*This article was written in July 2020. For the latest COVID-19 information please visit VDH.Virginia.Gov. For vaccine information and availability visit Vaccines.gov.*
There is so much information out there about COVID-19 and what we should all be doing to fight it. We know it's confusing so here are a few of the questions and comments we've gotten over the past few weeks with answers from the Chesapeake Health Department.
Q: I’m confused and concerned about COVID-19. There’s so much information and opinion floating around. Can you just tell it to me straight – what should I be doing to help myself and those around me stay safe?
A: When in public, wear a mask and stay 6 feet away from others. At all times, wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and stay home if you are feeling sick.
Most of us have never dealt with a pandemic before so it’s only natural that everyone is confused and concerned. While it’s important to educate ourselves on the facts, it can quickly get overwhelming. Just know that these simple steps remain the best way to ward off COVID-19. Mask up, stay physically distant, and wash those hands.
Q: I see that cases are rising but we’re also testing more. If we conduct more tests, we find more positives. Right?
A: When we talk about rising cases, we’re basing it off of percentages and trends. Yes, we are testing more, however, the percentage of positive cases continues to rise. If COVID-19 wasn’t spreading, we’d see a relatively flat percentage of positives cases to number of people tested. That’s not what we’re seeing. Also, you’re no longer required to have symptoms to get a test so now we’re testing people without symptoms and yet we’re still seeing that percentage increase. The increase is due to increased transmission, not due to an increase in testing.
Q: I read that a cloth mask doesn’t actually help because unless you’re using an N95, the virus particles will still get through.
A: Any kind of face covering will help minimize the number of COVID-19 particles that get transferred to another human. Can COVID-19 particles get past a cloth mask? Yes. But most of them will not escape the face covering which will dramatically minimize the spread of the germs. The fewer germs in the environment the better for everyone. As an added bonus, masks help prevent you from touching your face, essentially “closing the door” to your respiratory system.
Q: I feel fine. Why should I wear a mask if I’m not sick?
A: The wild card of this virus is that it can be in your body without presenting any symptoms. You could be infected at any time and just not know it. Or perhaps your symptoms are very mild and like a cold or allergies. Also, in many cases, you don’t present symptoms until a day or two after infection. By wearing a mask and physically distancing yourself from others while in public, you’re making sure that you keep the particles from your breathing/sneezing/coughing/talking to yourself.
Q: When all this started, you told us we only need to wear masks if we’re sick. Now you’re saying we should wear them all the time. Why the change?
A: This is a new virus, one we’re continuing to learn about as we go. Epidemiologists, virologists, and other scientists locally, nationally, and around the world have been and are continuing to study COVID-19 and its transmission. Recommendations have changed as the science has revealed more information. All recommendations are based on the best, most current data available.
Q: We don’t mask for the flu or for anything else so why am I going to mask for COVID-19?
A: Again, the wild card with COVID-19 is that it can present itself without any symptoms. You can have it and not know it. Generally speaking, when you’re sick with the flu, you know it because you feel terrible and can then take the steps to prevent spreading it to others. Also, the flu has a vaccine that helps minimize its spread and severity each year. COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine.
Q: How can we stay safe while wearing masks in the heat?
A: Remember that physical distancing is another important component to limiting the spread of the virus. So if you’re outside in the heat, simply maintain that 6 feet of distance between you and other people. Just have your mask with you so that you can put it on if you have to be close to someone and for when you go indoors. You might also consider having multiple masks available in case one gets sweaty or dirty.
For additional answer to commonly asked questions, visit the FAQ page on the Virginia Department of Health website.
WATCH THIS: On July 17, Chesapeake Television spoke with Health Department Director Dr. Nancy Welch who answered these questions and more.