You asked, we’re answering: Your top coronavirus questions

By Holly Yan and Scottie Andrew, CNN
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, Jeanne Sahadi and Kathryn Vasel contributed to this report.
Updated March 31, 2020

CNN readers from around the world have asked more than 50,000 questions about coronavirus. We’re reading as many as we can and answering some of the most popular questions here.

If you have a question about coronavirus we haven’t answered, ask us here. You can also subscribe to our newsletter, Coronavirus: Fact or Fiction, or listen to Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s podcast to learn more.

I’m confused about masks. First, officials said we shouldn’t wear them. But now I see lots of people wearing masks in public. Should I wear a mask or not?

The idea of recommending the general public start wearing masks is under “very active discussion,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

On March 30 and 31, the World Health Organization and the US surgeon general repeated earlier guidance that you should not wear a mask unless you’re sick, you’re taking care of someone sick, or you’re a health care worker. The CDC agreed.

But guidance could change, said Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He said masks will be a subject of conversation at a White House briefing on April 1.

Fauci said he would “lean toward” recommending the general public wear face masks “if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them.”

Fauci said he came to that mindset “particularly now that we’re getting some inklings that there’s transmission of infection from an asymptomatic person who is not coughing, who is not sneezing, who just appears well.”

“How do you think that’s happening? It very well could be aerosol,” he said. “Maybe not aerosol, you know, that goes on for hours. But even the slight aerosol in which you’re talking to somebody. If that’s the case, we should at least look at the data and try to make a decision about that.”

Previously, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams and a World Health Organization official said wearing a mask can cause more harm than good.

Members of the public wearing face masks often adjust the masks frequently, especially if they don’t fit well. That leads to more touching of the face — a common way that coronavirus spreads.

Wearing face masks can also lead to a false sense of security. If healthy members of the public wear masks — often made of thin fabric or paper — they might not wash their as hands frequently, and they might infect themselves with germs on the masks after taking them off.

“There also is the issue that we have a massive global shortage,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program. “Right now, the people most at risk from this virus are front-line health workers who are exposed to the virus every second of every day. The thought of them not having masks is horrific.”

transmission work/life myths & misinformation
Is it safe to eat takeout from restaurants?

Yes.

There’s no evidence to suggest coronavirus is transmitted through food, the CDC says. It’s mainly spread through respiratory droplets.

Even if coronavirus does get into your food, your stomach acid would kill it, said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.

“When you eat any kind of food, whether it be hot or cold, that food is going to go straight down into your stomach, where there’s a high acidity, low-pH environment that will inactivate the virus,” she said.

But it’s a good idea to disinfect the takeout containers, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and it’s easy to touch your face without realizing it.

If you don’t have disinfecting wipes, use your own plates or bowls to serve the food. Just make sure to wash your hands after transferring food from the containers.

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What percentage of people with coronavirus don't have symptoms? Are they still contagious?

In one study, about 4 in 5 people with confirmed coronavirus in China were likely infected by people who didn’t know they had it, according to research published in the journal “Science.”

“These findings explain the rapid geographic spread of (coronavirus) and indicate containment of this virus will be particularly challenging,” researchers wrote.

In the US, “I think it could be as many as 1 in 3 walking around asymptomatic right now,” said New Jersey primary care physician Dr. Alex Salerno.

“We have tested some patients that have known exposure to COVID (coronavirus disease). They did not have temperature. Their pulse/(oxygen) was OK.”

Aside from social distancing and frequent hand washing, Salerno said more testing of people without symptoms is essential.

“We test people, we get a positive test … we isolate them, and we separate them from the people who are not positive,” Salerno said. If more asymptomatic people got tested, “we could get people back to work safely.”

But there’s not nearly enough tests in the US for everyone who wants one, due to shortages, delays and faulty test kits.

Transmission myths & misinformation work/life
Why worry about coronavirus when the flu kills many more people?

The novel coronavirus is dangerous for several reasons, even if the number of deaths haven’t matched that of the flu.

The first US case of coronavirus was reported in January, and the first US death from coronavirus was reported in late February. By March 26, the US had more than 78,000 cases of coronavirus, and at least 1,135 people have died.

Since this flu season started October 1, more than 23,000 Americans have died from the flu, according to CDC estimates. Nationwide, the flu has infected at least 34 million people between October and mid-March.

But here are key differences when comparing the flu vs. coronavirus:

  • The CDC estimates for the flu go back to October 2019. But the first US case of coronavirus didn’t emerge until several months later.
  • Coronavirus is twice as contagious as the flu. Research indicates a person with the flu infects an average of 1.28 other people, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. But with coronavirus, “it’s likely between two and three” other people.
  • Coronavirus infections have a “very high mortality rate – one in six – among people who are over 80 and people with underlying chronic disease,” epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said.
  • People with coronavirus might not get symptoms for 14 days, and some get no symptoms at all. But during that time, they’re still contagious and can infect others unknowingly.
  • A vaccine is available for the flu, but no vaccine is available for coronavirus. Experts say the number of flu deaths could be drastically reduced if more people got their flu shots. But about half of Americans don’t get vaccinated, including most children who die from the flu.
Transmission work/life myths & misinformation
Why are CNN’s numbers for US cases and deaths higher than what the CDC says?

CNN’s tallies are based on totals reported directly from states, US territories and the District of Columbia. As a result, they won’t always match numbers reported by the CDC.

CDC officials said the most recent numbers will actually come from the states, since the CDC updates its tallies only on weekdays. And those counts end at 4 p.m. ET the day before reporting.

By contrast, some states update their tallies around the clock, and CNN updates its list of state-by-state cases and deaths several times a day.

Transmission myths & misinformation
Can coronavirus spread through water, like in a pool or hot tub?

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs,” the CDC says. “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

For now, health officials still advise staying at least 6 feet away from others because COVID-19 is a respiratory infection.

As for drinking water, doctors say you don’t need to worry about coronavirus in the tap water because most municipal drinking water systems should remove or inactivate the virus.

Transmission work/life
How long will we have to keep social distancing?

Probably for several months. But you might have to do it “over and over again,” since the outbreak could come in waves.

Research by the Imperial College in Great Britain “would suggest you have to institute these kinds of measures for five months, very vigorously,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center.

“And then you may be able to relax for a period. And then you would re-institute as the cases go up again. But we’re basically looking at doing this over and over and over again, even after a five-month period of strict social distancing, in order to curb cases until we have a vaccine.”

Health officials say we’re at least a year away from the first publicly available coronavirus vaccine. In the meantime, they say everyone should avoid large crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

transmission work/life
Can high or low temperatures kill coronavirus?

“Generally coronaviruses survive for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, we don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point,” the CDC says.

“The necessary temperature would also be based on the materials of the surface, the environment, etc.”

President Donald Trump suggested this coronavirus could subside by the warmer summer months, but scientists say it’s too early to tell. And the fact that coronavirus keeps spreading in the Southern Hemisphere during its summer months suggests this strain might not succumb to warmer temperatures.

“The short answer is that while we may expect modest declines in the contagiousness of (novel coronavirus) in warmer, wetter weather and perhaps with the closing of schools … it is not reasonable to expect these declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent,” wrote Dr. Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Transmission myths & misinformation
Can mosquitoes transmit coronavirus?

No. “To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes,” the World Health Organization says.

“The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.”

Transmission myths & misinformation
Why is everyone stocking up on bottled water? Is the water supply at risk?

No, the water supply is not at risk.

“The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water,” the CDC says. “Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

So there’s no need to hoard drinking water, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said he and his wife are still drinking tap water.

Work/life myths & misinformation
My child’s school is closed, and now we need a babysitter. How do I keep my family safe with someone new in the house?

The Harvard Medical School offers several tips, including:

  • choosing a babysitter who has minimal exposures to other people besides your family
  • limiting the number of babysitters. If you can keep it to one, that’s ideal. But if you need multple babysitters, keep the number as low as possible
  • making sure the babysitter understands he or she needs to practice social distancing and limits physical interaction with your children as much as possible
  • telling the babysitter that he or she must not come to your house if feeling even the slightest bit sick, or has had known exposure to coronavirus
  • making sure everyone washes their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating.
Work/life family
How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?

Up to three days, depending on the surface. According to a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health:

  • The new coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
  • It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper, and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
  • In aerosols, it remained viable for three hours.
Transmission
Is it safe to go to the dentist?

Unless you have an emergency, the American Dental Association suggests rescheduling imminent appointments.

The ADA has urged dentists nationwide to postpone elective procedures until at least April 6.

“Concentrating on emergency dental care will allow us to care for our emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments,” ADA said in a March 16 statement.

Transmission
Is coronavirus more contagious than the flu?

Yes.

Research indicates a person with the flu infects about 1.28 other people, on average, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.

But with the novel coronavirus, he said, “it’s likely between two and three” other people.

Transmission family
If people can spread the virus without showing any symptoms, how can I tell who’s infected and who’s not?

You can’t, said Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster and operational medicine at George Washington University Hospital.

“We’re so far behind on testing, there’s only one way we can be certain not to transmit the virus and be certain not to get it ourselves: We need to start treating every person as though they have this, ” Phillips said.

“And everyone needs to treat us like we have it, and socially distance ourselves in that manner. Because until we have (enough) testing, we don’t know who has this. And we’re not sure when they start spreading it.”

That’s why it’s so critical to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wash or disinfect your hands, and stop touching your face.

Transmission travel work/life
How do I safely take care of someone who’s sick?

With the shortage of coronavirus testing nationwide, it may be difficult to know whether your loved one has coronavirus or another illness. So it’s critical to play it safe and not infect yourself and, in turn, others. The CDC suggests:

  • Giving the sick person their own room to stay in, if possible. Keep the door closed.
  • Having only one person serve as the caretaker.
  • Asking the sick person to wear a face mask, if they are able to. If the mask causes breathing difficulties, then the caretaker should wear a mask instead.
Transmission family
What are the symptoms?

Fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing are hallmarks of coronavirus.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure, the CDC says. But some people get no symptoms at all and can infect others without knowing it.

The illness varies in its severity, and many patients can recover at home in isolation.

Older adults — ages 60 and older — and people with severe chronic illness are more likely to get seriously sick from the coronavirus.

Learn more about the difference between flu, coronavirus and allergy symptoms here.

transmission
How does this coronavirus spread?

It primarily spreads between people through respiratory droplets — think coughs, sneezes, spittle.

You can also get coronavirus by touching infected surfaces, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

transmission
How can someone pass along coronavirus when asymptomatic? If not sneezing or coughing, how can they infect others?

It’s easy for asymptomatic people with coronavirus to spread the illness, said Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health.

“Certainly when you speak, sometimes you’ll spit a little bit,” Rimoin said. “You’ll rub your nose. You’ll touch your mouth. You’ll rub your eyes. And then you’ll touch other surfaces, and then you will be spreading virus if you are infected and shedding asymptomatically.”

Instead, people should wash their hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds and stop touching their faces – which is harder than it sounds.

transmission
Can coronavirus go through skin and into the body?

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says.

More often than not, people get coronavirus through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC says.

transmission
How long is someone contagious after getting coronavirus?

It varies. Decisions about when a person can be released from isolation are made on a case-by-case basis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for when it is OK to release someone from isolation. They include meeting all of these requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

“Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others,” the CDC says.

transmission
Do I need to wear a mask to prevent coronavirus?

If you’re healthy, no. If you’re a health care worker, you’re sick, or you’re taking care of someone who’s sick, you can.

Infectious disease experts have asked healthy members of the public to stop buying surgical face masks, which aren’t always effective against coronavirus, and N95 respirators, which should only be worn by medical professionals.

If the general public buys all the masks and respirators, there won’t be enough for the health workers.

In many cities, doctors and nurses are falling sick with or dying from coronavirus. This is doubly tragic because fewer health care workers are able to take care of the public. With dwindling supplies, the CDC said health care workers can use bandanas and scarves instead of masks.

transmission treatment & prevention
Can I get the flu and coronavirus at the same time?

Yes. Testing positive for either the flu or coronavirus doesn’t exempt you from having the other as well.

They share common symptoms, especially fever and cough. But many coronavirus patients suffer from shortness of breath, a hallmark of Covid-19. Other coronavirus patients show no symptoms.

Learn more about how to tell the difference between the flu, coronavirus and allergies here.

transmission
No one from my family has been exposed to the virus, and no one is sick. Can we get together for a family dinner? There are 10 of us, ages 4 to 88.

It’s virtually impossible to say for sure that you haven’t been exposed to the virus. Some carriers of coronavirus don’t have any symptoms at all. But they can still pass on the virus without knowing it.

“We now know that asymptomatic transmission likely (plays) an important role in spreading this virus,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

He said it’s “absolutely clear” that asymptomatic infection “surely can fuel a pandemic like this in a way that’s going to make it very difficult to control.”

Read more: How can people spread coronavirus if they don’t have any symptoms?

Infectious disease experts say those older than 60 are at much higher risk of getting seriously ill if they’re exposed to coronavirus.

If you must socialize, it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from others. Do not hug or kiss, wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, and do not touch your face.

Family
What exactly does 'older' adults mean? What is the age threshold?

The CDC says “older adults“ and people with serious chronic medical conditions “are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.”

Anyone over 60 and those with underlying health problems should try to avoid places with large crowds – such as movie theaters, busy malls and even religious services, infectious disease experts say.

“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime CDC adviser.

But why is age 60 often used as a threshold for those who need to be extra cautious?

“(The) average age of death for people from coronavirus is 80. Average age of people who need medical attention is age 60,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.

Read more about what adults 60 and older should do to prevent coronavirus.

Family
Are kids more at risk?

“Younger people, thankfully, seem to be insulated to some extent to protect (them) from getting particularly sick from this,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “We don’t know entirely why.”

But while children might have mild to no symptoms with coronavirus, they can still get others sick. “They can still carry the virus in their bodies,” Gupta said. “They could potentially still shed the virus and be a source of infection.”

Like everyone else, children should wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone coughing or sneezing, and stop touching their faces – which is a lot harder than it sounds.

Family
Is coronavirus especially harmful for pregnant women?

Long story short: There’s not enough data yet, considering this coronavirus just emerged in humans a few months ago.

Researchers “do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women” to this coronavirus, the CDC says.

“Adverse infant outcomes” like premature births have been reported among infants born to mothers who’ve tested positive for coronavirus during pregnancy, the CDC says. But it’s not clear if these outcomes were related to maternal infection, so the risk is unknown.

Family
What can I do if my loved one suspects they have coronavirus?

Don’t visit family members with suspected illness – keep up with them virtually. If that loved one lives with you, limit contact with them and avoid using the same bathroom or bedroom, the CDC advises.

If they’ve been diagnosed, they may be able to recover at home in isolation. Separate yourself as much as possible from your infected family member and keep animals away, too. Continue to use separate restrooms and regularly disinfect them with EPA-approved products.

Stock up on groceries and household supplies for them while they can’t travel outside and minimize trips to stores. Wash your hands frequently and avoid sharing personal items with the infected person.

If you suspect you’re developing symptoms, stay home and call your physician.

Family
Should I disinfect my groceries? If so, how?

“I would suggest wiping down external surfaces of canned or wrapped foods,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center.

“You should be washing your vegetables (and) produce anyway,” she said. “But I think making sure you sanitize your hands, wash your hands after you do all that – after you unpack all your groceries – is also a key step.”

Work/life
The stores are all out of disinfectant sprays and hand sanitizer. Can I make my own?

Yes, you can make both at home.

“Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted” if you’re trying to kill coronavirus on a non-porous surface, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC’s recipe calls for diluting 5 tablespoons (or ⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

You can also make your own hand sanitizer. The Nebraska Medical Center – famous for its biocontainment unit and treatment of Ebola patients – offers this recipe:

What you’ll need:

  • 2/3 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon or something for whisking
  • Small container, such as a 3 oz. travel bottle
  • Optional: essential oil to give your hand sanitizer a fragrance

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, stir isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel together until well blended.
Add 8-10 drops of scented essential oil (optional, but nice). Stir to incorporate.
Pour the homemade hand sanitizer into an empty container and seal.
Write “hand sanitizer” on a piece of masking tape and attach to the bottle.

Work/life Treatment & Prevention
Do I need to isolate myself if I’m not diagnosed?

It depends.

Adults 60 and older and people with severe chronic illnesses are more likely to get very sick if they’re infected with Covid-19, so the CDC recommends those people stay at home as much as possible if they live in communities where there are outbreaks.

Some communities, cities and even countries have issued wide quarantines to contain the virus, but if you don’t live in one of those areas, use caution when going in public. Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated buildings, and frequently wash your hands before, during and after your trip out.

If you suspect you’re sick or have recently returned from an area where an outbreak has been reported, stay home.

Work/life Treatment & prevention
Should I start stocking up on extra food and supplies?

Yes, because a family member may suddenly have to quarantine. Just don’t buy out a store’s inventory — other people are looking to stock up, too.

Harvard Medical School recommends keeping a two-week to 30-day supply of nonperishable food at home. And if you don’t use them now, they may come in handy for power outages or extreme weather.

It’s also a good idea to keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications you may need, though it can be difficult to get them early. Consider mail-ordering medications.

Work/life
Should I avoid public transportation?

If you rely on public transportation, use caution. If you’re sick or live in an area where an outbreak has been reported, avoid it.

Mass transit could increase your risk of exposure to coronavirus. Luckily, transit systems are upping their cleaning regimens — notably the New York subway system.

Dr. Robyn Gershon, a professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Public Health, has some tips: When you ride a bus or subway, sneeze or cough into your elbow. Use a tissue to hold onto a pole. Avoid touching your face while you’re riding, and use hand sanitizer if you have it while you’re commuting.

Again, wash your hands before, during and after your trip.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommends letting crowded trains or buses pass and waiting for a less crowded one. It’s nearly impossible to maintain 6 feet of distance on a packed subway car.

If you have a chronic illness, find alternative means of transportation — being in a crowded subway car or bus will significantly increase your risk of infection.

Work/life travel
How do I stay healthy while using Uber or Lyft?

Both rideshare companies said they’re actively trying to protect customers and drivers from coronavirus.

Uber said it is trying to give drivers with disinfectants to help keep their cars clean, and the company “may temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.”

Lyft announced a similar policy: “If we are notified of a rider or driver testing positive for COVID-19, they will be temporarily suspended from using Lyft until they are medically cleared.”

Both Lyft and Uber also said they will protect drivers financially if they are asked to isolate themselves.

“Any driver or delivery person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is individually asked to self-isolate by a public health authority will receive financial assistance for up to 14 days while their account is on hold,” Uber said.

“We’ve already helped drivers in some affected areas, and we’re working to quickly implement this worldwide.”

Work/Life travel
Is it safe for me to vote at a polling location?

States have received guidance from the CDC on how to keep voting locations clean. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable going.

Many states that already held elections imposed measures to reduce contact between voters, increasing the distance between voting booths and rigorously disinfecting voting equipment. But if you go, remember – wash your hands before, during and afterward.

Per the CDC: If it’s still possible to vote early, consider it. The crowds are typically smaller than they are on Election Day.

If you’re able to mail in your ballot, do – just don’t lick the envelope.

If you think you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, the CDC advises that you stay home. It’s unfortunate to skip out on your civic duty, but sick people shouldn’t visit crowded locations.

Work/life
Should I go to work?

If you can, you should stay home from work when you’re sick, whether or not you have coronavirus.

Many companies are increasingly flexible with work from home policies. If your company is allowing employees to work from home, consider it. Some companies have enforced working from home.

If you must go into work, maintain 6 feet of distance from your colleagues, wash your hands frequently and practice good respiratory etiquette by coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

Avoid handshakes, switch in-person meetings to teleconferences and disinfect your workspace with EPA-approved products at the start of your shift.

Work/life
Can I be fired if I stay home sick?

An employee can be fired if they don’t show up to work and they don’t have sick leave that would cover the absence, says Krista Slosburg, an employment attorney at Stokes Lawrence in Seattle.

But there are exceptions.

Employers that make workers with coronavirus come in may be violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] regulations, according to Donna Ballman, who heads an employee advocacy law firm in Florida.

Work/Life
What happens when workers don't get paid sick leave?

If you work in a city or state that requires sick leave and you use it, you can‘t be terminated or disciplined.

But there is no federal mandate that requires companies to offer paid sick leave, and almost a quarter of all US workers don’t get it, according to 2019 government data. Some state and local governments have passed laws that require companies to offer paid sick leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can sometimes protect a worker’s job in the event they get sick, but it won’t guarantee they get paid while they’re out.

Employee advocates urge businesses to consider the special circumstances of the coronavirus, and some already have. Uber and Olive Garden are two that recently updated their sick leave policies to adjust to the pandemic.

Work/Life
Can managers send a sick worker home?

Yes, managers can.

The Society for Human Resource Management recommends companies “actively encourage sick employees to stay home, send symptomatic employees home until they are able to return to work safely, and require employees returning from high-risk areas to telework during the incubation period [of 14 days].”

If a manager feels an employee’s illness poses a direct threat to colleagues’ safety, the manager may be able to insist the employee be evaluated by a doctor, said Alka Ramchandani-Raj, an attorney specializing in workplace safety at the law firm Littler Mendelson.

Work/Life
If traveling on a plane, how do I stay safe?

It’s not the cabin air you need to worry about. It’s keeping your hands clean.

Always be mindful of where your hands have been, travel medicine specialist Dr. Richard Dawood said.

Airport handrails, door handles and airplane lavatory levers are notoriously dirty.

“It is OK to touch these things as long as you then wash or sanitize your hands before contaminating your face, touching or handling food,” Dawood said.

“Hand sanitizers are great. So are antiseptic hand wipes, which you can also use to wipe down armrests, remote controls at your seat and your tray table.”

Travel
Since a plane's cabin keeps circulating air, will I get sick if another passenger is sick?

Most viruses don’t spread easily on airplanes because of how the air circulates and is filtered, the CDC says.

Modern commercial jets recirculate 10-50% of the air in the cabin, mixed with outside air. “The recirculated air passes through a series of filters 20-30 times per hour,” the CDC says.

“Furthermore, air generally circulates in defined areas within the aircraft, thus limiting the radius of distribution of pathogens spread by small-particle aerosols. As a result, the cabin air environment is not conducive to the spread of most infectious diseases.”

Still, try to avoid contact with anyone sneezing or coughing. And if you’re feeling sick, cover your entire mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.

Travel
Which countries have travel bans due to coronavirus?

Many countries have enacted temporary restrictions on their entry policies.

These wide-ranging restrictions affect travelers from around the world, so check ahead before making plans. You can learn more about current restrictions in this CNN article.

Travel
I have plans to go on a cruise. Should I rebook or cancel?

“US citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the US Department of State says.

Cruise ship passengers are at an increased risk of infection, the CDC says. The virus spreads more easily between passengers in tight quarters.

Several cruise ships have been linked to coronavirus, including the Diamond Princess, where more than 700 people were infected. At least seven of those patients have died.

Since the coronavirus outbreak started, some cruise lines have implemented more flexible rebooking or cancellation policies.

Travel
If I have a weakened immune system, should I cancel my travel plans?

People who are immunocompromised “are at higher risk from this illness, as well as other illnesses like the flu. Avoiding contact with ill people is crucial,” Washington state’s Snohomish Health District said.

“While rates of infection may not differ significantly between healthy and immunocompromised travelers, the latter are at greater risk for severe disease,” according to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine.

Travel
Why doesn’t the US have enough medical supplies to handle this outbreak?

Top healthcare officials say the US does not have enough stockpiled medical equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to meet the anticipated need as this pandemic grows.

There are several reasons hospitals are on track to face dire shortages, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“About 20 or 30 years ago, we decided that we would not over-hospitalize,” Schaffner said.

Back then, hospitals often had empty hospital beds for new patients. But now, many hospitals are “absolutely full,” Schaffner said. “We have under-built hospital beds because they are very expensive.”

Also, Americans have grown accustomed to “just-in-time” ordering. But that becomes a huge problem when international supply chains are disrupted by an outbreak. “We didn’t anticipate international turbulence influencing this,” Schaffner said.

Now, some health care workers are making their own masks. They’ve also been told they can use bandanas or scarves as masks.

treatment & Prevention
Is there a cure?

There’s currently no cure for the novel coronavirus. And while research is underway, it could be more than a year before a vaccine becomes publicly available.

Treatment & Prevention
Why is a cure taking so long?

An antiviral drug must be able to target the specific part of a virus’s life cycle that is necessary for it to reproduce, according to Harvard Medical School.

“In addition, an antiviral drug must be able to kill a virus without killing the human cell it occupies. And viruses are highly adaptive.”

Treatment & Prevention
What do I do if I think I’m sick?

Stay home. Call your doctor to talk about your symptoms and let them know you’re coming for an appointment so they can prepare for your visit, the CDC says.

Only a Covid-19 test can diagnose you with the virus, but if you suspect you have it, isolate yourself at home. Limit close contact with other people and animals you live with – the CDC recommends keeping 6 feet of distance.

Many patients with coronavirus are able to recover at home. If you’ve been diagnosed and your illness is worsening, seek medical attention promptly. You may need to be monitored in a hospital.

Ask your physician to call the local or state health department, too, so they’re aware that you’re being monitored for the virus.

Treatment & Prevention
What’s the best way to prevent coronavirus?

Stay at least 6 feet away from others, and wash your hands often.

The best way to kill germs is by scrubbing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Do this frequently before, during and after you visit a public place or have contact with people.

When soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol. Rub the sanitizer around your hands until it’s dry.

If you live or work near someone who may be sick, avoid close contact with them. And if there’s an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible and limit your contact with people.

Treatment & Prevention
Should I spray myself or my kids with disinfectant?

No. Those products work on surfaces but can be dangerous to your body.

There are some chemical disinfectants, including bleach, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform, that may kill the virus on surfaces.

But if the virus is already in your body, putting those substances on your skin or under your nose won’t kill it, the World Health Organization says. Not to mention, those chemicals can harm you.

And please – do not ingest chemical disinfectants.

Treatment & Prevention
I’ve heard that home remedies can cure or prevent the virus. Is that true?

There’s no evidence from the outbreak that eating garlic, sipping water every 15 minutes or taking vitamin C will protect people from the new coronavirus. Same goes for using essential oils, colloidal silver and steroids.

Treatment & prevention
If infected with coronavirus, can you survive it and recover?

Absolutely. The vast majority of people with coronavirus survive.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has estimated the death rate is “about 2%.”

Treatment & Prevention
How long does it take to recover?

“It takes anything up to six weeks to recover from this disease,” said Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization.

“People who suffer very severe illness can take months to recover from the illness.”

Recovery is often marked by a patient no longer showing symptoms and having two consecutive negative tests at least one day apart, Ryan said. But there is no known cure for the novel coronavirus.

Treatment & Prevention
Why waste a test kit on a person without symptoms?

Some people with coronavirus have mild or no symptoms. And in some cases, symptoms don’t appear until up to 14 days after infection.

During that incubation period, it’s possible to get coronavirus from someone with no symptoms. It’s also possible you may have coronavirus without feeling sick and are accidentally infecting others.

So anyone who has had close contact with someone known to have coronavirus should ask a health care provider about getting tested, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Anyone who recently traveled to a part of the world where coronavirus is widespread should do the same.

Treatment & Prevention
Why is the US so far behind other countries with testing?

Experts say it’s due to cuts in federal funding for public health and problems with early testing.

Problems with public health infrastructure Two years ago, the CDC stopped funding epidemic prevention activities in 39 countries, including China. This happened because the Trump administration refused to allocate money to a program that started during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden warned that move “would significantly increase the chance an epidemic will spread without our knowledge and endanger lives in our country and around the world.”

Problems with the testing Malfunctions, shortages and delays in availability have all contributed to the slowdown.

In the first few weeks of the outbreak in the US, the CDC was the only facility in the country that could confirm test results — even though a World Health Organization test became available around the same time.

Some test kits that were sent around the country were flawed — a move that put the US behind about “four to five weeks,” says Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

Treatment & Prevention
If a coronavirus patient progresses to pneumonia, what antibiotics if any have proven to be effective?

No, antibiotics are not effective against coronavirus because the disease is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection.

“However, if you are hospitalized for the [coronavirus], you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible,” the World Health Organization says.

There is no known cure for the coronavirus. Researchers are studying whether the antiviral drug remdesivir might work, but testing of that drug just started.

For now, coronavirus patients get “supportive” treatment, “which means giving fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and, in severe cases, supplemental oxygen,” the Harvard Medical School says.

Treatment & Prevention
Will a pneumonia or flu vaccine protect me from coronavirus?

Some cases of coronavirus do lead to pneumonia. But the pneumonia vaccine won’t help.

“Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, only help protect people from these specific bacterial infections,” according to Harvard Medical School.

“They do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia.”

For now, health officials are urging the public to get the flu vaccine. The flu shot does not protect against coronavirus, but it does help protect against a massive and unnecessary burden on hospitals as they struggle to tackle coronavirus.

The CDC estimates about 140,000 to 810,000 people are hospitalized with the flu every year in the US. And about half of Americans don’t get vaccinated – including most children who die from the flu.

Treatment & Prevention
After recovering from coronavirus, does the recovered patient have immunity to the virus?

It’s too early to know for sure. But other coronaviruses, like ones that cause the common cold, might give us clues.

With “common cold coronaviruses, you don’t actually have immunity that lasts for very long, and so we don’t know the answer with this specific coronavirus,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the New York University School of Medicine.

“That’s actually going to be one of the challenges with designing a vaccine is how do you actually cause the immunity to last long enough to protect you.”

Treatment & Prevention
Did Dean Koontz predict this outbreak in the book “The Eyes of Darkness” almost 40 years ago?

No. There are some interesting coincidences in the 1981 fiction novel, which says “a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread around the globe” around the year 2020. Modern editions of the book call the biological strain “Wuhan-400,” and the current coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China.

But there are important differences between the book and reality. The original version of the book called the strain the “Gorki-400,” in reference to a Russian locality, before it was later changed to the “Wuhan-400.” In the book, the virus was man-made, while scientists believe the novel coronavirus started in animals and jumped to humans. And in the book, the virus had a 100% mortality rate. Early estimates of the mortality rate for this coronavirus outbreak range from 2-4%.

myths & misinformation
Can heat kill the coronavirus?

Hand dryers can’t kill the virus, according to WHO. The organization also says that UV lamps shouldn’t be used to sterilize hands or other areas of the body because the radiation can irritate skin.

Drinking hot water or taking hot baths won’t kill it, either.

President Donald Trump has previously suggested that heat might kill the virus, and as a result, the current outbreak could dissipate by summer.

But public health experts say there’s no way to know this.

Myths & misinformation
Can coronavirus go through skin and into the body?

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says.

More often than not, people get coronavirus through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC says.

Myths & misinformation
I’ve heard that black people can’t get coronavirus.

Anyone can get coronavirus.

Any person who comes into close contact with someone who is infected is at risk for contracting the virus, according to the CDC.

“Black people can get coronavirus, just like other people,” said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an African-American family physician who has also been debunking coronavirus myths.

Caudle said she worries that some people may not take proper precautions to protect themselves against the virus because they may have heard this myth.

In Africa, the pandemic is gaining a foothold. So far, the virus hasn’t spread in Africa as quickly as it has on some other continents. But numbers there are rising fast.

Myths & misinformation
Can I get coronavirus from my pet, or vice versa?

“No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes Covid-19,” the World Health Organization says.

Myths & misinformation
I’ve heard that home remedies can cure or prevent the virus.

There’s no evidence from the outbreak that eating garlic, sipping water every 15 minutes or taking vitamin C will protect people from the new coronavirus. Same goes for using essential oils, colloidal silver and steroids.

Some posts have suggested that putting sesame oil on your body or spraying yourself with alcohol or chlorine will kill the virus. That’s also false.

Myths & misinformation
Can I get coronavirus from a package sent from China?

No. “The new coronavirus cannot be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country reporting Covid-19 cases,” the World Health Organization says.

“Even though the new coronavirus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (depending on the type of surface), it is very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after being moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures,” WHO said.

Again, the best ways to prevent transmission is to stay 6 feet away from others, thoroughly wash your hands, and disinfect surfaces with EPA-approved products.

Myths & misinformation