Coronavirus FAQ And Information

Mar 5, 2020

Updated at 8:00 pm  March 25.

Elected officials advise against gathering in groups of 10 people or more and ask that you limit your time out of the house to essential activities: emergency health care appointments, trips to the grocery store, or work for essential personel. Keep a six foot distance between yourself and others when outside. They also remind residents that viruses do not discriminate against people or countries, and neither should we. Please let WSHU know what questions or comments you have via this survey.

How widespread is coronavirus in the region?

See WSHU's Live Blog for the latest numbers in New York and Connecticut. Or, you can check the latest New York updates here.  Check the latest Connecticut updates here.

 

At the national level, there are discrepancies with numbers of reported cases, as private labratory results may be slow to get reported to public health offices. Check CDC updates here, Johns Hopkins University updates here and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control here

Read more of our local coverage of cases here.

How do I protect myself against the new coronavirus?

Public Health officials ask even people who feel healthy to practice “social distancing” to avoid exposure by people who may not appear to have symptoms. That means staying in the house except to go to work, the doctor, or the grocery store and keeping within six feet from others when outside. The CDC says prevention is the best course of action. "While there is currently no vaccine to prevent this virus, these simple steps can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.”

The CDC says face masks are reserved for health care workers, who are specially fit for them to ensure they are effective. People are not advised to wear face masks unless they’re caring for a sick person at home or are out in public with symptoms themselves.

Connecticut health officials also advise getting an extra 30-day supply of prescription medications, in case of shortages from drug manufacturers in China. Residents may also want to stock up on two-to-three weeks worth of food, in case of advised self-quarantine. 

Who should I call if I am worried I have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus?

Call your doctor if you suspect you or someone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms and have your household self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Your primary care physician will advise whether you should seek testing and they may contact local public health officials, if necessary. If your doctor thinks you need emergency care, do not try to visit a walk-in clinic or emergency room without notifying the facility over the phone first. Health care workers need to prepare for your arrival with proper equipment to prevent potential exposure. 

There is no “emergency hotline” for the new coronavirus. New Yorkers looking for information can call a dedicated state health department line at 1-888-364-3065 to get questions answered about travel safety and referrals to health care facilities.  There is also a hotline to report price gouging on home cleaning and sanitation supplies: 1-800-697-1220

On March 6, Connecticut launched a 2-1-1 hotline for general information about coronavirus. The hotline is not for people who exhibit symptoms. Those people should call their local health department's emergency hotline. You can also text "CTCOVID" to 898211. Connecticut Children’s hospital has a 24/7 pediatric Coronavirus hotline. Call 1-833-226-2362.

Starting March 19, Access Health CT will hold a special open enrollment to make sure uninsured Connecticut residents can get health care coverage during the coronavirus crisis. The special enrollment period will last 2 weeks and end on April 2. Only qualified individuals who are uninsured, lawfully present and not incarcerated are able to participate in the enrollment. Coverage will be effective as of April 1. Residents can sign up for coverage by phone only. Call 855-365-2428. 

Can I get tested for COVID-19 if I am worried I’ve been exposed?

Testing is not available at your local clinic or emergency room, unless you have a doctor-ordered appointment or are already being hospitalized for serious symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), according to March 5 CDC guidelines. Several local hospital systems, including Yale New Haven Health, have launched drive-through testing centers to limit exposure of health care workers. Commercial and private labs are testing in Connecticut and New York.

 

Where can I turn if I am feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or depressed?

Public health officials remind folks that practicing social distancing does not mean going into social isolation. Try scheduling regular phone calls or video chats with friends, family or coworkers. You can also create text chats or Facebook groups with neighbors to check in on those most vulnerable and stay connected. Think of ways to support your community remotely: virtually donate cash or goods to food banks, virtually tip service workers (like your barber or nail tech) who may be laid off, or purchase online from local shops or delivery restaurants. 

Connecticut residents in crisis can reach out to the crisis text line and text “LISTEN” to 741-741 to speak to a trained clinician at National Alliance on Mental Illness.

New Yorkers in need of mental health help can text “GOT5” to 741-741. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced March 25 that residents can call 1-844-863-9314 to speak with mental health professionals, over 6,000 of whom volunteered for the effort.

What help is available if I’ve lost my job or my business is struggling during the coronavirus crisis?

Connecticut Department of Labor is lifting restrictions on who can apply for unemployment benefits to make things easier to respond quickly. Check out the department’s FAQ to see how you may qualify for assistance and apply here. Small businesses and non profits in the state can also apply for up to $2 million in federal loans for distaster assistance here. Businesses and non profits with fewer than 100 employees may also apply for interest free loans from the state.

New York Department of Labor is taking unemployment benefit applications here and asks for patience as many workers bombarded the system on March 16 and caused the website to stall. 

Should I worry about travel?

Public health officials in Connecticut have cautioned against travel outside of the state. The CDC asks people to avoid cruises worldwide and issues this warning  of caution about travel within the country, and issues this warning about traveling to high-risk countries that include most of Europe as of March 17th. Several countries, including Mexico and Guatemala, have considered barring the entry of US citizens due to potential Coronavirus exposure. Check with your school or employer about policies for non-essential travel and work-from-home protocols. 

What is coronavirus, or COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are types of viruses that often cause common colds among children, but some strains have evolved into more serious illnesses like SARS and MERS. The “novel coronavirus” that you have been hearing about is a strain called SARS-CoV-2 that causes the respiratory disease, COVID-19. Currently about 80% of cases are mild and range from symptoms like the common cold to pneumonia that does not require hospitalization. About 15-20% of people, especially those with pre-existing conditions or age 60 and up, are more vulnerable to severe respiratory infections that require oxygen or life support respirators. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

The disease spreads from infected people through cough and sneeze droplets that carry the virus. Some studies have shown that people without symptoms may still spread the virus. Their droplets can land on surfaces that we touch, where the virus can live for hours or days if it the surface is not cleaned with a disinfectant. If the virus gets on your hands, it can enter your body via contact with the eyes, nose and mouth. Humans have zero immunity to COVID-19.
 

Looking for more? Check out NPR’s new 10-minute, daily podcast, Coronavirus Daily.

Questions for WSHU? Please share!

You can also email us your questions or share your experience with Coronavirus and our newsroom will get in touch.

SOURCES
CONNECTICUT STATE: 
https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Public-Health-Preparedness/Main-Page/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

NEW YORK STATE:
NYDPH Coronavirus hotline: 1-888-364-3065
https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

NASSAU COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 
https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/1652/Health-Department

SUFFOLK COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 
https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: 
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CORONAVIRUS RESOURCE CENTER:
https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

EUROPEAN CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL:
https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china

NPR:
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/04/811609241/coronavirus-fears-have-led-to-a-golden-age-of-hand-washing-psas