FAQ: Coronavirus and social distancing

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Coronavirus mitigation efforts are affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, but you may still have questions about what exactly coronavirus, or COVID-19, is and why so many restrictions have been put into place.

Below, you’ll see answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

WHAT IS COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease people can develop when they contract this new strain of coronavirus. It originated in Wuhan, China, last year (that’s where the ’19’ part of the name comes from). | CDC website

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms generally develop between two and 14 days after exposure. When the case becomes severe, it can develop into type of pneumonia that requires hospitalization. | CDC website

HOW DO YOU GET COVID-19?

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs and small particles of the virus enter another person’s body, generally by inhaling. It’s also possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface where the virus is living and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. This is why health officials are advising you to cover your mouth with your arm when you cough, stand far apart from other people and wash your hands frequently. It appears each infected person spreads the illness to between two and three others — faster than flu but slower than measles or tuberculosis. | Further details

HOW IS COVID-19 DIFFERENT FROM A COLD OR THE FLU?

Influenza, the common cold and COVID-19 are all viral infections, but they are come from different viruses. Flu symptoms are more varied than coronavirus, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. Flu is widespread and kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year — about .1% of those infected. Those deadly cases are spread out over area and time so hospitals can manage them. The fatality rate for coronavirus is at least 10 times higher than that.

The common cold shares some of the same symptoms as the flu, but they come on slower and it’s unusual for the cases to develop into something serious. | Cold vs. Influenza

Doctors treating patients in Bergamo, Italy, which has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, say COVID-19 is completely different than the flu. The primary differences: It spreads much more quickly and a higher percentage of patients require hospitalization. Hospital systems in the areas with the most cases can’t keep up.

HOW MANY PEOPLE GET SEVERE CASES OF COVID-19?

This rate is still being tracked, as is the mortality rate. The death rate could be 1% to 4%, depending on where the outbreak is. The majority of people who contract COVID-19 are going to have mild symptoms — or none at all — and will recover. Older people and those with preexisting health problems are the most likely to develop severe complications, though younger and healthy people may have serious cases, too. The problem with coronavirus is that it can spread so quickly that the number of severe cases rises so quickly hospitals are overwhelmed.

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I HAVE COVID-19?

Stay calm. You may just have a cold or the flu. Even if you do have COVID-19, most cases are mild and you’ll probably recover at home. Isolate yourself and your entire household while you seek advice from a doctor via a televisit. Do not go directly to your doctor’s office — you could contribute to the spread. You can go to Michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find out where to get tested and how to set up an appointment. Only go the emergency room if it’s an actual emergency, like if you can’t breathe. | What to do if you have illness symptoms

(Courtesy state of Michigan)

WHAT IS SOCIAL DISTANCING AND WHY ARE WE DOING IT?

Social distancing is the practice of separating ourselves from one another so as to slow the spread of the virus. This is why mass events like sports games have been canceled and why areas where people congregate, like bars and restaurant dining rooms, have been closed. When you must interact with others, like at your job or in a grocery store, stand 6 feet apart. This makes it harder for the virus to spread. | Explaining social distancing

As we’ve noted, the problem with coronavirus is that it spreads so quickly that the number of severe cases can rise faster than hospitals can keep up with. We saw this happen in China, Italy and Spain — health care systems are overrun, making it very hard to care for the small percentage of patients who developed severe cases. New York City neared a similar point; a field hospital was set up in Central Park and a U.S. Navy hospital ship was sent to the city in anticipation of a crisis.

You may have heard the term “flatten the curve.” That is the goal of widespread social distancing measures — turning an unmanageable spike in cases into a manageable load. | Flatten the curve

IS SOCIAL DISTANCING WORKING?

Yes, state officials say. Michigan is seeing a plateau in cases, with the daily numbers of new confirmed cases and additional deaths declining. But officials warn we have to keep at it — if we loosen restrictions too soon, they say, we could see a second spike. | Whitmer says fight continues

WHY ISN’T EVERYONE GETTING TESTED FOR COVID-19?

Initially, there were not enough test kits available to test everyone who was presenting symptoms of COVID-19. But by mid-April, testing had ramped up considerably. Under the latest state guidelines, even those experiencing only mild symptoms can may tested, and all essential workers can get tested regardless of whether they are symptomatic. You can go to Michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find out where to get tested and how to set up an appointment.

WHAT’S CLOSED BECAUSE OF COVID-19?

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, just about every public space is being affected in one way or another. Universities are going online-only and K-12 schools are closed. Bars, gyms, hair and nail salons, and many other businesses are closed, and restaurants can only do takeout or delivery. Many national retail chains have adjusted hours or closed completely. Grocery stores are still open, though Walmart, Meijer and SpartanNash have limited hours to keep shelves stocked.

WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE VIOLATES THE STAY-AT-HOME ORDER?

Executive orders, like the stay-at-home order, are enforceable by law. If you choose to ignore the stay-at home order, you could face a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also set an additional civil infraction fine of $1,000 for people who violate social distancing orders, which means you could face a total fine of $1,500. Businesses that shirk the order could also lose their state license. However, most police agencies say they’re focusing on education over punishment. | Who should you call about violations?

CAN I LOSE MY JOB IF I STAY HOME WHEN SICK?

No. On April 3, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order explicitly prohibiting employers from firing or disciplining any worker who stays home if they have tested positive for or show symptoms of COVID-19, or if they have had close contact with someone who has it. | Details

HOW CAN I HELP?

The state is taking donations of various medical supplies. Reach out to the Michigan Community Service Commission at COVID19donations@michigan.gov or 517.335.4295.| State on donations

The state also needs people to volunteer to help with contact tracing, the process of tracking patients’ movement to find who else may have been exposed and warn them to quarantine. | Volunteer

Certain hospitals and other nonprofit agencies are also taking donations. | Where and how to donate

Ottawa County has created a website where low-risk people can sign up to volunteer or where you can donate. The Berrien County Community Foundation and United Way of Southwest Michigan have a website where you can find places to volunteer, plus a website where you can make financial donations to organizations in need. The West Michigan Sports Commission has created oneteamforwestmichigan.com, where fans can go to donate to the charity partners of local sports teams.

TRACKING CORONAVIRUS

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