FAQ: Coronavirus and social distancing

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

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

WHAT IS COVID-19?

Coronavirus is a virus that can make people sick with the disease COVID-19. It originated in Wuhan, China, last year (that’s where the ’19’ part of the name comes from). | CDC website

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?

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

HOW DO YOU GET COVID-19?

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

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

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

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

COVID-19, doctors treating patients in Bergamo, Italy, which has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, say the disease is completely different than the flu. They said they’re seeing dozens of new serious cases each day, more than they can keep up with.

HOW MANY PEOPLE GET SEVERE CASES OF COVID-19?

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

The problem with coronavirus is that it can spread so quickly that the number of severe cases rises so quickly hospitals are overwhelmed.

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

Stay calm. You may just have the cold or flu. Even if you do have COVID-19, most cases are mild and you’ll probably recover at home. Quarantine yourself and your entire household while you seek advice from a doctor. Do not go directly to your doctor’s office — you could contribute to the spread. Call your doctor for guidance about what to do and whether you should try to get tested. If a doctor does recommend you get tested, you’ll receive instructions about where to go. Only go the emergency room if it’s an actual emergency, like if you can’t breathe. | What to do if you have illness symptoms

WHAT IS SOCIAL DISTANCING AND WHY ARE WE DOING IT?

Social distancing is the practice of separating ourselves from one another so as to slow the spread of the virus. Stay away from other people when possible — this is why mass events like sports games have been canceled and why areas where people congregate, like bars and restaurant dining rooms, have been closed. When you must interact with others, like at your job or in a grocery store, stand at least 3 feet apart and preferably 6. This makes it harder for the virus to spread. | Explaining social distancing

As we’ve noted, the problem with coronavirus is that it spreads so quickly that the number of severe cases can rise more quickly than hospitals can keep up with. We saw this happen in China and it’s happening now in Italy and Spain — health care systems are overrun, making it very hard to care for the small percentage of patients who developed severe cases. You may have heard the term “flatten the curve.” That’s what we’re doing — trying to turn an unmanageable spike in cases into a manageable load. | Flatten the curve

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

The short answer: There just aren’t enough test kits. Health officials are determining who’s most at risk of developing a severe illness to decide who gets tested. A March 19 shipment of federal supplies to Kent County health officials was not adequate to get on top of testing. The next day, Michigan’s chief medical executive said the state simply does not have enough access to kits or the ability to process them fast enough to get a clear scope of the spread.

WHAT IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOING ABOUT IT?

Congress has passed three aid packages for Americans dealt a financial blow by the widespread business closures, including a $2.2 trillion stimulus package.

Meanwhile, federal health officials are scrambling to get out more test kits and personal protection equipment, like medical masks, gloves and gowns.

WHAT’S CLOSED BECAUSE OF COVID-19?

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, nearly every public space is being affected in one way or another. Universities are going online-only and K-12 schools are closed. Bars, gyms, hair and nail salons, and other nonesssential businesses are closed, and restaurants can only do takeout or delivery. | Who should you call about violations?

Grocery stores are still open, though Walmart, Meijer and SpartanNash have limited hours to keep shelves stocked.

Many national retail chains have adjusted hours or closed completely.

HOW CAN I HELP?

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

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

Ottawa County has created a website where low-risk people can sign up to volunteer or where you can donate.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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