Here are answers to some common questions and additional health and safety resources related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Houston and southeast Texas:
Do I need to get tested for COVID-19? Where/how do I get tested?
Click here for information about coronavirus testing in the greater Houston area.
I feel sick and I think it's coronavirus. What do I do to get medical help or treatment?
If you think you are sick with the coronavirus, you should stay home except to get medical care, according to the CDC, and isolate yourself from other people in your home. Unless you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not head straight to the doctor's office. Call ahead to your doctor to determine how to proceed or consider telemedicine if possible.
Click here for information about the difference between coronavirus and seasonal allergies.
Why do I need to wear a mask?
The virus is spread mainly from person to person, according to the CDC, through "respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks" that can infect other people. Thus, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in places like grocery stores and pharmacies where it can become difficult to maintain social distancing. The face coverings provide a barrier intended to slow the spread of the virus, especially from people who are otherwise asymptomatic and could transmit the virus without knowing they have it.
The CDC provides the following guidance to determine if your mask fits correctly. It should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
What materials do I need to make a mask?
You can sew a mask with fabric and elastic. Click here for a tutorial.
If you don't know how to sew, you can also make a no-sew cloth face mask out of an old T-shirt.
What's the difference between a KN95 mask, an N95 mask and a surgical mask?
These forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) vary based on the amount of respiratory protection the provide. Authorities are asking that these types of PPE, which are generally in short supply, are reserved for medical professionals.
Those who are not medical professionals are advised to use cloth face coverings (like fabric masks, scarves or bandanas) according to the latest CDC guidance.
How do I prevent spreading and contracting coronavirus?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before you eat.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep a distance of at least six feet to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue and discard it in a closed container.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
For people who are sick:
- Stay home.
- If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, such as acetaminophen.
- Keep sick household members away from others. If you have a separate room that is best.
- Use soap and water, a bleach and water solution, or EPA-approved household products. You can make your own cleanser with a mixture of 1 cup of liquid unscented chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water.
- Avoid sharing personal items.
- Anyone at high risk for complications should talk to their healthcare provider for more information.
Click here for more information about how to protect yourself from coronavirus.
Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
There is no vaccine for coronavirus, but researchers around the globe are working to develop one. Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated it will take 12-18 months to develop and test a coronavirus vaccine.
What medicine do I take if I have coronavirus?
There is no known cure or treatment for COVID-19, though health authorities around the world are investigating a number of drugs that could be approved in the future to treat COVID-19.
Do certain foods or vitamins help prevent you from getting coronavirus?
No. While authorities encourage maintaining a generally healthy, active lifestyle even during shelter-in-place or safe-at-home periods, there is no food or vitamin proven to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Does smoking make you more likely to catch or get sick from coronavirus?
The CDC lists smoking as one of the factors that can cause a person to become immunocompromised, potentially leaving them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
How long does COVID-19/coronavirus last on surfaces?
The new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days, tests by U.S. government and other scientists have found.
The research, published in March, doesn't prove that anyone has been infected through breathing it from the air or by touching contaminated surfaces, researchers stress.
How can I clean and disinfect my phone?
The best way to disinfect your phone is to clean it with a disinfecting wipe that has at least 70% alcohol.
"Things like Clorox wipes or Lysol wipes, those kinds of wipes that have a high disinfectant in them, they are going to break down the structure of the virus," said Claire Reilly, Senior Editor at CNET in San Francisco.
Reilly warns against spraying disinfectant spray directly on the cellphone. It is best to spray it on a cloth (paper towels are considered too abrasive) and then wipe the phone clean. Be careful not to get moisture into the headphone jack and other connectors.
Recently, Apple changed its recommendations to allow the use of disinfecting wipes on hard surfaces of iPhones and tablets.
Can I travel internationally?
In March, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory warning American citizens against traveling internationally during the pandemic. The department urged citizens who live in the U.S. but are currently abroad to "arrange for immediate return to the United States unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period."
Americans returning from abroad may be subject to quarantine periods.
How can I stay safe while flying?
The risk of infection on an airplane is low, according to the CDC. Those who must travel should continue to practice common coronavirus prevention measures like washing hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick and not touching your face with unwashed hands.
What do I do if I am the victim of domestic violence during stay-at-home?
If you need help, contact local police or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The hotline is open 24/7 and provides services in more than 200 languages. All calls are free and confidential.
Who can I call if I'm feeling anxious or depressed?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has compiled an extensive guide with information about how to support your mental well-being during the pandemic.
NAMI's HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern time at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
Click here for more coronavirus coverage from ABC13.