What you should know
What is the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they can be transmitted to humans and spread between people. Coronavirus COVID-19 reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.
On March 11, 2020 WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. According to the WHO, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.
How it spreads
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- 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.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 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.
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath
People with a weakened immune system, older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. For those, there’s a chance the virus could cause a more serious respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Clean your hands often, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- The CDC’s primary recommendation for cleaning hands to limit the spread of COVID-19 is to wash them with soap and water. See here. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them by using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask. (CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.)
- Check out the CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family and for what the public should do.
- Prepare your family in case COVID-19 spreads in your community. Learn how to protect your home and family, and managing stress and anxiety.
- CDC suggests postponing routine dental and eyecare visits
Diagnosis occurs through laboratory testing of respiratory specimens and serum (blood). Some coronavirus strains cause the common cold and patients tested by their health care provider may test positive for these types. The COVID-19 strain can only be detected at a public health laboratory.
We’re monitoring the CDC website to stay up-to-date on the guidelines and directions with regard to testing. The CDC recommends:
- If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly-ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.
If you do have a confirmed case, please be sure to notify your HR Business Partner.
People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis. COVID-19 patients should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.
People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
- Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread.
- Tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact.
- Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
Telehealth – Digital healthcare solution
We recommend you use telehealth when possible to help prevent the spread of infection and improve access to care.
The duration of illness depends on the individual. Some people are only experiencing mild symptoms. People who are older, immunosuppressed or other comorbidities will likely have more advanced symptoms and be sicker longer. No specific data is available.
State of emergency declarations
Why have some of the impacted states in the U.S. declare a state of emergency? It’s all about preparedness. A state of emergency declaration, available to all state governments, allows officials to “unlock” additional resources such as funding, workers, and materials, in advance of an emergency. It also enables all levels of government to work together to ensure communities receive the assistance they need to respond to and recover from an emergency. Many states have granted state health officers the authority to declare public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.