We're answering your coronavirus questions every night during our 7 p.m. show on KGW-TV. We've compiled a list of past questions and answers below, on topics ranging from school resources to finances and Oregon's shelter in place order. You can also see clips and full episodes of the show on our YouTube channel. On a mobile device? Swipe through the chapters above the video player.
Chapter one: Shelter in place order
Q: When will the Portland tri-county area reopen?
A: Clackamas County applied for phase one on May 19, and Washington County will apply on May 22. Multnomah County, on the other hand, has not yet stated when it will apply.
None of the three counties has all of the necessary contact tracers in place yet, but officials from one of the counties told KGW's Pat Dooris they are being assured by the state that they don't have to have them all in place, as long as they keep hiring them and put the team together as fast as possible.
Q: Can people who test positive for COVID-19 a second time after recovering still infect others?
A: Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 COVID-19 survivors who had already fought the illness off, but later tested positive for the virus again. The research found that although the virus was still in these patients' bodies, the patients were not contagious. They most likely tested positive again due to the virus being left over after their infection.
One theory is that even though the virus was still in their system, it was no longer active. This suggests that if you've had COVID-19 and recovered, you don't present a risk of spreading coronavirus.
- Dr. John Torres, NBC News Chief Medical Correspondent
Q: What if I have underlying health conditions and don't feel safe going back to work yet?
A: If you have a preexisting condition that may subject you to increased harm if you are exposed to COVID-19, your employer has a reasonable duty to accommodate you by either allowing you to work from home or giving you unpaid leave.
- Joseph Haddad, attorney, JJH Law
Q: What does Phase 1 of Governor Brown's reopening plan entail?
A: When a county has entered Phase 1, restrictions will be eased for restaurants, salons, gyms and local gatherings, so long as they meet requirements that include social distancing. Counties that qualify will begin this phase of reopening on May 15.
Read about Gov. Brown's full three-phase plan here.
Q: Should I cancel my July wedding? Will restrictions be lifted by then?
A: The restrictions may or may not be lifted by then, but either way, it will not be safe to have a wedding in July. The White House released a report about opening up America in stages. We haven't even done what we need to do to get to stage 1, and we don't open schools until stage 2. So the best thing to do is plan to lay low this summer, take it easy, and postpone these big events until at least next summer.
- Dr. Claire Wheeler, OHSU and PSU
Q: What happens to your unemployment check if your workplace reopens but you don't feel safe returning?
A: Your employer needs to be following both governmental and public safety guidelines in order to facilitate a safe return to work. If that happens, an employee is obligated to return to work, or to accept at least some suitable work that will allow them to continue to receive income. If the workplace is safe and you choose not to return, the Employment Department will probably see that as you rejecting suitable work, and that could very well disqualify you from receiving any further unemployment benefits.
Joseph Haddad, attorney, JJH Law
Q: How will Oregon's COVID-19 monitoring program work?
A: Researchers at OHSU plan to gather 100,000 volunteers in every corner of the state, from every community, especially minority populations, and convince them to take their temperature every single day for a year and report that to the researchers. 10,000 members of that group will also have a home COVID-19 test kit.
If one or more people suddenly develop a fever, the researchers in theory will know and be able to swoop in with a team of specialists to get the person tested. If they are positive for COVID-19, contact tracing will be done to find all the people they were in contact with and get them tested too. That way any new outbreak can be contained quickly before it takes off and becomes widespread.
Q: Is Oregon planning to start contact tracing?
A: Oregon is looking to recruit about 600 people for paid and volunteer positions to do this work, and will soon publish a website with information on how people can get involved. OHSU is looking to involve medical students in contact tracing work.
Q: How are rural areas in Oregon preparing to reopen?
A: Governor Kate Brown has said rural areas that have seen very few coronavirus cases could be the first parts of the state to open back up. So rural counties are working to make sure they have enough protective gear, testing, contact tracing, and a plan to isolate people who do get sick so the virus doesn't spread further. They are compiling reports and sending them to the governor's office to start discussions. Some counties believe they could start to open back up in as little as 3 to 4 weeks.
Q: When will elective medical procedures begin again in Oregon?
A: Hospitals, dentists' offices and other health-care providers can resume attending to patients for non-urgent procedures on May 1. This comes from a statement made by Oregon Governor Kate Brown on April 23. These treatments can resume so long as they minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission to patients and healthcare workers, maintain adequate hospital capacity in the event of a surge in COVID-19 cases and demonstrate that they have enough PPE available for health care workers.
Q: Will there be a "second wave" of coronavirus?
A: We were lucky that the timing of COVID-19 did not overlap a lot with flu season this time. In the fall, the timing could be different, so that both coronavirus and the flu will be more active at the same time. It's important that everyone get the flu shot this year, so that you can at least be protected from influenza, while there isn't a vaccine for COVID-19. Because if the curves of both COVID-19 and the flu reach their peaks around the same time, that would put us in a much more difficult situation.
- Dr. Claire Wheeler, OHSU and PSU
Q: What do I do if I have to go to work and I don't feel safe at my job?
A: If your employer is not using social distancing and appropriate hygiene standards to protect you and the other workers, you have a real concern. If you truly believe you are working in an unsafe workplace, you can report your workplace to OSHA. But if your employer is engaging in safe working conditions, an employee is obligated to meet their schedules and responsibilities. You do need to prioritize what is important to you, and if you believe it is too dangerous that you need to turn down the work, that is always a possibility.
Q: What do I do if I see people who are not observing social distance guidelines?
A: Do not call 911, it is not an emergency. Oregon State Police advises you can try to self-educate their fellow Oregonians while maintaining social distancing yourself. Or you can call your your respective police agency's non-emergency number.
Q: When will it be safe to lift the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" orders?
A: In an ideal world, we would stay in isolation until we have a vaccine and everyone is vaccinated. But we probably won't have that for at least a year, so in the meantime we have testing. The only safe way to move people back out into the world (school, work, etc.) is if we can get everyone tested for the antibodies, and then let the people who are immune go back to work and school, while the rest wait for a vaccine.
Governor Kate Brown has not given a timeline for when she will lift the order, but she is looking at a few factors:
- Declining infection rates
- Widespread testing
- PPE available for workers
- Quick contact tracing
Q: Is the 6-foot distancing guideline still appropriate since the new information says that the virus could be carried on droplets simply from talking, not just sneezing or coughing?
A: Short answer is no. This is why we all need to wear masks when not at home. The bottom line is that we don’t really know with absolute certainty who is infectious, when they become infectious, or how the virus moves through the population.
Q: What if I need to renew my license? If I can't get it renewed, will I be able to get into a pot shop?
A: The OLCC has told us you need a valid license to get into a pot shop, so if yours is expired you won’t be able to get inside. In that case, you can use a passport.
Q: Golf courses are crowded and I have observed not social distancing. Why are they open?
A: Golf courses are allowed to be open in Oregon. Many accept payment over the phone or online, so you aren’t paying in person. Try using single cart usage or no golf cart rentals at all.
Q: Why are we not seeing instructions on types of material, maximum time we should wear masks and how to clean them?
A: The CDC has great information on this. The cloth, made out of a T-shirt or extra cotton fabric, should fit snugly, but comfortably against the side of your face. Secure it with ties or ear loops, and make sure you're using multiple layers of fabric covering your nose and mouth.
You should wash your mask in the washing machine on a daily basis - wash it after each outing. And remember, even with a mask on, you should maintain social distancing. You can still get coronavirus while wearing a mask.
Q: If all of us are staying home where are all the new confirmed cases coming from?
A: It's estimated there are about 10 infected people for every one case we find testing. According to Dr. Claire Wheeler with the OHSU/PSU School of Public Health, coronavirus has an incubation period of 2 to 10 days, which means people who are isolating today might have been exposed a week before isolating.
Q: How can people report businesses that remain open that are on the mandatory COVID-19, stay-at-home closure list, according to Gov. Brown?
A: You can file a report with OSHA online at osha.oregon.gov. If you're in Portland, you can also call the Portland Police Bureau's non-emergency line to report violations: 503-823-3333.
Q: I am a senior citizen. Is it safer for me to shop for groceries during senior hours or regular store hours?
A: Our experts say you're best off shopping - if you have to - when there are fewest people inside the store. This may not necessarily mean shopping during "senior hours" as many stores have created, as concentrating the most vulnerable people in this outbreak into one place is dangerous. On the other hand, senior hours, if they hare held first thing in the morning, usually mean the store has been deep-cleaned as is stocked up.
Q: Have our leaders stated what criteria needs to be met before the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders are lifted? Is it no new cases for “X” number of days? Or will it be some sort of mass-testing process to determine exactly who needs to be isolated and who does not?
A: According to Gov. Brown's office, it's simply unknown when and how they'll make this decision. For now, we have to await our state's "peak" in cases, and stay inside as much as possible.
Q: What is the best way to clean things, like your car steering wheel and your glasses and credit card and your purse that you dropped on a store floor?
A: You should use cleaning solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol, according to the CDC. For inside your car, you can use isopropyl alcohol - but don't use bleach or hydrogen peroxide While they can both kill coronaviruses on surfaces, they will likely damage your car’s upholstery. Use a damp microfiber cleaning cloth of screen wipes for eye glasses.
Wash cloth bags regularly in the washing machine and use disinfectant wipes wash to clean plastic or leather bags.
Q: I was wondering if, since we are all at home, if it’s necessary to still constantly clean all surfaces as often as we were when we were all still working and going to school?
A: As long as everyone is staying put, it's OK to relax a little bit. Dr. Claire Wheeler, a Public Health Specialist at OHSU and PSU said she would recommend a no shoes policy in the house. Deliveries should be wiped down, and you should set up a "decontamination" station at your front door.
Q: I'm an independent contractor for Postmates, I pick up food and deliver to people’s homes. Can I go to work?
A: Yes, because you are working in the restaurant business but in a “to go” capacity, you can go to work. If you can, you should limit your interactions with customers – leave food outside the door.
Q: Can I go to my vacation home on the coast during the stay at home order?
A: Yes, nothing in the governor's stay at home order prevents you from going to a home you own. But keep in mind, mayors along the coast have asked people to stay at home instead, because of the low number of hospital beds in those rural areas. The governor has told all Oregonians they should avoid any non-essential travel.
Q: I am curious whether having family members (who live outside the home) are permitted to visit elderly parents during the shelter at home order.
A: Under Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's executive order, you are allowed to travel to visit a family member. However, if you're visiting an elderly individual, you should avoid doing so in the first place, as they are particularly susceptible to getting coronavirus.
If this individual is at an assisted living home, Oregon DHS limited all visitation to essential medical personnel and emergency personnel. You can only visit residents who are in the end of life care.
Q: I work at a construction company. Is my industry considered an essential business and exempt from certain stay at home order provisions?
A: If you cannot work 6 feet apart and maintain social distancing, and you can’t telework, you shouldn’t be working. That business should close according to Gov. Brown’s executive order. On a call with reporters Tuesday, Gov. Brown said she may come out with specifics on what jobs are essential vs. non-essential if they hear people are not complying.
Q: One of the most popular golf courses in Oregon is in the small community of Bandon at the southern coast. They are not closing doing their part to protect their employees from all the guest that come in from states all around Oregon. Are they not following the governor's recommendations because they are exempt??
A: Golf courses are allowed to operate under governor’s exec order but they should be maintaining 6 feet social distancing. If they’re unable to maintain this, they need to close.
Q: Is it true that some hospitals are considering not allowing companions in the delivery rooms?
A: We talked with Portland metro area hospitals including OHSU, Legacy and Providence – all are still allowing a partner to join the birthing process, but only one visitor per patient is allowed at most hospitals.
Chapter two: Social life, restaurants and shopping
Q: My hair salon is reopening and making appointments starting April 16. Are they able to do that under Gov. Brown's order? When can businesses start reopening?
A: Gov. Brown says she won't lift the order until we have at least 10-14 days of no coronavirus deaths.
Q: Can you get the virus by breathing in exhaled cigarette smoke?
A: If it was exhaled by an infected person and if you are in very close contact with that person, doctors say it's possible. Everyone should be making a great effort to avoid inhaling cigarette smoke – and this is a great time for smokers to quit!
Q: Is it OK to work outside in our own yard using our own garden tools?
A: Yep, it's safe and encourged. Many nurseries are offering on-line ordering with curbside pickup for starts and plants and supplies. You can grow a lot of food with even a small space, and this is something everyone should consider.
Q: We keep hearing conflicting information on whether groceries are a potential source of contamination in homes and a source of COVID-19 spreading. Is there guidance from experts on how to best handle groceries brought into the home? Is there a need to disinfect everything as much as possible? Is there any evidence at all of the virus being spread in this way?
A: Experts say there's no evidence anyone has gotten infected with coronavirus by eating contaminating food but keep in mind packaging is a potential source of infection.
After grocery shopping, you should disinfect all packaging by wiping it down with a wet cloth sprayed with either cleanser or soapy water.
Remove food that you can take out of packaging before putting it in your pantry or fridge.
"You can use a very clean soap like Dr. Bronner's – just enough to make a little bit of suds should do it. You can fill a tub or large pot with soapy water, add produce, let soak for a few minutes, take out, rinse and brush well, and place on a dry towel to dry. Then you can put things away, in fridge or wherever you are storing them," Dr. Wheeler said.
Q: If our daycare shuts its doors, what can they legally charge us to hold our place for when they re-open?
A: According to the Oregon Department of Education, you should consult the agreement or contract. Representatives say child care providers should use discretion in their billing policies to not penalize families who may be under financial stress during COVID.
Q: Is there a risk of coronavirus spreading from mosquito bites?
A: No. Coronavirus is not a blood-borne pathogen. Every virus has a specific handle on the body where it locks on; for example, the coronavirus locks on to cells in the airway and the gut.
Q: Can my housekeeper continue to come and clean if I leave the house?
A: Not advisable. Leaving the house when the person arrives, and staying away for 3-4 hours is a good idea if you absolutely need to have someone come in for something. But a housekeeper moves all over the house, touching pretty much everything, and this is a risk to the housekeeper as well as the homeowner. Even with gloves, there are risks. Let's say the housekeeper puts on gloves and gets to cleaning - touches their face, wipes their nose, and keeps on cleaning, feeling safe because…gloves. Gloves get dirty just like hands do. And if the housekeeper is not infected, but the virus is in the home, now that person is at risk.
Q: Can I still use my reusable bags for grocery shopping?
A: The only store chain KGW has found so far in Oregon that has banned reusable bags is New Seasons. At some stores, like Safeway, you'll have to bag your own groceries if you bring your own bags.
Q: Can I get food at a food cart? Are you allowed to sit down and eat at food cart pods?
A: Yes, food carts are likely going to remain open. But to be safe, you should order your food to go and maintain proper social distancing from anyone else waiting. You shouldn't "hang out" at the pod and congregate.
Q: Is it safe to order from restaurants through GrubHub, Doordash, etc.?
A: Your food is likely going to be completely safe, according to Stephen Morse with Columbia University. Cooked foods are not a concern, unless someone sneezes on your food. The danger is your interaction with the delivery person – so see if they can leave the food outside (and leave tip outside or tip electronically). You should also wash your hands AFTER opening food containers and bags.
Q: What responsibility do stores have to inform the community when they have a employee who is infected?
A: We've checked with the governor's office, OSHA and BOLI and there appear to be no legal requirements.
Q: Since we are doing all this cleaning, is there a place we can drop off items to a Goodwill or other location?
A: Goodwill is actually not taking donations right now. Give a call to any charity before you decide to drop off items -- many are taking breaks from non-monetary donations.
Q: We are in our 70's and our house was just put on the real estate market: Is it safe to allow potential buyers to do a no-touch walk-though if they wash hands, wear shoe covers, are healthy and are adults? (NOT an open house). Or should we suspend all showings?
A: You should suspend showings for the time being. Coverings are good ideas, but you never know who could be walking through the house. Unless you're in a terrible financial situation, Dr. Wheeler recommends you postpone walk throughs for a bit and work with a realtor for a good virtual tour.
Q: I work retail and live with elderly grandmother. Should I self-quarantine even though I have no symptoms of COVID-19?
A: Anyone living with a high-risk individual should seriously consider going into quarantine with them. Asymptomatic people in their 20s have been identified as super carriers - people who very easily transmit the virus to others without showing symptoms themselves.
Q: Is it safe to go grocery shopping?
A: Consumer Reports recommends people stay 6 feet away from other shoppers and wipe down a cart before and after use. Shoppers can also choose to go to the store when it’s less busy. An easy way to find out when a store has the highest foot traffic is by typing in the stores and location into a Google search.
Customers should also use a credit or debit card at the register to avoid exchanging money.
Q: Should I still use public transportation?
A: An official with the Oregon Health Authority said transportation agencies, including TriMet, have increased their cleaning procedures over coronavirus concerns.
Health officials also strongly recommend maintaining at least 6 feet of space on board a train or bus during this pandemic, although some riders say that's not possible. TriMet officials are pleading with the public not to use their services unless they absolutely have to.
Q: I take a water aerobics class. Some people are saying it’s safe from COVID-19 because of the chlorine. Is that correct?
A: According to the Pool Water Treatment and Advisory Group in England, swimming pools properly treated with chlorine are safe, but you should still showed before and after swimming. The CDC also says you shouldn't use chlorine on yourself to ward off the coronavirus.
Q: What about fruits and vegetables? You can’t wash them so should you just not purchase them?
A: Assume every fruit and vegetable has been touched by another person. Research of an earlier coronavirus said it could survive for several days on surfaces of some strawberries and lettuces, so rinse each one thoroughly. Do not use soap. Some experts recommend buying frozen fruit and vegetables instead of fresh.
Q: What about reusable bags for grocery shopping? Are they safe?
A: It’s unknown exactly how long the coronavirus can live on some surfaces, but stores around the country are recommending you either put your reusable bags made of cloth through the wash, or wipe down your reusable plastic bags with warm, soapy water. Some stores, like New Seasons in Portland, are doing away with reusable bags and are offering paper bags at no extra cost.
Q: Why are state parks open?
State Parks in Oregon closed on March 23 after Gov. Brown announced a shelter in place executive order.
Q: A group of my friends were hoping to go for a bike ride... is that OK, if we stay 6 feet apart while riding?
A: It should be safe if you're maintaining the social distance of 6 feet or more, but you should doctors don't recommend this kind of activity. Dr. Wheeler says, "I personally wouldn't do it or recommend it."
Q: I keep hearing that I should keep my windows closed. Is this true?
A: The disease is best transmitted via personal contact, not through the air. However, in healthcare settings, doctors and nurses are taking extra precautions and closing windows.
Chapter three: Health
Q: What is it like to live with COVID-19?
A: Jennifer English lives in Oregon City. She is one of more than 3,900 people in Oregon who have come down with the virus. Here's what she told us her experience has been like, on day 53 of showing symptoms:
“The symptoms are so random and so crazy and there’s so many of them that you never know what you’re going to experience next,” said English. "There was probably 30 days straight where I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out or not."
"I know a lot of people aren’t taking it seriously at all and I think it’s just because they haven’t experienced it firsthand," English said, "That’s probably the most devastating thing to hear: people say, 'Oh, it’s just the flu.' Because it’s nothing like the flu. I’ve had the flu, several times in my lifetime, and it’s, it’s absolutely nothing like the flu."
Q: Can the coronavirus move across surfaces on its own?
A: Viruses, unlike bacteria, have no way to move in any way by itself, across your body or on a surface. So you can feel pretty confident that if the virus gets on your hands, for example, it will stay there until you wash your hands.
- Dr. Claire Wheeler, OHSU and PSU
Q: What is Remdesivir, and could it be a COVID-19 treatment?
A: Remdesivir is an antiviral agent that was initially created for the Ebola virus back in 2014. It was not initially intended to be a drug for other viruses, but now studies are showing it has broad spectrum activity against many so-called RNA viruses, including SARS- CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Providence Medical Center in Portland is one of the locations where the drug is being tested in clinical trials. The results show that patients treated with Remdesivir in the trials were discharged an average of four to five days earlier than those not receiving the drug.
Note: This drug should only be used in trials under medical supervision. You should not ask your doctor to prescribe it for your, or try to self medicate.
- Dr. Tobias Pusch, Providence Portland Medical Center
Q: The CDC has added some new COVID-19 symptoms. What are they?
A: Originally, the CDC's list of diagnostic criteria only included three symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Now, the CDC has added six more conditions: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of smell and taste. Read more here.
Q: When will widespread antibody tests be available?
A: Hopefully sometime this summer. There are some rapid response blood tests that have been developed already. We need to get them distributed throughout the country so we can have widespread testing to know who has the antibodies and is immune to the virus.
- Dr. Clare Wheeler, OHSU and PSU
Q: The OHA has expanded its testing guidelines for COVID-19. What are the changes?
A: People without symptoms can now be tested in limited circumstances: for residents, children, employees and others in care facilities such as nursing homes, schools, day cares, health care facilities, or in jails and prisons. Screening is conditioned on laboratories having enough capacity to process the tests.
The state has also expanded the pool of people with symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath who are eligible for testing. The new group includes people of color and people who provide direct care, such as hospice workers, physical therapists, and also front-line workers. Front-line workers include people who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, delivery, food service and transportation. Read more here.
Q: What will it take to develop a vaccine?
A: Viruses use proteins to accomplish what they do, so to develop a vaccine scientists have to identify critical proteins in the virus' life cycle. Then they can inject those into a person, and the immune system will recognize those as foreign, and begin attack them and ideally stop the virus. Then, with each vaccine attempt, there is a long series of testing that has to occur, and the testing has to check two things: that the vaccine is safe for people to use, and that it is effective in protecting against the virus.
Q: Have COVID-19 measures had an impact on the number of flu cases?
A: If the timing had been right, then yes, that would have been the case. But COVID-19 really started taking off in the U.S. just as the flu season was ending. So the curve of flu cases was going down as the coronavirus curve started going up.
Q: Do we have enough tests to start easing the social distancing guidelines?
A: KGW's Pat Dooris looked into this, and found that there are about 8,000 tests going unused each week in Oregon right now. Governor Kate Brown has said we need the capacity for 15,000 tests per week to start thinking about reopening the economy, and currently we do have more than enough tests in Oregon.
Q: If I get COVID-19 once and recover, can I get it again?
A: According to the laboratory studies and anecdotal evidence, you are not at risk of getting COVID-19 again, at least immediately. We do not yet know how long the immunity will last, but you can have a pretty high degree of confidence that you have immunity to the virus for some period of time.
Q: Why is coronavirus testing so important?
A: Testing allows us to know who currently has the virus, and who has already had it and recovered, which is very important. There are two types of tests: PCR tests and antibody tests.
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are the swab tests you've likely heard about. The PCR test tells if you currently have the virus. The antibody test looks for antibodies in your blood, which your body produced to fight off the disease. If you had the novel coronavirus, your blood will have antibodies, which will provide a level of immunity for you.
So anyone who has the antibodies could go back to work and school without fear of infection.
Q: Does vaping put you at higher risk of COVID-19?
A: There have not yet been any studies specifically done on those who vape and have COVID-19. But our experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins say yes, you are more at risk of having more severe symptoms if you catch COVID-19. Vaping makes your lungs more vulnerable to pulmonary diseases, which puts people who vape in a higher risk category.
Q: Are some people asymptomatic when it comes to COVID-19?
A: The more appropriate term may be "pre-symptomatic." So far it appears that at least 80% of people that don't show symptoms but test positive will eventually begin to show symptoms. It's more a question of how sick those people will get and when.
Q: They say that scientists have discovered other versions of COVID-19 that have mutated already. Is this true?
A: WHO reports that they are tracking 8 different strains of the virus globally, which on the face of it sounds scary. However, the good news is that the sub-types are very similar to each other, with many structural components remaining consistent across strains.
While the flu virus is a superstar at mutating away from our immune protection, fortunately this virus is not. So far, the RNA structure (and the proteins it codes for) appears to be very stable, which means that it’s very likely that a vaccine we develop in the months to come, and distribute 12 to 18 months from now, will still be effective.
Q: If test kits for COVID-19 are so rare that average people cannot get them, how is it they had enough to check a tiger at the NY zoo?
A: The tiger, according to Bronx Zoo Chief Veterinarian Paul Calle, was tested for coronavirus at a veterinary school lab, and didn't receive the same test humans get. He was tested after zookeepers noticed multiple tigers and lions started showing symptoms of COVID-19, including a dry cough.
Q: Is the COVID-19 a protein encapsulated with a fat layer?
A: Yes, this is true, and it's a good thing. The lipid layer breaks down in the presence of soap, which destabilizes the virus' structure, making it unable to infect a cell. This is lucky because we can all decontaminate with basic soap and water instead of needing to take more potentially irritating and potentially toxic measures to clean our skin.
Q: If some people are just carriers of coronavirus and are asymptomatic, how long are they able to pass it on to other people?
A: We don’t know, which is why we have to comply with isolation orders. Not only are there infectious, asymptomatic cases out there, but there is also evidence that people who have recovered from the illness can still transmit the virus. This virus hasn’t been around long enough for us to know how it behaves, so we have to be extra careful with containment.
Q: Is pink eye related to COVID-19?
A: It can be. In a study published by Chinese doctors in March, some coronavirus patients had eye-related symptoms like pink eye. It's important not to touch your eyes unless you know they're clean.
Q: I am healthy almost 60 year old. I have an upcoming doctor appointment - should I keep the appointment or cancel it?
A: If it's a non-urgent appointment, you should postpone it. You should avoid going to doctor's offices in case someone there is sick, and you should help alleviate pressure on the medical system right now.
Q: I've heard that people with type O blood seem to be able to ward off the virus, or at least keep symptoms to a minimum. Do you have any information on this?
A: This stemmed from a study in Wuhan, China. Scientists found though there was a higher number of people with type O blood, fewer of them contracted the virus compared with other blood types. The scientific community agrees on the whole the study - for now - is just a one off and should be replicated among a larger population.
Don't take the findings to mean those with type O blood are immune or are less likely to get COVID-19.
Q: If some people are just carriers of coronavirus and are asymptomatic, how long are they able to pass it on to other people?
A: At this point, we don't know and that's exactly why we have to comply with "stay at home" orders. There's evidence people who have recovered from the illness can still transmit it.
Q: Looking at Oregon’s numbers, we appear to have fewer cases than many other states. Do you know if this is a reflection of a smaller population, fewer tests being conducted or is legitimately fewer cases?
A: It's still unknown, but you're better off looking at per capita statistics. At this point, it's unknown how many people are infected in any state because "mass" testing has not yet begun.
Q: I just got a message from a friend who said a vast majority of the people who have died had ibuprofen/Advil in their system and not to take it cause the virus thrives on it. Is this true?
A: No significant link between ibuprofen and illness severity has been reported, and the WHO now recommends using either Tylenol or ibuprofen, but perhaps going with Tylenol first.
Viruses do not “thrive” on anything. They are not living things. They are particles that invade cells and alter their function, creating illness.
Q: What is a super-spreader of COVID-19?
A: This is a person will disproportionately infect a large amount of people with a virus. For example, a Biogen conference held in Boston was believed to be the source of most of the state's coronavirus cases. Of 138 cases in the state at one time, 104 were linked to the conference.
But experts still aren’t exactly sure how super spreading works in the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC says “phenomenon” could be the “result of a combination of host, environment, and virus interactions.
Q: If Oregon has only about 400 cases, why is there such a shortage of PPE?
A: Not all patient encounters in hospitals require the use of masks or extra protective gear, but now, even normal interactions at hospitals take extra precautions -- and so the demand for PPE grows.
Q: Do you think CPAP machines or masks could be used in hospitals? Most of us over 60 have at least one family member that is using one.
A: No, not as ventilators to treat COVID patients. According to a report from NPR, devices like CPAP machines can actually increase the spread of infectious diseases by aerosolizing the virus. This is actually what happened at the Life Care Center of Kirkland when staff used CPAP machines to treat COVID patients before they realized they had the virus.
Q: Is the virus still contagious after someone dies?
A: Yes. The particles on a person's skin and body fluids can be present for hours after death.
Q: How come the local hospitals are not releasing the number of Coronavirus patients they're treating? Releasing the numbers doesn't divulge any patient information. The public has a right to information during this crisis.
A: The Oregon Health Authority is releasing daily updates about the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in Oregon by county: https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19
Q: If the situating with COVID-19 manages to slow down by summer, will there be a resurgence of cases when fall comes around as the cold and flu season starts again?
A: Dr. Wheeler says it's time to step away from thinking this virus could go away in 15 days or so, and start thinking about it lingering for the next few months - possibly years. The virus is similar to SARS and MERS, and if you remember those viruses, you know there was a second wave after the initial cases settled down.
"We have evidence now that some people who have gotten ill with the virus, recovered, and returned home are getting sick again and are testing positive for the virus again," Dr. Wheeler said. "There could perhaps be a mutation of the virus that makes people who have recovered from an infection with it can get sick all over again."
Because the virus is so new, we don't know if once you've survived an infection, you are immune to it indefinitely.
Q: My next door neighbor in my apartment complex is sick. If we both keep our bedroom windows open at night, can I get the virus? Can I get the virus through my vents?
A: Vents more likely – but neither route has been found to be particularly common – at least not yet, while the virus still doesn’t seem to last long in the air.
Q: Why can't masks be sterilized? This would take a great strain off health workers.
A: That is not the solution to the mask shortage. They were designed, and are manufactured, for single use and disposal. The era of autoclaving and sterilizing everything is long over, and contamination of masks isn’t the only issue. The materials used to make masks is subject to wear and tear, which reduces their effectiveness, according to Dr. Wheeler.
Q: When the coronavirus first hit the news, one of the messages that numerous medical experts and media outlets expressed was that masks don’t do anything to protect you from the virus. So why is the lack of masks such an issue?
Not all masks are equal. The N-95 masks used in hospitals can protect you from getting the virus because they have a filter. The paper masks you see doctors and nurses wearing in hospitals are mostly used to prevent the person wearing it from infecting others. That mask won't prevent you from getting infected, so only people who are sick or symptomatic should wear these, or when you're around vulnerable people.
Q: Do we know if there are any after-effects of COVID-19? I hear it can cause lung damage, is that true?
A: Well, this is a brand new virus, so we don't know for sure what the long-term consequences of infection might be. However, we do have information from the seasonal flu outbreaks, and the SARS outbreak of 2003. People who were hospitalized in that outbreak (that is, people who got really sick and survived) experienced pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lung), which can make all future respiratory infections more dangerous. Any virus or bacteria that infects the lungs will damage the lungs.
Q: Is there a way to find out at a later date if I had the virus or any future immunity?
A: The way we can tell if a person is immune to something is by looking for antibodies in their blood. There is work being done on an antibody test for this virus, and will probably be used eventually to identify people who are immune. That said – we don't know how long that immunity will last – maybe a year, maybe forever. We just don't know.
Q: For those cases that have recovered from COVID-19, how long did it take them to recover?
A: According to doctors, for mild cases, the time from infection to recovery is around 2 weeks (median) but can be up to 6 weeks in more serious cases. Some people have gotten better, but then became very ill around 10 days in.
Q: What happens when the curve finally goes flat? How long do we have to worry about COVID-19 hanging around? Will there always be a chance someone could get sick? Could this happen again?
A: Short answer is we have no idea. We don’t even know how spring and summer will affect it. We may or may not have to live with this virus from now on (look at 2009 H1N1). Yes, this could and very well may happen again, according to Dr. Wheeler.
Q: If one family member gets the virus, what should the other members do? Should they stay away from the room where this patient is quarantined?
A: Doctors recommend, if a person is sick in your home, they need to have their own room, own utensils and own bathroom if possible. Communicate with your doctor often and seek medical treatment if things get worse or they have trouble breathing.
Q: I notice that all the antibacterial soap is gone from all the stores. Yet, COVID-19 is a virus. Is regular soap effective against coronavirus? Or should we just use antibacterial soap?
A: Health experts say you don’t need anti-bacterial soap. Regular soap is just fine. Just make sure you wash for at least 20 seconds, and wash your hands often.
Q: Can sunshine kill the virus?
A: The CDC isn't sure if heat and sunlight can temper this strain of virus, as it hasn't been around for a full calendar year. Neither the WHO nor the CDC list sun exposure as a way to prevent coronavirus, because it can be transmitted in all climates at this point. High-intensity UV light can kill some viruses, but natural sunlight doesn't have enough intensity to do this.
UVC lights can kill it, but this is extremely powerful light that can burn your skin in seconds.
Q: Does washing your clothes kill the coronavirus?
A: Yes. The coronavirus can last longer on some fabrics, but to ensure you kill it, use hot water and let your clothes dry thoroughly in the dyer. This ensures any and all droplets of the virus dry out, which should inactivate it.
Q: With all of the hand washing that we've been doing, I've noticed that my hands have become dried out and cracked. Is it OK to use a lotion or something like that to battle the dryness?
A: Dr. Wheeler said, "this is an important question because when hands get too dry, they start to crack, and this creates more places for bacteria to invade. Overwashing like we’re all doing now also strips skin of protective oils and waxes, so it’s a good idea to moisturize after washing. If you’re at home, and your home is clean, you can simply moisturize with hand cream after washing and drying. If hands are very dry and starting to crack, use an ointment instead of lotion.Also consider a bedtime routine – slather on lotion or cream and go to bed with cotton gloves on increase the moisturizing effect."
Q: Can an in-home oximeter help alert a person to coronavirus?
A: For most people this wouldn't be necessary. The symptoms of coronavirus are pretty easy to understand, and you'd be aware of them before your levels of 02 saturations fell much. Dr. Wheeler says a person with underlying pulmonary disease or a history of desaturation could consider having one in order to have better information to provide to their doctor.
Q: Is there a way to find out if you have had COVID-19 and recovered?
A: Right now, we don't know how long antibodies in an infected person's blood last in the case of COVID-19. This is something scientists are working on.
Q: If I get tested and I’m negative can I get the virus the next day? If so, do I have to be tested everyday? If not, then why the big push to be tested with no symptoms?
A: Dr. Wheeler says you can get the virus any day, any time. "The issue is asymptomatic spread. Until we have reliable data on who is infected and who isn’t, the only way we have to limit the spread is to ask everyone, sick and well, to self isolate. The only way we’re going to learn what we need to know about the virus is to find it, track it, and take whatever measures we can to limit its spread," Dr. Wheeler said.
Q: I've heard about possible vaccines for COVID-19 but what about anti-viral treatments?
A: According to Dr. Wheeler, a group in France treated coronavirus patients with an old malaria drug, and it was successful. Others are combining it with an antiviral, azithromycin, with success.
Bayer just announced they will donate 3 million tablets of Resochin (chloroquine phosphate) to be distributed nationally to treat COVID-19 cases. Dr. Wheeler, however, says the treatment isn’t 100% effective. In the French study, 25% of those treated still tested positive after 6 days - but that’s compared to 90% of people testing positive after the same amount of time, but without treatment.
Q: Is colder weather more dangerous for spreading the virus than hot weather?
A: There's no reason to believe this outbreak will die out when the weather gets warmer. There are no specific studies of coronavirus behavior as humidity goes up or down; we've seen significant spread in very humid areas like Singapore.
And schools letting out in the summer also allows for a large drop in flu and cold cases every year. Bottom line? According to the Harvard Center, “seasonality does not constrain pandemic viruses the way it does old ones.”
Q: Does smoking or vaping increase your likelihood of getting sick with the coronavirus?
A: The link hasn't yet been studied, but experts say there's every reason to believe smokers are at risk of more severe illnesses than non-smokers.
"In a nutshell, immune protection in the airways and lungs is compromised in smokers, with a marked increase in inflammation and less ability to prevent passage of particles into the lungs themselves. So - now might be a good time to consider quitting whether one is a smoker or a vapor," according to Claire Wheeler, an assistant professor at PSU/OHSU's School of Public Health.
Q: Can heat kill the virus?
A: Things like hot baths, hand dryers and ultraviolet lamps are not effective for killing the virus. The best way to do so is by using soap -- Dr. Wheeler says the virus relies on a coating of lipid (fats) to stabilize it - and soap works by breaking up globs of fat, so it strips away the lipids from the virus particle and it becomes inactivated.
Q: Is coronavirus like the chickenpox? So once you get it, you always have it?
A: Dr. Wheeler said we don’t know for sure that a person is fully immune to this virus after surviving an infection. Lasting immunity usually occurs after you’ve been infected with something, but we know this from work with human viruses. We have seen several cases of reinfection in people who got sick, got treated, and tested negative - and returned to the hospital, sick and testing positive again. Now this could be a testing error, a dip in virus counts that resulted in a false negative, people with particularly weak immune systems, or a true re-infection.
This is something that we will have to deal with in the years to come - will the vaccines being developed now even work in a year (not if the virus has a significant mutation)? Will they confer lifelong immunity or will we need annual or biannual re-inoculations? We just don’t know.
Q: If I don't have any symptoms, no fever or cough, why is there such an rush to be tested?
A: Dr. Wheeler says: "Two words: asymptomatic transmission. Right now it seems certain that people who feel fine, with no symptoms, can be infected, and contagious. Anyone who is infected, contagious, and asymptomatic (and this could be literally millions of Americans today) is especially dangerous to everyone around them, because neither they nor the people around them are likely to be practicing isolation and other preventive measures. Because of the way this virus is transmitted (and now there is growing concern that airborne transmission may be more robust than we thought), that person could be infecting everyone within 6 feet of them through the air, and everything they touch through direct contact."
Q: How long does the sanitizing effect of hand sanitizer last?
A: If you are required to apply hand sanitizer at your job, you should be doing it about once per hour. If you insist on using it, remember it can easily wear off the second you touch an infected surface. It starts working within 30 seconds to 1 minute, but remember: you're always better off washing your hands than sanitizing.
Q: Is it true that negative test results are faulty up to 50% of the time?
A: The opposite is much more likely. Viruses, while not technically alive, behave in many ways like living things in that they adapt to their surroundings. This is why we have a flu shot every year -- viruses mutate year after year, making themselves better able to thrive in our bodies.
"While the COVID virus seems to mutate much less effectively than influenza does, there is always the possibility that it will do so at some point. This is another argument for isolation and containment - viruses can only mutate to any great extent during an active infection," Dr. Wheeler said.
Q: How do you take care of yourself best when you get it?
A: You'll experience fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath if you have coronavirus. You should stay home, avoid public areas and stay away from other people. If your symptoms get worse, you should call your doctor's office, who will help you and alert your local health department.
Q: Can you get the flu or a cold and COVID-19 at the same time?
A: That’s entirely conceivable - depending on one’s level of public exposure. There is evidence that some morbidity and mortality that we’ve attributed to flu these past few months were actually COVID-related, not flu. We're not aware of any documented cases of this happening, but with limited testing, we can’t be sure. Also, sick people are often being tested for flu first, and if that test is positive, they aren’t tested for COVID. The presumptive diagnosis is flu. So we aren’t collecting data on that question in any significant way at this time.
Q: Do I need a prescription to get a test and are there any drive-thru sites in PDX or SW Washington?
A: You can’t get a prescription for a test and this point and there are no drive-thru sites in Southwest Washington or Oregon.
Q: Would having pneumonia shots help the elderly from the respiratory effects of the virus?
A: According to the World Health Organization, vaccines against pneumonia do not provide protection against the coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Although these vaccines are not effective against coronavirus, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
Q: I am an overall healthy person but I’ve had pneumonia in the past and had a cold last week. Am I considered at risk because of my history of pneumonia? Am I safe to go to work?
A: You're at a slight risk. The symptoms described could be COVID or a cold, but there's no way of knowing. You should stay home for both your safety and the safety of others.
Q: What's the government doing for post office workers?
A: According to a spokesperson, gloves are available for employee use. The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. The CDC, the WHO and the Surgeon General say there's currently no evidence that coronavirus can spread through mail.
The Post Office plans to keep running on a daily basis, as they're used to deliver medication, social security checks and online shopping purchases.
Chapter four: Schools
Q: How can we help feed kids who are out of school and need food?
A: Donate to - or volunteer with - the Oregon Food Bank.
Q: If my child's school is closed because of coronavirus, can I use sick time?
A: Yes - employees in Oregon have a right to use available sick time for a closure of their child’s school (or place of care) by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
Q: Are teachers getting paid while school is closed?
A: Yes, it depends district to district, but at this point, all teachers are getting paid in Oregon.
Q: If kids are in the lowest risk group, why are schools being closed?
A: Although they are in the lower risk group, many of the people they interact with at school (teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers) are over 60 and should be in isolation. School is also closed to keep social interactions at a bare minimum, and therefore help "flatten the curve" of the spread of coronavirus.
Chapter five: Finances
Q: Has Oregon issued a tax deadline extension?
A: Yes - both federal and state taxes are now due July 15 instead of April 15.
Q: Will Oregon create a rent or utilities freeze?
A: Sort of; many electric, water, telephone and natural gas utilities are now waiving fees for late payments. There is no statewide rent freeze yet, but Multnomah County has instituted a moratorium on evictions.
Q: What should I do with my 401K?
A: Stay the course, it’s tempting to sell and to hide, but the problem is, when you start feeling better, the economy and the stock market is already likely to have recovered significantly and interestingly enough, if you miss just the 10 best days in the stock market over the last 40 years, your returns were cut in half.
Q: If it's a good time to buy stocks, what should I buy?
A: A lot of great stocks right now that are down big if you buy individual stocks, but pretty much everything across the board, unless you’re investing in treasuries right now or gold... now's a good time to buy because everything's on sale.
Chapter six: National resources
Our national Verify team is also answering questions constantly and has shared the database below of the most recent 100 questions they've answered. Below that, you'll find a submission form that goes straight to that team, if you have any COVID-19 questions you'd like to ask them.