What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus or COVID-19
Last reviewed and updated: Sept. 8, 2020
During the coronavirus pandemic, we're updating this resource center regularly to keep you informed. Stay connected:
- Check back here for updates.
- Follow the news and consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coronavirus website for alerts.
- Contact your MDVIP-affiliated physician — your partner in health and prevention — if you're not feeling well.
We recently asked a panel of members to submit their questions about the coronavirus pandemic. You can see answers to those questions here.
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Wear a Mask
When you are out in public and unable to practice social distancing – or inside a facility with others — wear a mask to protect yourself. Even if you’re still skeptical, there’s good science supporting the wearing of masks. As of mid-July, 30 states have a stringent statewide requirement for wearing a face mask in public and 18 states have some mask requirement policies in place. Only two states (Iowa and South Dakota) lack face mask guidelines.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask wasn’t recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But as the outbreak evolved, studies found that masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, wearing a mask may lower the transmission rate of COVID-19 from 17 percent to 3 percent, according to a study published in The Lancet.
Other studies have shown significant decreases in transmission rates to healthcare workers after stringent facemask requirements were put in place in March. Even cloth masks, which are not as protective as medical grade masks, can “substantially limit forward dispersion of exhaled respirations that contain potentially infectious respiratory particles,” according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July.
Practice Social Distancing
Staying away from others, or social distancing, is even more effective than masks. You can’t become infected if you don’t come into contact with this coronavirus. That means avoiding non-essential trips out, cooking at home and avoiding gatherings. When you do go out, it means staying away from others – at least six feet.
Since COVID-19 is a new virus, there aren’t many studies supporting the use of social distancing to control COVID-19. However, social distancing has been practiced with success in previous pandemics, and observational and simulation studies have found evidence to support social distancing measures during flu outbreaks, according to a policy review published in the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Follow the CDC’s Travel Guidance
Currently, the CDC has placed the U.S. at a warning level 3. This means you should avoid nonessential travel, especially if you or someone you live with has a high risk for serious complications. Also, you should know what the conditions are where you’re going. Some areas of the U.S. have more widespread infections, and others have requirements to quarantine upon arrival.
If you’re still planning a trip, here’s a breakdown or risk by mode of travel:
- Cruise ship: Right now, there is a no sail order in effect, so cruise ships aren’t an option. The large number of people and tight quarters of cruise ships make it a breeding ground for infectious diseases. Cruise ships have histories of outbreaks of Noroviruses, influenza (flu) and COVID-19.
- Airplane: If you booked a flight, it will probably be crowded. You may not be able to keep a six-foot distance between other people. But wearing your mask and washing hands after touching surfaces can help protect you.
- Car and RV: If you’re driving to your destination and need to stop for gas, food or bathroom breaks, make sure you wear your mask, stay six away from people and wash your hands.
- Bus or train: If you’re traveling by bus or train, wear a mask, do your best to maintain a six-foot distance between people and wash your hands after touching surfaces.
Manage Chronic Conditions
About 80 percent of people infected with COVID019 had mild symptoms and recovered with little medical intervention. But 15 percent developed serious symptoms and another 5 percent had life-threatening symptoms, which experts attributed to having an underlying condition. This is why it’s so important to manage chronic conditions, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung conditions.
Stay Up to Date with Government Recommendations: Precautions and Vaccinations
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the latest recommendations to help you get through the pandemic as safely as possible.
As of now, the CDC precautions include wearing masks in public, maintaining at least six feet distance from other people while in public and wearing gloves when caring for or cleaning someone who is sick. As for hygiene, wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before eating or after touching dirty items or using the restroom. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 percent alcohol.
It’s also important you keep up with CDC-recommended vaccines, particularly flu (influenza), pneumonia (pneumovax) and shingles (Shingrix) vaccines. Why? Without these vaccinations, you have a higher risk of contracting these viruses. And if you do contract one of the viruses along with COVID-19, your risk serious, if not life-threatening complications.
Even though many doctors’ offices are open, you may not be thrilled with visiting one right now. You may feel as though going to the doctor puts you at risk. The truth is: You still need your doctor. Forgoing medical care or preventive services can raise your risk of serious illness.
When should I contact my doctor?
If you’re sick or have a minor injury, call your PCP. Self-care may not do the trick. Listen to your doctor’s guidance including coming into the office. Doctors usually rely on cultures, blood work and a physical exam to prescribe the correct medication.
And if you’re managing chronic conditions, it’s very important stay in touch with your doctor. Patients living with chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes who skip doctor visits are missing out on getting tests that tell them how their condition is being managed. A report out in late April showed that diagnostic tests like lipid panels and blood sugar screenings were down by as much as 68 percent nationwide.
There were 87,000 more deaths during March and April this year compared to previous years and only two-thirds of these deaths could be attributed to COVID-19, according to a study published in JAMA. These additional deaths were attributed to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
“The shutdown frightened many people. They didn’t seek help from their primary care physician, and they stayed out of hospital emergency departments,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “If you have a chronic condition, you must continue to communicate with your doctor regardless of what’s going on in the world.”
What about my wellness appointments?
You don’t want to skip these appointments either. Why? Wellness appointments cue your doctor in to brewing health problems that you may not notice such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
They also allow your doctor to measure mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression – three issues that can wreak havoc on your health. In fact, between 75 and 90 percent of visits to primary care doctors are for stress-related issues. Stress is a common cause of insomnia, forgetfulness, obesity, high blood pressure and excessive smoking and drinking. It also weakens the immune system, raising your risk for catching a virus and exacerbating chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in the United States), cerebrovascular disease (cause of strokes), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.
If you have an upcoming wellness appointment and concerned about the transmission of COVID-19, call your doctor’s office. Office staff will explain the safety procedures they have in place to help control the spread.
What precautions are doctor offices taking?
Before you go into the office, your doctor’s office staff will want to get a literal temperature read on how you’re doing. You may receive a phone call the day before asking you a series of questions including if you’re running a fever. While other offices are meeting patients in the parking lot the day of the appointment to take their temperature.
Once you’re inside the doctor’s office, you’ll notice it probably looks a little different than it did back in early 2020. There may be a clear plastic partition in front of the reception desk. Chairs in the waiting room are turned in alternating directions. Maybe you’re asked to fill out paperwork in an empty office. There are probably bottles of disinfectant and hand sanitizer throughout the office. And the doctor, staff and other patients are wearing masks.
Is telemedicine an option?
Of course, telemedicine is an option at many doctor offices either in lieu of in person appointments or in addition to traditional services. Keep in mind, if you’re ill, you may have to come in for cultures, blood work and a physical examination.
MDVIP-afiliated physicians have always been available by phone, but many began offering telemedicine services via video chat in March. Contact your doctor to see what options are available.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Seek medical attention immediately if you have:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Symptoms vary in individuals, and unfortunately, they have ranged from mild (with no reported symptoms) to severe, including death. Symptoms tend to start five days after infection, on average, according to one study.
You may still have coronavirus -- and be able to spread it even if you do not have symptoms. If you have been exposed to someone with the virus or have traveled to an area where the virus is widespread, health officials say you should self-quarantine for 14 days. Learn more.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may recommend getting tested for COVID-19; the results can help them set your course of treatment.
And if you think you contracted and recovered from COVID-19, consider getting an antibody test. If you test positive, your doctor may order follow up tests and treatment. They also may begin focusing on your cardiovascular health, as research has shown that patients are up to seven times more likely to have a heart attack following a viral infection. And early research suggested that COVID-19 doesn’t just damage the lungs — it can damage the heart.
Treatment: Self Care and Medical Care
If you or a loved one has COVID-19, work with your doctor to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. As of now, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19, according to the CDC. However, there are some self-care steps you can take, such as:
- Stay home except to get medical care. Inform your doctor ahead of time that you think you may have COVID-19. And if you live with other people, isolate yourself from them. If you cannot isolate yourself from others in your home, wear a face mask.
- Monitor your symptoms carefully. Contact your doctor immediately if your symptoms worsen. Call 911 if you have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in chest, new confusion, are not able to awaken or stay awake or have bluish lips or face.
- Get rest, stay hydrated and take over-the-counter medications as directed to help ease your symptoms.
Where Are We with a COVID-19 Vaccine?
You’ve also probably heard that a coronavirus vaccine is necessary for us to return to normal. The good news? Surprising progress has been made in creating vaccines for COVID-19.
As of now, there are more than 160 vaccines in various stages of development, and many are already into the human testing phase. While the path to success is still uncertain, never in human history have so many scientists and resources been devoted to a single public health crisis. Here’s a quick primer on how vaccines work, how they’re developed and where we stand developing a vaccine for the current coronavirus outbreak. >>
What's happening today?
More than 6 million cases have been reported in the U.S. Dozens of states have experienced a resurgence of the virus since reopening in May. Arizona, Texas and Florida have been particularly hard hit.
Antibody Treatments for COVID-19
There are several experimental treatments for COVID-19 that involve the use of antibodies.
Antibodies are an essential part of your immune system. When a pathogen, like bacteria or a virus, invades your body, antibodies bind to the invader and neutralize it, minimizing its damage. Your body came with some antibodies, which were passed from your mother. But most antibodies are developed over time when you’re exposed to pathogens. With most viruses, once you’ve built up enough antibodies, you’re generally considered immune to reinfection – at least for a while.
How long antibodies are protective for COVID-19 is still up in the air. But researchers have been looking at two treatment options for the disease: Convalescent plasma and artificial antibodies.
Exclusive Vaccine Webinar for Members
We asked one of America's top virus scientists, Erica Saphire, PhD, a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and a professor of immunology and microbial science, to brief members on the latest COVID-19 vaccine and treatment news. Saphire has been on the frontlines of viral research into ebola and the new sars-coronavirus-2, which causes COVID-19. Watch her webinar.
COVID Is a Health Wake-Up Call for Many Americans
According to an MDVIP/Ipsos survey, half of Americans are more stressed, anxious or depressed than before the pandemic, and one in three say they’ve developed unhealthy habits during this time. But nearly 70 percent said they were motivated by the virus to improve their health. Read on to learn more about the results of this survey.
Vaccines: How They're Developed, How They Work and When We Can Expect a COVID Vaccine
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, we've heard a lot about vaccines. There have been promises for quick vaccine development as well as warnings about how long it really takes to develop a safe, effective vaccine.
You’ve also probably heard that a coronavirus vaccine is necessary for us to return to normal. The good news? Surprising progress has been made in creating vaccines for COVID-19. As of now, there are more than 160 vaccines in various stages of development, and many are already into the human testing phase. While the path to success is still uncertain, never in human history have so many scientists and resources been devoted to a single public health crisis.
COVID-19: Why Do Some People Develop Life Threatening Complications?
Since early 2020, medical and public health professionals have been scrambling to understand COVID-19. So far, a majority of those whose infections were confirmed with testing — 80 percent — had mild symptoms and recovered with little medical intervention, which is obviously great news.
But 15 percent developed serious symptoms and another 5 percent had life-threatening symptoms, which experts attributed to having an underlying condition. Here’s why doctors think they get sicker.
Will You Be Ready to Fight Off the Next Virus?
Over the years, you've probably seen many magazine articles and TV shows talking about unique herbs and exotic fruits that can boost your immune system. Unfortunately, there's no magic pill where your immune system is concerned. You’ll need to put in the work to get your whole body healthier.
Recent COVID-19 Articles:
MDVIP is a national network of primary care doctors who see fewer patients so they can focus on delivering personalized medicine, patient-centered medicine and preventive care that starts with the MDVIP Wellness Program.