We know you have a lot of questions about the novel coronavirus, so here’s another round of Q&A.
This week, readers asked how the virus originated, what is meant by “mild” and “moderate” symptoms of the virus, if a second wave of COVID-19 is possible, among other questions.
Readers can submit questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Coronavirus question” in the subject line.
Here are this week’s questions and answers:
How do scientists know COVID-19 came from bats?COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus, a large family of viruses that can infect humans and other animals. Through genetic sequencing, it is known that there are three virus strains that originate in bats, with COVID-19 being a new strain not seen before this current outbreak.
How this outbreak began is up for debate. Some say unsanitary food markets that sell bats started it. Others say Chinese scientists were studying the bat coronavirus and a human was accidentally infected. Regardless, health officials say it is important for countries to come together to understand how the crisis started, and how to prevent similar ones in the future.
Is it true that people who have COVID-19 lose their sense of smell ? That hasn’t been confirmed as a definite symptom, but anecdotal evidence is growing that both loss of smell and taste may be early indicators of coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t offer much information about the loss of smell issue on its website. But the American Academy of Otolaryngology has said loss of smell and taste are likely associated symptoms with COVID-19, and the organization calls for it to be included on the list of early warning signs.
It’s important to remember that any respiratory virus, such as cold and flu, can also affect smell and taste, so it is not always linked to COVID-19. Any early symptoms of the virus should be taken seriously and treated accordingly, health officials say.
What does a late April ‘peak’ mean?Health care professionals, researchers and government officials predict a “peak” in cases in late April.
That means they estimate the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise until other factors, like social distancing, can lessen the increase.
“I can’t begin to express to you the frustration that I have about our inability to get the masks and supplies that we need,” said Gov. Jared Polis in a news conference Wednesday.
In a month or two, there will be masks “flowing out of our ears,” he said. “But that doesn’t help us for what we need next week and the week after.”
One modeling tool from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed that peak demand for hospital services is likely going to exceed capacity substantially around the nation.
For example, the model projects a peak in Colorado cases April 17, assuming everyone follows full social-distancing restrictions through May.
On the peak date, Colorado would have 4,851 hospital beds and need 3,703 more; it would have 554 intensive care beds, and need 762 more. The state would have 1,052 fewer ventilators than needed.
The model also projected 85 deaths per day in Colorado on April 18.
Colorado reported 4,173 cases, 823 hospitalizations and 112 deaths Friday afternoon. La Plata County reported 29 cases.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model has not yet been peer-reviewed, an important step in the research process, but it is updated daily to help officials plan for the expected surge in COVID-19 cases. Because data is constantly shifting, people should always look for recent models.
We’ve seen a lot of service workers wearing latex gloves. How often do the gloves need to be changed to be effective and prevent cross-contamination? You need to change your gloves as often as you would wash your hands or as soon as you see any damage on them. Otherwise, if you are wearing a dirty glove and touch your face, you might as well not wear the glove at all.
You should wear gloves only when you would “reasonably anticipate” having contact with potentially contaminated surfaces or equipment, like working with money or in health care settings, according to the CDC.
Gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene. People need to wash their hands before putting gloves on and immediately after removing them. They need to change gloves if they are visibly soiled and when moving from one area to another to prevent cross-contamination.
Handwashing is an effective way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, especially because protective equipment is in short supply.
What do ‘mild’ and ‘moderate’ symptoms actually mean?The idea that 80% of people have mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 is almost comforting. But a “moderate” case can actually include serious symptoms, like pneumonia.
The World Health Organization and China analyzed about 56,000 cases in a report published Feb. 20. The report included four classifications of COVID-19 cases, including asymptomatic, mild/moderate, severe and critical.
The mild/moderate category included pneumonia and 14 other possible symptoms.
People fell into the severe category when symptoms – like blood oxygen saturation, breathing rates and oxygen absorption – moved outside normal ranges. Cases were critical if respiratory failure, septic shock or other organ dysfunction occurred.
Do we know if there will be a ‘second wave’ of the coronavirus?While the situation is continuing to develop and new research is being done about COVID-19, many health officials have said a second wave of the virus could be likely.
“We may very well see a resurgence of disease next fall,” said Yale School of Public Health associate professor Virginia Pitzer.
Pitzer added that if control measures, like physical distancing, are lifted too soon, “we are likely to see another peak in the disease until enough immunity has built up in the population or until we are able to develop an effective vaccine.”
In understanding the outbreak, several public health officials refer to the pattern of the 1918 influenza outbreak, which arrived in three different waves with the second wave being the deadliest.
But Pitzer said there is no reason to suggest a second wave of COVID-19 would be any worse than the current wave. “Those who were infected during the first wave are likely to have at least some immunity if and when a second wave does occur,” she said.
Are carpet cleaning companies essential businesses? Please clarify what is essential and nonessential. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the state has several categories of essential businesses:
Health care operations; critical infrastructure; critical manufacturing; critical retail; critical services; news media; financial institutions; construction; defense operations; and providers of basic necessities to the economically disadvantaged. Included in the critical services category would be building cleaning and maintenance services, especially if the carpet cleaning services are used by one of the essential business categories.
Is it safe to adopt a pet from an animal shelter? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “there is no reason to think that any animals, including shelter pets, in the United States might be a source of COVID-19.”
And with shelters like the La Plata County Humane Society needing to lay off staff because of the coronavirus outbreak, now could be a great time to consider adopting.
Herald Staff Writers Shannon Mullane, Jonathan Romeo and Liz Weber contributed to this report.