COVID-19 Fact Finders: Answering Your Questions

COVID-19 Fact Finders: Answering Your Questions
COVID-19 is commonly known as coronavirus (Source: AP)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With a lot of questions surrounding COVID-19 and so much competing information floating around, it’s important for the community to know the facts. We highlighted common questions from you and answered them with information from the Center for Disease Control.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

According to the CDC, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based on what the CDC knows right now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are: people aged 65 and older, people who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, people with serious heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised, people with severe obesity, those with diabetes, people with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, and people with liver disease.

Can a person test negative for COVID-19 and later test positive?

Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person's sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible for the virus to not be detected. For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.

Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?

There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads. This virus is thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, the CDC says it is unlikely to be spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

Is it okay for me to donate blood?

The need for donated blood is constant, and blood centers are open and in urgent need of donations. The CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19. The CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe. Examples include spacing donor chairs six feet apart, thoroughly adhering to environmental cleaning practices, and encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including restaurant take out, refrigerated or frozen packaged food?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is not evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Can I get sick with COVID-19 if it is on food?

Based on the information about this novel coronavirus, the CDC says it seems unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food- additional investigation is needed.

Delivery or Take-Out?

While restaurants have been ordered to suspend dine-in services amid the Coronavirus outbreak, many have made the switch to take-out, delivery or curbside service.

According to the county, the change from dining in to take-out has not changed any of the Health Department's food safety regulations for restaurants and food business.

The establishments are all held to the same standard, and inspectors are still performing routine and educational inspections.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19, though you should always wash your hands before and after eating or handling food.

Here is the guidance from the Pima County Health Department:

Takeout or Drive-Thru Food

There is no current indication that takeout or drive-thru meals will increase illness

This option is a good risk management choice, especially for high-risk and elderly groups, because it helps maintain social distancing, and reduces the number of things multiple people touch

Delivery to Home

Maintains social distancing and reduces the number of touch points between preparation and serving food.

Many delivery programs have instituted no touch/no interaction options, which further reduce risk.

Food Packaging

The risk of transfer of viruses from touching food packaging is very low

To further minimize risk, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer after handling food packaging.

Can mosquitoes or ticks spread the virus that causes COVID-19?

At this time, the CDC has no data to suggest this virus is spread by mosquitoes or ticks. The main way COVID-19 spreads is from person to person.

I'm on Social Security, do I need to do anything to receive my stimulus check?

Americans on Social Security will not be required to file a "simple tax return" to receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 found in feces?

The virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The amount of virus released from the body in stool, how long the virus is shed, and whether the virus in stool is infectious are not known.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through pools, hot tubs or spas, and water playgrounds?

There is no evidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that COVID-19 can be spread to human through the use of pools, hot tubs or spas, or water playgrounds. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

What is the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program?

The Paycheck Protection Program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest rates on mortgages, rent and utilities.

Who qualifies for the Paycheck Protection Program?

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors if they meet program size standards. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries.

Are the funds provided in the small business paycheck protection program fully forgiven?

Funds are provided in the form of loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll.) Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses fees.

How do I know if I already had COVID-19?

There is no test just yet that is widely available to determine whether you have had COVID-19, but scientists are working on it. According to the Guardian, researchers are developing antibody tests to verify a prior infection. As it stands now, doctors told the Guardian, the best way for you to know if you had it, is to get tested while you have the symptoms. So, while there may be an antibody test out there, it is not mainstream, yet.

Can I have COVID-19 and only have one symptom?

According to Harvard Medical School, some people infected with the virus have no symptoms.

If you are experiencing any symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, the Arizona Department of Health Services recommends contacting your healthcare provider. Emergency warning signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

I am a medical professional, how can I volunteer?

Visit the Arizona Department of Health Services website, then register with the "Arizona Emergency System for the advanced registration of volunteer health professionals." You can select COVID-19 and any other categories you may want to help in. You can also register with the local medical reserve corps.

Should I stop taking my blood pressure medication amid the Coronavirus outbreak?

If you take blood pressure-lowering medication, keep taking it unless your doctor recommends otherwise. The American Heart Association said you should not stop taking any prescribed ACE-inhibitor or ARBs medication for high blood pressure, heart failure or heart disease. Health experts say these medications are not known to put you at additional risk of getting COVID-19, but they are vital to reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Does my boss have to tell me if someone I work with has tested positive for COVID-19?

According to the Industrial Commission of Arizona, with limited exceptions per HIPPA, an employer is not required to disclose the medical records of an employee. Employers must still follow the OSHA General Duty Clause which states in part, “...free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.” They encourage all employers to follow the recommendations of the Arizona Department of Health Services regarding COVID-19.

How does the CARE Act provide financial relief to retirees?

There is a provision that essentially suspends Required Minimum Distributions.

Provided your account is an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or other defined contribution plan, you do not have to take a Required Minimum Distribution from your retirement account in 2020.

This allows retirees to leave their investment portfolios alone to recover over the next year, and not get taxed on mandatory withdrawals.

If you already paid your RMD in 2020, you are out of luck, unless you did so within the last two months.

If you took an RMD from an IRA or 401(k) within the last 60 days, you can do a 60-day rollover to an IRA and not have treated as a taxable distribution in 2020.

We recommend you talk to your financial adviser to see what transaction works best for you.

Does the CARES Act waive early withdrawal penalties from retirement accounts?

The CARES Act makes it easier for people struggling financially during the COVID-19 crisis to make an early withdrawal from their retirement account.

Usually, if you are younger than 59 1/2 and make an early withdrawal from your retirement plan, you are subject to a penalty equal to 10% of the distribution amount.

However, a provision in the CARES Act allows investors to take penalty-free distributions from IRAs and qualified retirement plans up to $100,000.

In order to be eligible, the coronavirus-related distributions must be made on or after January 1, 2020 and before December 31, 2020.

Distributions will still be subject to regular income tax, but the CARES Act allows the money to be spread out and claimed on your tax return over three years. You can also repay the entire distribution amount within three years and recoup any taxes you paid.

You are eligible to make the penalty-free withdraw if:

- You, your spouse, or dependent has been diagnosed with COVID-19

- You have experienced adverse financial consequences because you have been quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or have had your hours reduced due to COVID-19

- You are unable to work because of a lack of child care due to COVID-19

- You own or operate a business and have had to close or reduce hours due to COVID-19, or

- You have experienced an adverse financial consequence due to other factors as provided in guidance issued by the IRS

The special withdrawal rules apply to eligible retirement plans, which include individual retirement accounts and annuities (IRAs), qualified pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plans (including 401(k) (plans), qualified 403(a) annuity plans, 403(b) annuity contracts and custodial accounts, and governmental section 457 deferred compensation plans.

Speak with your financial adviser to see if this is the best option for you.

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