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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Centers for Disease Control’s website is a great resources for information on how to lower your risk of infection and help slow down the spread of COVID-19.
This Johns Hopkins University tracker is a great resource. More than 119,000 people have been infected around the world as of March 11, prompting the World Health Organization to officially proclaim it a pandemic.
“There is much still being researched, but COVID-19 is believed to spread via droplets, such as coughing or sneezing. Exposure is defined by health authorities as close, personal face-to-face contact within six feet for durations of 10 minutes or more. The virus can incubate in someone for anywhere from two to 14 days, so people, including children, can be infectious before they show symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Your risk of catching it largely depends on how much you touch your face, so experts recommend refraining from touching your face and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It’s also possible to pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces, where it can live for hours or even days, although health officials say that route of transmission is less common.
A new study shows that the virus can be detected in the air as many as three hours later. On copper, it lasted four hours, and on cardboard, it lasted one day. Plastic and stainless steel held the virus for as many as two or three days.
The study was conducted by National Institutes of Health, Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, with funding from the U.S. government and the National Science Foundation.”
As the outbreak has evolved since December 2019, scientists have been able to gather more information about the contagious nature of COVID-19 compared to the flu. On average, about 1.3 people will be infected by one individual with the flu. By comparison, 2 to 2.5 people could be infected by one individual ill with the coronavirus.
Keep in mind we may never know the true number of folks infected, since some may not be symptomatic or hospitalized, which can artificially inflate the fatality rate.
The flu’s incubation time from exposure to first symptoms range from one to 14 days, whereas COVID-19 can appear as much as two weeks after exposure.
Current hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are also higher than the flu.
The exact death rate is still unclear, but COVID-19 appears to kill a larger proportion of infected people than the flu, and it can be especially harmful to people over 80 years old.
It’s more likely that the virus will survive on hard surfaces rather than clothing, according to Harvard Health. But towels and clothes can spread and harbor germs. Wash them regularly in warm or hot water. Handling clothes properly is most important for caregivers of those who are ill. The CDC recommends wearing gloves when handling dirty clothes, using the warmest water settings appropriate, and washing your hands again after removing gloves.
Yes. The MIT Technology Review reports that genes, including those part of viruses, naturally mutate. COVID-19 appears to mutate a little slower than influenza, though. Researchers continue to look into it, as well as a possible vaccine.
While coronaviruses are a family of viruses that sometimes infect animals and can become able to infect people as COVID-19 has done, the CDC says there is currently no evidence that pets or other companion animals can spread COVID-19. Until further notice, feel free to snuggle up with your support animal during self-quarantine.
Not necessarily. The World Health Organization says the virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.
Regardless of the weather outside, health experts maintain the best way to protect yourself is by washing your hands frequently and disinfecting the items you use most.
Testing for the coronavirus has ramped up now that private laboratories and hospitals across the state are offering testing with a physician’s referral.
The Hawaii Department of Health said Tuesday it received more than 650 specimens from the Clinical Labs of Hawaii and Diagnostic Laboratory Services. The Hawaii State Laboratories Division has tested 93 other cases that have been negative, and a dozen more results were pending as of March 17.
“We’re looking at clinical commercial lab testing and we’re getting positive hits on those, so we know that their capacity has increased,” said Dr. Sarah Park, the Hawaii state epidemiologist, in a call with the press Tuesday afternoon. “However it is important for everyone to understand that people with mild illness need to stay home and not come to testing sites to potentially expose themselves to people who are positive.”
Of the nearly 750 tests conducted in Hawaii to date by both private and state labs, 14 have resulted in positive COVID-19 diagnoses, but expect to see that number continue to rise.
There’s a couple of reasons for this, according to state health officials.
First, they cite limited resources. Hawaii’s testing has resulted in 56 cases of COVID-19 to date, but testing has been relatively slow here as it has been across the U.S. We don’t have a complete picture of the virus’ prevalence. We only know what our more than 3,000 tests have revealed thus far.
Efforts to test in the U.S. were delayed by errors in U.S. testing kit development, among other issues.
Second, as we have seen in other countries, health officials say outbreaks can become so widespread that it is important to conserve testing resources for health care workers on the frontlines and those who are severely ill so we can be sure to know who is at risk for infecting others. In areas that have significant outbreaks, federal authorities say testing should be reserved for health care workers and hospital patients.
The Hawaii Department of Health has directed anyone who is feeling ill to stay home to recover and self-isolate, with the intent to prevent those people from spreading the disease. Those who are healthy or have mild symptoms are expected to recover at home in isolation. The more people who frequent testing areas, the more chance it could be transmitted. What health officials do not want is someone who has mild symptoms, thinking it’s COVID-19 but it’s actually just the flu, to expose themselves: just the act of going to a testing site could put them at a higher risk for actually contracting COVID-19.
Researchers are still looking into how infectious asymptomatic people are, but DOH Director Bruce Anderson says it is people who are most symptomatic who are most likely to pass the infection on to someone else.
In Los Angeles County, the public health system directed doctors to not bother testing folks if it would not alter their treatment plan.
However, many leaders in Hawaii, including Lt. Gov. Josh Green, say the state’s pace is too slow and want much wider testing.
At a certain point, if things continue to get worse, some believe the testing discussion could become moot, especially if there continues to be no set treatment or vaccine. “At some point we’re going to have so many people infected you don’t need to test anymore, if that makes sense,” said Oahu physician Dr. Ryan Roth.
The state health department has published a list of all screening sites, but you should review the following DOH guidance before making the trip:
China, where the COVID-19 virus was first discovered in December, is reporting no new locally-transmitted cases. Any new infections have been from outside of China. That’s not without a lot of community cooperation. To prevent a second wave of infection, there are still strict social distancing protocols in place.
Each of us has the power to “cut a link” in the chain of transmission, Siobhan Roberts writes in the New York Times.
Past training for outbreaks such as Ebola have Hawaii hospitals equipped to deal with infectious diseases like the new coronavirus. Hospitals gathered backup emergency supplies and can tap into more provided by the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management coalition or use funds from the federal Hospital Preparedness Program, according to Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
The state has extra masks, gowns, goggles, respirators and other personal protective equipment in the event of an outbreak. The state has approximately 166 isolation rooms that could be used if necessary in the future, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.
On Wednesday, March 11, the federal government approved $4.5 million in emergency funds for Hawaii for coronavirus-related crisis spending.
State officials are hesitant to predict the total, but say they expect the number of reported cases to rise in the future, in part because of increased testing capabilities by private laboratories.
“The extent of private laboratory testing has increased dramatically — we’re now able to test thousands of people and that makes a difference,” Bruce Anderson, the DOH director, said. “I would expect to see more cases now that we have more testing than we’ve been able to do in the past.”
Check this website daily for the latest travel advisories from the CDC, as they continue to change. If you are sick, do not get on a plane. Most airlines are offering waived change fees during this international crisis.
“According to Gov. David Ige, Hawaii state government does not have the authority to ban cruise ships. That decision lies with the federal government and the U.S. Coast Guard. All ships from China have been banned at this point, but other cruises have continued as planned, despite new warnings from federal authorities.
Yesterday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department discouraged Americans from traveling by cruise, especially if they’re elderly and have underlying health conditions.
“Like many other viruses, Covid-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” the CDC said in its most recent travel advisory update.
Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Hawaii Rep. Gene Ward asked the federal government to temporarily cease all cruise ship travel to the United States, but no such action has been taken to date.
In a March 10 letter to the governor, Ward expressed his concern about the matter:
“Please reconsider your position on this matter and push the pause button on these floating tubs of germs, one of which caused Hawaii’s first coronavirus case,”” he wrote to Gov. Ige.”
The airlines need paying passengers to cover the costs of operating the fleet. This includes paying pilots and flight attendants and paying for fuel. There’s only so much an airline can do to reduce hours and costs for workers, in part because of union contracts.
Since President Donald Trump enacted a 30-day ban March 14 on most flights to the U.S. from Europe, multiple airline companies reported they have had to cut down on their flight schedules, including Hawaiian Airlines, which reduced its flights by 40% for April.
Earlier this week, Ige urged all visitors to not take that vacation they were planning to the Hawaiian Islands.
The low rates you’re seeing in general are a survival tactic, it appears.
“Travel related” coronavirus cases signifies either that the patient traveled somewhere outside of Hawaii and was diagnosed upon return to the islands, or the patient was infected by a close contact who traveled and presumably became infected elsewhere. Technically, if a visitor were to be diagnosed after leaving Hawaii, their case would not be included in the state count.
Hawaii residents are more likely to transmit the virus than visitors, state health officials say. That’s because about 80% of all 48 cases to date are among Hawaii residents, not tourists.
“With the majority of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases linked to travel, it is critical that we further mitigate the spread of the virus by both residents and visitors who are coming from out-of-state,” Gov. David Ige said.
The question of whether or not cases of COVID-19 are travel related will likely become moot as the number of community-transmitted cases grows.
Updated: March 21, 2020
“You’re still allowed to buy groceries, go to court in some cases, travel to work, exercise and walk your pet, among other things.
If you do any of the following work, your job is considered essential and you are exempt from the stay-at-home mandate:
As it stands, Hawaii residents are still free to go outside to get fresh air, go to the grocery store and other necessary errands, but gatherings of 10 people or more are forbidden, based on CDC recommendations.
According to the Hawaii DOH, it is crucial for people who are sick or recently traveled to self-isolate for two weeks. An official policy requiring everyone arriving by plane to the islands to stay home for two weeks goes into effect on March 26.
Some people are practicing “”social distancing”” but others are not. The new shelter-in-place mandate with penalties for non-compliance instituted by the mayors of Honolulu and Maui could really change life here. However, in those counties, as well as states where there are such policies, people are still free to leave for essential errands to the bank, doctor, pharmacy, and grocery store.
“I think it’s good for people to have the opportunity to get out, go hiking, swimming, fishing, surfing, doing the things they’d normally do, but we certainly don’t want people to be exposing themselves to others or have them exposed to individuals who may be ill,”” said DOH Director Bruce Anderson.”
Updated: March 23, 2020
If you feel like it, sure. Hawaii State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said March 10 that the public doesn’t necessarily need to wait for the government’s recommendation to implement “social distancing.” Gov. David Ige recommended that elderly people, who are at higher risk for succumbing to COVID-19, avoid large gatherings.
It could be months. Government officials are recommending people limit their social activity because it’s the best chance we have to prevent transmission of the coronavirus and overwhelming hospitals, especially because there is no treatment yet.
Here are some ways to ensure you’re implementing “social distancing” properly.
“Because children may be infected without showing symptoms, you may want to consider limiting your interactions with them, unfortunately.
If you are older and you have chronic health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or lung disease, you are at a high risk and should keep your distance. If your family is able to, looking into alternatives for child care is likely the safest option, according to Harvard Health.”
“Harvard University researchers say the virus won’t survive in properly treated pool water. So feel free to head to the pool, but avoid close contact with other people.
Regarding the ocean, there is little information about COVID-19’s ability to survive in salt water, according to the Surfrider Foundation. Sand and ocean water are known to harbor a lot of bacteria, but you’d most likely be at higher risk for catching COVID-19 if you interact with other infected beachgoers.”
“Infectious disease experts at the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control say it is fine to take ibuprofen and there is no evidence that suggests otherwise. The concern over ibuprofen exploded after the French health minister tweeted some advice to use Tylenol instead, but public health officials were disapproving of his move which was based on limited data, NPR reports.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, more research is needed.
“Currently, there is no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of serious complications or of acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19,” he said.
Both paracetamol and ibuprofen help to relieve fevers and flu symptoms, but they may not be suitable for all patients depending on existing health conditions. Ask your doctor.
We have plenty more questions to answer so stay tuned for updates to this page more. Meanwhile, use the form below to ask us anything and tell us what, if anything, you’re doing differently to avoid getting sick.