A Guide to COVID-19

The most frequently asked questions about the disease and pandemic, answered.

Model+of+the+novel+coronavirus%2C+SARS-CoV.+Image+courtesy+of+Creative+Commons.

Model of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV. Image courtesy of Creative Commons.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is a respiratory illness that first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since spread all over the world. The disease has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means the disease has a global impact rather than a regional one. The disease is caused by the virus SARS-CoV, also known as the novel coronavirus. SARS-CoV is part of a family of viruses, coronaviruses, which includes the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the common cold.

How does the virus spread?

It is important to note that because the novel coronavirus is, as the name suggests, new, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “still learning how it spreads.” However, it seems that it may spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from the lungs. These droplets can be produced when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes and can remain on surfaces for hours. Being in close contact with another person (six feet, according to the CDC) is how the droplets can travel from person to person, landing in the nose or mouth and being inhaled into the lungs.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are flu-like and include coughing, fever, sore throat, runny nose and shortness of breath.

What are the biggest risk factors for exposure?

People who are older, have compromised immune systems or have pre-existing conditions are most at risk to develop a serious case. The CDC says that people with heart disease, diabetes and lung/respiratory diseases are at a higher risk.

How can I avoid getting the virus?

There’s no way to be sure that you won’t get infected. However, washing your hands for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and minimizing physical contact with others are effective means of reducing your chances of getting COVID-19.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is the practice of intentionally maximizing physical space between you and other people, optimally, to six feet. This means it’s advised to not gather in large crowds or go to crowded places. If possible, stay home, communicate by phone and avoid gatherings, even with friends who may seem well.

What do I do if I feel sick?

If you feel sick, stay home and self-quarantine. Those with mild symptoms can treat their symptoms at home with sufficient sleep and lots of fluids, and many will recover. Others will require further medical assistance or hospitalization. If you need to get in touch with your doctor, call them first; visiting your doctor without notice will further spread the disease.

What does it mean to self-quarantine?

If you believe that you have come into contact with someone with the coronavirus, you should self-quarantine, which means you should stay at home and not leave your house for any reasons besides if you need medical care. Self-quarantines last 14 days, which is long enough for the disease to no longer be contagious according to Dr. Shruti Gohil of the UC Irvine Medical Center. If you begin to develop symptoms during a period of self-quarantine, immediately contact a healthcare provider and seek treatment. Also, notify others you’ve come in contact with about your possible interactions with the diseased person.

How do you get tested and when should I get tested?

If you feel the symptoms or have been exposed to an infected person, you should get tested. There are a lot of testing centers near us, most notably Children’s Healthcare at Egleston, Emory Hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital, Grady-Kirkwood Campus, Northside and Wellstar Atlanta. These are all public health laboratories who have the credentials to test.

What can lead to someone being asymptomatic? Are they contagious during that incubation period?

Once you have contracted the disease, you are infectious for 14 days. It should be noted that it is more difficult for asymptomatic people to spread the disease because they are not sneezing and coughing as much; however, it is still very much possible, says Dr. Gohil. Scientists are not quite sure why certain people are asymptomatic but surmise that it could have to do with pre-existing conditions. Cases can also range from mild to severe with some people with a mild case attributing their symptoms to the common cold.

Why don’t kids get sick as much?

Nobody’s quite sure. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious diseases expert, postulates that it may be because children have less pre-existing conditions than adults which make them more susceptible to the virus.

If you get it once, don’t you become immune?

There are two strands of the disease and so you can catch one and then the other. It is also possible for you to feel better with the virus still being in your body and causing another bout of symptoms later. Needless to say, don’t get coronavirus and think that you’re safe now. Not only could you be putting yourself at risk, it could hurt others around you.

Isn’t the coronavirus just as bad as the flu?

The coronavirus disease is more serious than the flu. In the 2018-2019 flu season, according to the CDC, influenza in the U.S. had approximately a 0.1% mortality rate. As of March 17, the mortality rate for COVID-19 in the U.S. is approximately 1.8%, according to the CDC. According to the WHO, as of March 16, the mortality rate worldwide is approximately 3.9%. As testing increases, the mortality rate of COVID-19 will continue to fluctuate, but it is still much higher than that of the flu—anywhere from 10 to 30 times as deadly.

Should I wear a mask?

The WHO recommends that you only wear a mask if you exhibit symptoms, like coughing, or if you are healthy and around someone with a suspected case of COVID-19. Masks alone cannot prevent infection, so there is no need to wear one if you are healthy and not currently around someone with the disease.

Should I stock up to prepare for quarantine?

In a pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security suggests that you should stock up on a two week supply of food. Currently, paper products like toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are in short supply but are being delivered by Amazon Fresh. Feminine hygiene product shortages are also expected in the coming weeks so if you need them, it is imperative that you buy them now. It is also important to bear in mind that other people may need products more than you do, so don’t overstock.

How long will school be canceled for?

According to CSD, school is canceled indefinitely, which means there is no definite return date. However, on March 16, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a statement ordering the closure of public schools in Georgia until March 31. Then, in its March 17 update, CSD stated that schools will “likely remain closed through spring break with the possibility that we may be closed longer.” Read more about the cancellation here.

What about AP and IB exams?

IB exams will continue to be scheduled at the times dictated by IB, with no exceptions at this point in time. IB however wishes to offer their “empathy and support” and will make further updates on ibo.org if any changes are made. The same applies for AP exams at the moment, though the College Board is working on a way for students to take AP tests at home. The College Board is also much more flexible when it comes to makeup exams than IB is. Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on testing here.

How can I get information about the coronavirus’ impact on our school?

Both DHS and CSD have been sending regular updates through email and publishing them online. CSD’s updates can be found here and DHS’ updates can be found here.

Have a question that wasn’t answered? Contact the writers at 36johnlock@csdecatur.net and 44nayeshad@csdecatur.net, leave a comment on this story or reach out on Instagram @3ten or Twitter @decaturmedia.