes, it seems so. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the globe, people with high blood pressure are among those who are at heightened risk for more severe complications should they contract Covid-19. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from February 12 to March 28 showed that 9% of Covid-19 patients in the United States also self-reported a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.

April 16, 2020

I have developed a case of hives on one upper leg. I have never had hives before. Is it a coincidence that I have hives at this time of COVID-19 crisis?

We have not heard of hives as being a symptom but we have heard of very weird symptoms that aren’t common: pink eye, loss of smell. You should check with your doctor if you think you may have Coronavirus. Remember they’ll ask you about other common symptoms too: cough, fever, shortness of breath.

What about hair? Should I cover my hair when I’m outside my home? Does the virus attach itself to hair?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the virus could be viable for “hours to days” depending on the surface and conditions. When it comes to stainless steel and plastic the coronavirus could live for a few days. However, experts agree it’s unlikely the virus can stay on hair for any length of time.

You mentioned the name of a testing facility here that could send personnel over to our homes if we are immunocompromised like diabetes. What is the company’s name?

United Memorial is offering free mobile coronavirus testing in the Houston area. Mayor Turner also announced a city partnership with Russell Westbrook Why Not Foundation to help provide free testing. Anyone with a disability who cannot access a testing site due to their disability should contact MOPD at 832-394-0814 or email them at mopdmail@houstontx.gov.

April 15, 2020

Where can people go to get tested if they’ve been exposed to the virus but don’t have symptoms?

This week is the first-week people without symptoms are able to be tested for the coronavirus in our area. If you want to be tested, there are four locations where you can go. You’ll have to pre-register by phone or online. Two are in Houston, at Butler Stadium and Delmar Stadium. Galveston County has one already in Texas City. They are opening one Thursday at Fire Station number 5 in Galveston.

I am being told that the Clorox ones are the only good ones against COVID-19. But labels for Wet Ones wipes sound similar saying it kills 99.99% of bacteria. Do the Wet Ones help with coronavirus?

If both say they kill 99.9% of viruses then they’re both safe to use. It does not have to be specifically the Clorox brand. You’ll probably notice on the back label of both they say they can kill the Coronavirus, which is because the companies have tested the product against Coronavirus before we knew about COVID-19. Remember, Coronavirus is like a family of viruses including SARs and MERs. Experts believe what can kill those can also kill COVID-19.

Don’t forget, to be most effective make sure the surface stays wet after you wipe it. Let it air dry.

Is it OK to reuse masks?

That depends on the kind you’re using. When sanitizing your cloth on homemade masks, it is easy since you can put them in hot water, wash them with a bleach solution, or even easier, throw them in the washing machine. After a spin in the hot dryer, masks are ready for the next use and can be used over and over. If you’re using a surgical mask, (the kind that are just a bit stronger than a paper towel) the harsh cleaning agents can damage them and make them less effective.

You can reuse them more than once but should replace them frequently, using your best judgment on when to do so.

Does it matter what type of soap I use to wash my hands?

Probably not. Any kind of soap, used properly with water for the recommended 20 seconds of handwashing, will do the trick! Proper handwashing will remove SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from your hands. And just in case you were wondering, antibacterial soap doesn’t do anything extra to help. All of this handwashing may cause dry or cracked skin. Here’s some advice from a doctor about how to help heal your hands.

April 14, 2020

Is there any data that shows that if you had the pneumonia vaccine, it will offer protection from getting a more serious case of the coronavirus if you happen to get the virus?

The answer is no, the pneumonia shot won’t help according to the World Health Organization. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and the World Health Organization is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Why would I need to wear a mask if I am walking alone and not near people?

Droplets from a cough can spread pretty far and stick around for a few minutes. In fact, Finnish researchers just released an eye-opening simulation that shows the spread of cough droplets in a grocery store environment. Check it out here. The research found that people even a dry cough (like you might have with coronavirus) spread droplets way down the grocery store aisle and sometimes over to the aisle next to you.

Vitamin C and similar supplements are sold out in stores. Are people taking them to prevent coronavirus? Does that work?

People might just be taking extra Vitamin C as a precautionary measure. It is true, people who are deficient in Vitamin C could be more at risk of developing COVID-19 because their immunity is impaired. Vitamin C deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections. It could also contribute to a less robust immune response, poor wound healing, and an increased risk of pneumonia.

April 13, 2020

How long is the incubation period for Coronavirus?

The “incubation period” means 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 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These are just estimates. Researchers are looking into current cases and will update this information once they learn more by studying what is happening.

Now I’m hearing more about other coronaviruses. Is there more than one coronavirus?

Yes, there are many different kinds of coronavirus. Some have been circulating among human beings for years, causing mild colds. Others have caused small, severe human disease outbreaks in the past, such as the coronaviruses that caused SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012. The new coronavirus is different from these and was only identified in December 2019.

Where can I go for drive-thru coronavirus testing?

A new drive-thru testing site opened up today in southeast Houston. The site at Cullen Middle School at 6900 Scott Street is the fourth of the sites that has been opened by University Memorial Medical Center with help from U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Houston). There are now 10+ sites like this open in the Houston area.

Can you please advise me of any restrictions for driving between Houston and Dallas at this time? I have stayed home for 5-6 weeks now, with no symptoms of the COVID 19.

There are no laws to keep families apart so you have to use your best judgement on this. The only real travel restrictions are by air and only by car if coming from Louisiana. The stay home order encourages people to stay away from each other to limit and reduce infection rates and discourages any travel outside of your home that isn’t essential (grocery shopping, medical needs, caregiving for adults or children) but how you choose to interpret that is kind of up to you.

April 10, 2020

Is there any info on whether people who have had current flu vaccines and pneumonia shots fair better during this pandemic?

We have heard this commented on before by the White House advisory board. The answer is -- the flu shot won’t protect you from the coronavirus.

However, the symptoms between the two viruses are similar so getting the flu shot to reduce your risk of sickness (and anything getting confused with Coronavirus) can help. This will also be greatly appreciated by hospitals who do not want to get overwhelmed with patients right now.

The same goes for the pneumonia vaccine, according to WHO.

Can you please help me understand why some people are given the nasal cavity and other oral procedures?

We don’t know why some people are given one and others are given another. However, I can tell you those tests are not perfect. In fact, you could argue the tests are pretty bad at confirming cases. Yet, they’re all we’ve got right now.

The National Academy of Sciences sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday, explaining that the Coronavirus test sometimes misses positive cases. One study missed 16 cases out of 51. But who's to blame? This virus is so new, most of the experts in this field are just doing what they can to serve the community as fast as possible and it's not perfect yet. There is also uncertainty about whether people develop immunity after recovering from the Coronavirus.

Are you aware of any estimates for the number of coronavirus cases at Houston’s peak?

For Houston in particular, no, we haven’t seen that data but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there. I do have some information for the peak in Texas and unfortunately, it changes literally every single day.

Earlier this week, KPRC’s Joel Eisenbaum did this easy-to-digest report on the peak in Texas. The good news from that report is the predicted number of deaths at the peak is down to 2,000 (if that can be considered good news?). The bad news is, just yesterday the officials who are making predictions about this peak once again moved the expected date from April 19th to April 22nd. Meaning, we still have three more weeks before we get there.

April 9, 2020

What is convalescent plasma? How could it help people with COVID-19?

When people recover from COVID-19, their blood contains antibodies that their bodies produced to fight the coronavirus and help them get well. Antibodies are found in plasma, a component of blood.

Convalescent plasma is literally plasma from recovered patients. This has been used for more than 100 years to treat a variety of illnesses from measles to polio, chickenpox, and SARS. Antibody-containing plasma from a recovered patient is given by transfusion to a patient who is suffering from COVID-19. The donor antibodies help the patient fight the illness, possibly shortening the length or reducing the severity of the disease.

Who can donate plasma for COVID-19?

In order to donate plasma, a person must meet several criteria. They have to have tested positive for COVID-19, recovered, have no symptoms for 14 days, currently test negative for COVID-19, and have high enough antibody levels in their plasma. A donor and patient must also have compatible blood types. Once plasma is donated, it is screened for other infectious diseases, such as HIV.

Each donor produces enough plasma to treat one to three patients. Donating plasma should not weaken the donor's immune system nor make the donor more susceptible to getting reinfected with the virus.

If donors qualify, they can call 713-791-6373 Mon.-Fri. from 8am to 4pm to get on the waitlist.

How can people with disabilities get tested for coronavirus if they can’t drive to a testing site?

Good news! There is a new mobile testing site that will come to you. United Memorial Medical Center has rolled out a new tool in the fight against coronavirus. This mobile testing unit is the first of its kind in the Houston area.

Does heating things or freezing them get rid of COVID-19 bacteria?

From food you get delivered to food you get at the grocery store, food does not transmit the coronavirus. Heating or freezing your food won’t get rid of any virus that might be on the food. We’ve talked about disposing of to-go containers and sanitizing other packages that may come into your home. Your best bet is to get in the habit of washing your hands often, including before and after preparing meals, eating meals and after you come home if you have gone out.

April 8, 2020

My husband was told on Friday afternoon that one of his coworker’s wife tested positive for the virus. The coworker is negative. If my husband is not showing symptoms should he quarantine to be on the safe side?

I would recommend talking to your doctor if you’re concerned but I imagine they’ll tell him there’s nothing he can do unless he shows symptoms. It’s true, you can have the virus without feeling bad and test negative if you test too early but that’s really why leaders are stressing social distancing. I understand how important it is to keep going to work right now, so most of our leaders and doctors are saying to just take all the necessary precautions at work (handwashing, social distancing 6 feet away and covering coughs) and you should be OK.

What is the role of Respiratory Therapist in first-line treatment of COVID? Are only doctors and nurses the first-line health care workers?

No, it’s not just doctors and nurses on the front lines. Hospital staff includes specialists, surgeons, technicians, nurse practitioners, etc. The role of a respiratory therapist will be particularly important during this pandemic because they are responsible for managing oxygen and they operate the ventilators. All you’ve heard about the high demand for ventilators right now means the respiratory therapists are going to be critical to all the patients who need them. Therefore, they’re crucial in the fight against COVID-19.

Should my kids wear masks?

We asked Dr. Stan Spinner, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care about this one. Here is what he said:

The CDC now has guidelines stating that cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years of age. These recommendations do not pertain to surgical or procedural masks, as they are acceptable for children younger than 2 years of age. Children older than 2, should be advised to wear masks to help reduce the spread of the virus.

I saw the new expected peak date for COVID-19 in our area is now April 19. Do you think that means we can stop social distancing as much?

Good question. These new projections take into account that people will continue social distancing through April as planned. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, is looking at the numbers and advising the city on stay-at-home policies. For now, Hotez does not recommend a change in the stay-home policy for Harris County.

April 7, 2020

Does Microban disinfectant work as advertised for 24 hours compared to Lysol?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that for “disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.” There is a list of approved disinfectants and how you can easily see if what you have will work.

I see various companies making hand sanitizer, but I thought you said homemade hand sanitizer wasn’t a good idea.

CDC does not encourage the production and use of homemade hand sanitizer products because of concerns over the correct use of the ingredients and the need to work under sterile conditions to make the product. However, you may see local industries working to make homemade hand sanitizer. Most likely they are using the World Health Organization guidance.

The CDC says: Do not rely on “Do It Yourself” or “DIY” recipes based solely on essential oils or formulated without correct compounding practices. To be effective against killing some types of germs, hand sanitizers need to have a strength of at least 60% alcohol and be used when hands are not visibly dirty or greasy.

Is the COVID19 Pandemic overblown? Can someone explain why we are taking such extreme measures over the COVID19 virus?

We get a variation of this question almost daily. Let’s compare COVID19 to the flu virus. Basically, the flu has been around a lot longer so the death count is higher but the percentage of people killed by Coronavirus is higher than the percentage of fatalities from the flu, therefore, our leaders want to stop the spread before Coronavirus becomes as common as the flu (and could kill more people and certainly strain our hospital system).

The new coronavirus appears to be more contagious with a higher fatality rate than the seasonal flu. Globally, about 3.4% of COVID-19 cases have died. So, while the numbers of flu cases are higher, the percentage of people that COVID-19 kills is greater. Dr. Marc Boom, the president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said the fatality rate for COVID-19 gets higher, the older you are. We are also seeing people with coronavirus with random symptoms.

April 6, 2020

Could I have had COVID-19 in early February?

Actually, some doctors think yes. One UT infectious disease doctor thinks there was community spread of the illness before we ever realized it. The good news for you is that the majority of people recover without complications and some people don’t get sick at all. So, you can contact your primary care doctor but I assume they’ll tell you you’re OK and it’s passed. There’s no good test right now to determine if you ever had it.

“I was extremely sick 5 weeks ago. I had a dry cough, headaches, pain in my chest, fever and night sweats. The meds he gave me was a Zpac and Azythromicine. This finally killed the fever after three days. I still have some sharp pain in my chest. Since I was never tested for coronavirus, I only have the suspicion that I had it. Has anyone ever shared how long their side effects are lasting? Also, I understand the FDA approved a test for antibodies... who would I call to get that info? If I had it and recovered, I would love to be able to help in some way.”

This is a good question and one I’ve actually gotten a lot. Some doctors think the virus was going around before we had confirmation of community spread. Therefore, according to them, you might have had it. There have not been any studies to show the symptoms last longer than 14 days, but this is still considered a new virus so that information may change. There are blood tests in existence to evaluate if you’ve ever had a certain type of virus before (its called a serology test) but they don’t have one readily available yet for Coronavirus. The good news is, one is on the horizon.

Does the Coronavirus affect those with Fibromyalgia differently?

Just last week the CDC released information on underlying conditions and Coronavirus. Fibromyalgia was included in neuro conditions and only 7% of hospitalizations were patients with these kinds of conditions. Here’s the info: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6913e2.htm Also, here’s a helpful article from NFA on reducing flare-ups right now.

Is a lost sense of smell a symptom of COVID-19? What should I do if this happens to me?

Just last week we detailed the strange symptoms some people with COVID-19 are experiencing. Loss of smell is one of them. Increasing evidence suggests that a lost sense of smell, known medically as anosmia, may be a symptom of COVID-19. This is not surprising, because viral infections are a leading cause of loss of sense of smell, and COVID-19 is caused by a virus.

Still, loss of smell might help doctors identify people who do not have other symptoms, but who might be infected with the COVID-19 virus — and who might be unwittingly infecting others. But, this could also be a sign of allergies. Either way, you should tell your doctor right away if you find yourself newly unable to smell.

April 3, 2020

Last week had body aches and feeling feverish. Feeling a lot better now. The problem now I can’t go back to work. Can I get tested without a fever?

You probably wouldn’t be approved for testing since you don’t have a fever. Doctors are screening patients before they are allowing tests. You could call your doctor and get work clearance that way? Another option is that you could buy your own at-home testing kit, but that may take longer to get results.

I had a negative COVID-19 Test. Is there a chance I took the test too early and it just didn’t give the right results?

If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later.

Should you have separate clothes and shoes to wear in public?

If you’re in healthcare or working closely with the public, it’s advised that you have clothes and shoes you wear at work and don’t bring them into your house. It’s not a guarantee this will make you sick, it’s just being extremely cautious during these uncertain times.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed coronavirus can live on cardboard for 24 hours and on stainless steel and plastic for up to three days. It can live on soft surfaces for even longer. It’s possible the virus can survive on synthetic materials for as long as five days.

Are people with disabilities considered “higher risk” for getting Coronavirus?

The CDC says most people with disabilities are not inherently at higher risk of becoming infected with or having severe illness from COVID-19. Some people with physical limitations or other disabilities might be at a higher risk of infection because of their underlying medical condition. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health or how your health condition is being managed.

April 2, 2020

I heard there were new guidelines for who is considered recovered from the coronavirus?

Yes, on April 1, the CDC changed the guidelines for who is considered “recovered” from COVID-19. The CDC used to say a person who had or thought they had coronavirus was considered recovered only after symptoms disappeared after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Now the CDC says those who have or may have coronavirus may also be considered recovered if they are fever-free for three days without the help of fever-reducing medication and if it has been at least 7 days since symptoms first appeared.

The CDC warns some patients may be contagious for longer than others. The test-based strategy is preferred for patients who are hospitalized or severely immunocompromised or being transferred to long-term care or assisted living facility.

What is a good hand cream to put on your hands to prevent redness itchy skin from washing your hands numerous times daily?

Handwashing strips natural oils so your hands may be super dry. Consider using hand creams to help relieve dry skin (instead of lotions). For sensitive hands, opt for fragrance-free products that may have dimethicone, polyuronic acid or shea butter. Hand cream suggestions include Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula Hand Cream or just good ole Vaseline.

Another note: Choose a tube over a tub. Dipping your fingers into a tub of lotion may just spread germs.

Can I get coronavirus from food?

You might be worried about produce or other items that someone else could have touched before it got to you. The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization say that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus. The information available from outbreaks of SARS and MERS, caused by coronaviruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19, is reassuring. The evidence showed that those illnesses were not transmitted by food.

It’s still a good idea to practice good food safety habits including washing your hands, wash fruits and vegetables and don’t eat raw dough or batter.

April 1, 2020

How many tests does someone need to be deemed virus-free?

We asked Harris County Public Health when a patient is deemed fully recovered. There are several steps for that criteria. First, the patient has to be free and clear of any symptoms. Then, the patient has to have a negative result for the virus and then be tested again in 24 hours. After the patient tests negative both times, they are considered recovered. However, tests are not easy to come by at this time.

My son does not drive. What if he gets sick from the virus? How can he get a test?

Just last week an at-home test became available for people in our area. There’s lots of other “start-ups” across the country too but I think this one is already available. It’s expensive, $135, but it might be the best option if a loved one is unable to get to a testing site. If someone is very sick and needs immediate help, you should call 911.

We keep hearing about some people with “mild” cases. What symptoms are they having?

We are learning more about the virus as more cases of coronavirus show up in our area. So, it’s worth revisiting this. We are seeing about 80% of coronavirus cases are non-severe. These mild symptoms include sniffles, coughing, sore throat and a low-grade fever. Basically, a rough cold. Either way, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have questions. Telemedicine services are now provided with most heath insurance plans.

We have a vaccine schedule, should I try and take my kids in for their vaccines right now?

This may depend on many factors and you should call your doctor and ask what they think. Experts agree for children older than two years, waiting for scheduled vaccines is probably fine. (However for some children with special conditions you might not want to get behind on the schedule.) For babies and toddlers, consult your doctor. Also consider that a trip to the doctor may expose them to COVID-19 so there is that to think about too.

March 31, 2020

If my family or friend has quarantined for two weeks as I have can we then see each other in person?

It depends. Was the person sick? When a person with COVID-19 becomes sick they must quarantine. Then, they must wait until they go three days without any symptoms before then starting a 14-day quarantine. After that period of time, the person can be in contact with other people. The usual six feet social distancing rules still apply. Just yesterday we heard from a woman who is almost fully recovered from COVID-19. While she does feel better, she still has to wait for her symptoms to completely disappear before she can then start the 14-day quarantine.

How many total numbers of tests are done and how many came positive and how many come negative?

As of Monday, 35,880 tests have been conducted in Texas. Texas reported 325 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, bringing the total number of known cases to 2,877. Nearly half of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Seth Christensen, a spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said on March 26 the state received 15,000 test kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and another shipment of 15,000 test kits came in on March 28. Each kit can test one person.

What amount of time is expected when getting COVID results? My husband Is a first responder and I am 37 weeks pregnant with twins. It’s been 6 days.

Each individual testing center has different turn around times. The most accurate timetable would come from the testing center. But right now, we’re hearing the average is 4-7 days. Other centers are indicating 7-10 days. With the influx of testing, the tests only go to a few labs for results and these labs are backlogged.

March 30, 2020

How does COVID-19 compare to H1N1?

The number of flu deaths is higher because the flu is more common. However, the coronavirus kills a larger percentage of people infected, so the fear is if it becomes as common as the flu, it could kill a lot more people. It could certainly crowd our hospitals.

That’s why you see strict measures being taken to stop the spread.

One tip I keep seeing is to clean all “highly touched” surfaces. What are some examples of this?

It is recommended to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas. These areas include tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.

My family is staying home and being very careful. Still, I’m terrified one of us will get sick. Is there anything else I can do besides the obvious things to stay healthy?

We understand this is such an unknown time and there are so many questions. Part of feeling safe is knowing that you have a plan. It may sound simple, but have you come up with a family plan for just in case one of you gets sick? This will make you feel more in control of the situation because you know what you would do. Some of the family planning guidelines include creating a household checklist, preparing a quarantined area just in case and keeping in touch with neighbors.

March 27, 2020

If you get coronavirus once, can you get it again? Do you get any immunity from this virus that could keep you safe from getting another infection?

Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn explains when you get infected you developed antibodies. They take 3-6 weeks to be generated. As patients recover their antibodies generate a high level of immunity. This is the concept behind the use of convalescent plasma. What we don’t know is how long the immunity lasts. It might be like influenza which is during a short period of time. This is why a vaccine would help.

What do I do if someone in my house gets sick with coronavirus?

If someone in your home gets sick, there is a guideline for what you should be doing in your home. Part of the advice recommends having the person stay in one room away from people. If possible, have them use a separate bathroom. Avoid sharing household items and wear facemasks. You’ll want to clean all surfaces that are touched each day and use gloves while doing laundry. Follow the usual handwashing guidelines.

Are people with asthma more susceptible to getting the virus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with asthma may be at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. This is because COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). This can cause an asthma attack and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

March 26, 2020

I’m pregnant and worried. Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant mother to a newborn?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to find answers about this. Here is what they say about it: We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Can pets carry the virus on their skin and fur?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to care for your pet. There is no reason at this time to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States.

March 25, 2020

I have masks I can donate, where do I take them?

People can go to www.texas.gov/covid19 to sell or donate PPE to the state’s effort.

What about our daily mail delivery? Even if the carrier is wearing gloves, can’t the mail be carrying the virus? How should we handle our mail delivery?

The chance of paper/cardboard carrying the virus is very low. Imagine all that has to happen for the virus to get on the exact mail you open and then make you sick. When I’ve asked doctors about it they address it like an extremely hypothetical situation.

If you want to take all the precautions that you can, take a look at this demo.

March 24, 2020

Why is coronavirus worse than the flu?

The number of flu deaths is higher because the flu is more common. Coronavirus kills a larger percentage of people infected, so the fear is if it becomes as common as the flu, it could kill a lot more people. It could certainly crowd our hospitals. That’s why you see strict measures being taken to stop the spread.

The measures being taken to stop the spread are a prevention to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed/ to keep healthcare workers safe from illness so they can save lives. We know it can happen and have seen it happen in China, Spain, Italy.

I know of a hospital that closed down. Why can’t we use the empty building for the coronavirus outbreak?

That might already be in the contingency plans for our leaders but they’re not at that point yet. Right now, they say, the number of Coronavirus patients is manageable in our hospitals or at home. Here are more details on the hospital’s current capacity: https://www.click2houston.com/health/2020/03/21/as-coronavirus-cases-in-the-houston-area-surge-will-the-healthcare-system-be-able-to-handle-it/

Do people need to change their home A/C filters more often with concerns about coronavirus?

There is no data on a/c filters and the coronavirus, according to Dr. Ronald Walters, President of Harris County Medical Society.

If someone is in isolation, can they spread illness throughout the house via air ducts?

The major ways the virus is transmitted is through touch and droplets, according to Dr. Ronald Walters, President of Harris County Medical Society.

March 23, 2020

How do people apply for government checks? Is there an online form?

You should not have to apply. They will use your tax return from 2018 to determine how much you will get, unless you already filed for 2019 and then they might use that tax return. Keep in mind, you could get taxed on this later: Read more.

I have a CPAP machine that funnels air to me during the night. In the absence of a ventilator would this help coronavirus patients at all?

From the American Academy of Sleep medicine, “It is unclear whether CPAP could make the Coronavirus worse. But using CPAP could increase the risk of spreading the virus to others around you. Talk to your medical provider about your treatment options for sleep apnea.”

Why can’t you tell me more about the patients? The public deserves to know.

I understand your frustration. Local leaders disagree about what is needed to know.

Coronavirus test results are reported to the city or county health department and then that information is made public. Those departments are not required to give us more information about the patients, they claim privacy laws as the reason why we can’t know more about them.

How does being tested help the person that is clearly sick?

Then you know for sure you have it. Then you take isolation VERY seriously and do not come in contact with anyone. Then you know if your symptoms worsen, go to a hospital.

There is no cure for a virus.

True but there are drugs being fast tracked to market and have been given to the sickest patients. Here’s more on that.

March 20, 2020

If someone recently had pneumonia are they more susceptible to COVID19?

Not exactly. The current data only shows people with an underlying reason they developed pneumonia such as immunodeficiency or a history of structural lung disease like COPD, could make someone more susceptible to COVID19 infection but not simply having previously had pneumonia, according to Dr. Jill Weatherhead from Baylor College of Medicine. Lung damage and COPD can put individuals at risk for all respiratory viruses.

Does your blood type make you more susceptible to COVID19?

If you’ve questioned the validity of this rumor, you were right to do so!

There is no recommended screening criteria based upon blood type, said the President of the Harris County Medical Society Dr. Ronald Walters.

All the advice about how to clean and what to clean but what about your cell phone?

Yes, you should regularly disinfect your cell phone. Despite previous warnings that harsh chemicals can damage the screen, Apple says now that disinfectants are OK to use on their products. If you’re concerned, they recommend a screen protector or case to cover the phone.

Will COVID cases go down during summer like the flu does?

That’s a good point that I bring up here, which basically says there’s hope the heat will kill the virus (the virus is not very heat resistant) but there’s no confirmed data yet.

People are encouraging take-out food but what if the handler is sick? Isn’t that dangerous?

While the chances of that exact order having the virus on food is still low, these are the steps to keep food safe, according to CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

-Have person put food at your doorstep, you not taking it from their hand

-Take the container out of the bag

-Put the food on your plate

-Microwave food for 30 seconds would kill the virus

-Throw all packaging away

-WASH YOUR HANDS

(helpful hint: microwaving food for 30 seconds is also recommended to kill bacteria that could give you GI issues.)

March 19, 2020

Should I social distance from my spouse?

The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services says kissing is likely the easiest way to spread the virus but it is not sexually transmitted. Therefore, they advise people to still practice social distancing at home but I understand how unrealistic that can be. Just be aware that if one of you got Coronavirus the other would be at a greater risk of getting/having it and you would certainly need to self-isolate if you tested positive.

My favorite guide on how to self-isolate is here.

Can we kill it by inhaling boiling water stream? Like in India they use this during flu and cold or cough.

The WHO says this will not work to kill a virus that’s already entered your body.

Myth-busting: Which of these DIY home remedies for coronavirus are actually effective?

Will ibuprofen worsen the virus?

There was a lot of concern after the French Minister of Health tweeted to avoid anti-inflammatory medications because they might worsen an infection. However, the World Health Organization told NBC News they are not aware of data that’s true.

If you are concerned, experts say you can take acetaminophen to control a fever, one of the main symptoms of the virus.

With all that is going on, I have not heard anything on helping the homeless.

The CDC is advising that people in shelters sleep head to toe and use temporary barriers, like curtains, between beds. Click here for more details on how this is impacting the homeless population.

How many people have been tested? Why don’t you say how many people test negative instead of just how many do have it?

By law, providers (hospitals, physicians, etc.) are only required to notify Public Health of POSITIVE results.

However, Montgomery County did let KPRC 2 know they’ve received 27 negative results, there are six positive cases and 102 pending tests. Not all of the counties provide this information.

March 18, 2020

Once you have coronavirus, will you have it forever?

The American College of Physicians found it takes 5-12 days for symptoms to show. They said more than 97% of people will show symptoms within 12 days. This fits the CDC recommended 14-day quarantine to show symptoms and then take time to recover from illness.

How do you know someone is recovering from coronavirus?

According to Harris County Public Health, the patient has to be free and clear of any symptoms. Then, the patient has to have a negative test result for the virus and then be tested again in 24-hours. After the patient tests negative both times, they are considered recovered.

Can I still get my car serviced right now?

There are only restrictions for businesses where people congregate. Other organizations may recommend closing to keep people from gathering but there are no government orders to shut down across the state.

Do the closures include gyms?

The White House said states with evidence of community transmission should close bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate. Now online workouts are on the rise.

What about placard and car registration renewals?

Governor Greg Abbott said to help keep people healthy and out of the public, he's also waiving vehicle registrations, titles, and placard renewal rules. People can still renew their registration online.

I have a mammogram, sleep study, dental visit, etc. should I reschedule?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages the people in our community most vulnerable to Coronavirus to stay home as much as possible, avoid crowds and reschedule nonessential doctor appointments. The vulnerable population includes people 60 and older, people who have weakened immune systems and people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.

For them, the CDC said appointments like general physicals, check-ups, follow-ups for a stable condition or an elective procedure can be rescheduled, or make the appointment virtual instead, meaning they encourage calling a telemedicine doctor from home.

As for dental visits, check out this report.

March 17, 2020

Can bugs and or insects carry the virus?

COVID-19 is new and there are a lot of unknowns. However, the health department said they do not believe insects will carry this virus. They make this prediction based off of how other viruses in the Coronavirus family act. Examples of other Coronaviruses include SARS and MERS.

Are we here in Texas the only ones experiencing the closing of schools, bars, clubs, are others having issues with grocery stores?

The entire planet is currently affected or worried about Coronavirus. Currently, countries such as China and Italy are on lockdown. San Francisco has taken the most extreme measures to protect people against the virus.

What is happening to Meals on Wheels recipients?

Meals on Wheels is still working, according to their website.

What are the hospital CEO’s doing to provide beds ... will they be ready if there is a spike of coronavirus patients?

That’s exactly why these drastic measures are being taken. When you hear “flatten the curve” it is because leaders need to bring down the number of potential coronavirus cases (below the curve) to a number that hospitals can handle. This entire “hype” is because of hospital beds. We see this happening in other countries and it’s the reason China has a high number of deaths. There were not enough hospital beds and there may not be enough in America either. Click here to learn more about flattening the curve.

Paper money/coins can still be used even though they’re dirty. What should I know about paying during the coronavirus crisis?

According to the Federal Reserve, the lifespan of certain bills can be up to 15 years, giving cash a lot of time to accumulate germs but with new concerns around the coronavirus, new questions are being raised over how you should pay for things without contracting or spreading any illnesses.

When it comes to cash, the World Health Organization did not issue any warnings over using cash but they do say it’s important to remember to disinfect after handling it. Part of the reason using cash isn’t any more dangerous than other forms of payment is because according to doctors, if you stick to contactless payments but don’t wash your hands after touching your phone, credit card or a payment terminal, you are still at risk of contracting a potential infection. If you or the person handling your form of payment is wearing gloves, make sure to change them often and continue to wash your hands, otherwise, you’re just spreading germs with your gloves instead of your hands.


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