Your Frequently Asked Coronavirus Questions, Answered

Coronavirus questions
Photo illustration by Paula Friedrich/Centers of Disease Control, Prevention
Coronavirus questions
Photo illustration by Paula Friedrich/Centers of Disease Control, Prevention

Your Frequently Asked Coronavirus Questions, Answered

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Editor’s note: This story is no longer being updated. Please visit this page for up-to-date answers to your frequently asked COVID-19 questions.

WBEZ is answering your questions about the coronavirus in Illinois. Have a question? Ask us here.

From travel restrictions to safety at polling places, WBEZ has gotten dozens of questions about the coronavirus in the last two weeks. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

The coronavirus lives on surfaces for a few hours to a day, reports Business Insider. Porous surfaces will absorb viral particles, preventing transmission. The virus is more likely to stick to hard surfaces like metal — for example, door knobs.

What precautions are needed for voting with touch screens?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending poll workers routinely clean and disinfect voting touch screens. They also said voters should be kept as far apart as possible while in line.

Voters are encouraged to practice social distancing and to wash and sanitize their hands.

Is it possible travel could be restricted within the U.S.?

It is unlikely for U.S. citizens. Public health experts say travel restrictions may slow the spread of a virus but cannot stop it.

Stephen Gluckman, the University of Pennsylvania’s director of global medicine, told USA Today that he thinks coronavirus is “out of the bag” at this point. Vice President Mike Pence also told reporters there’s no plan to restrict travel in the U.S.

That said, the U.S. Department of State wants people to avoid cruises.

Is there evidence that the standard flu vaccination offers protection from coronavirus?

No, coronavirus is different from the flu. But reducing the number of flu cases could improve the overall response to the virus.

Dr. Albert Ko, department chair of Yale’s School of Public Health, told LiveScience that because the symptoms of the two illnesses are so similar, detecting coronavirus is easier when hospitals are not overburdened with flu cases.

What level of preparation for the virus is reasonable at this time?

The CDC has a guide. Public health officials also emphasized that hoarding food is unnecessary, and masks won’t protect you against the virus.

The best practices at this time include:

Will the CTA pledge to more thoroughly clean trains and equipment, as New York City’s public transit was cleaned during their outbreak?

The Chicago Transit Authority has a “rigorous cleaning schedule.” Vehicles and stations are receiving daily cleanings — including touch surfaces like seats, handrails, turnstyles and ventra machines, spokesperson Brian Steele told WBEZ in an email.

The CTA has created a website to outline its efforts and said it is in daily contact with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

I keep hearing that “older” people are at more risk for a serious case of COVID-19. How old is “older”?

Old as in elderly.

Here’s a statistical breakdown from STAT based on 72,000 cases in China.

Researchers found that 2.3% of all infected people died, but that the risk for patients over 80 was much higher at 14.8%. By contrast, COVID-19 killed 1.3% percent of 50-somethings and less than one percent of 40-somethings. The average age of COVID-19 patients who developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) was 61. Immunocompromised people like cancer and HIV/AIDS patients are also at risk, regardless of age.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are in flux. As the number of confirmed cases grow, the numbers could change.

Will coronavirus be bad for kids with asthma?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness — so anyone with an underlying respiratory condition is at greater risk of complications once infected.

But young people aren’t really getting the virus, based on statistics from China and the World Health Organization. Children under nine accounted for less than 1% of cases in China. Still, doctors warn parents to take precautions for their asthmatic kids.

Can you be infected more than once?

Yes, according to Business Insider. Japan confirmed the first case of reinfection in January. Public health officials do not know how common this is yet.

Can the coronavirus be transmitted by a person who does not exhibit symptoms?

Yes, it’s possible, but so far appears to be an anomaly. Science Alert reported that scientists in Wuhan discovered a woman who transmitted the virus to her family without becoming sick herself.