Your COVID-19 questions, answered | Minnesota Public Radio News

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Frequently asked questions and resources on the topic of COVID-19

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    Questions on the latest

    Updated: June 17

    Can organized adult leagues, hockey, softball etc. resume?​ — Tom

    Team sports are allowed, for both youth and adults — but to varying degrees. State officials make a distinction between high-risk and low-risk sports.
    For sports like tennis, in which competitors remain relatively far away from one another, games and competitions are now possible.
    But sports involving more contact, like basketball, are limited to practice and group size requirements, like keeping players in pods of no larger than 10 participants.
    State officials said they would post more detailed guidance on their website.

    How do I go about getting tested for Covid-19? — Jane

    State health officials are now urging anyone with symptoms to get tested for COVID-19. They have a handy guide on the state’s website to walk you through the steps and where to find a testing site. You’ll want to call the clinic you plan on going to before getting a test.


    I can work from home, but my boss is asking me to come back to the office. What should I do? — Emma

    Under the “Stay Safe Minnesota” order it is still required that if you can work from home you must do so. Gov. Tim Walz has asked employers and employees with questions or concerns to reach out to his administration.


    Will farmers markets open? — Jackie

    Farmers markets have been allowed to operate under the executive orders as long as they have a safety plan in place. It will be up to organizers and participants of the individual markets on when and how they open up shop.


    What about boating? — David

    People are allowed to take their boats out, though health officials are still asking Minnesotans to do so as close to home as possible. When it comes to having people from other households on your boat, health officials are still suggesting you only gather if you can maintain six feet of distance – not an easy feat on most boats.


    Does ultraviolet light kill the coronavirus? — Keith

    According to the World Health Organization: "UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation."

    Even so, some researchers believe UVC light may have its uses. In China and Italy, UVC-wielding robots reportedly are being deployed to disinfect hospitals.

    Since so many cases are centered in pork manufacturing plants, can pork be a source of this virus? — Judi
    There has been no evidence that the coronavirus is being transmitted through food or its packaging, according to the Department of Agriculture.

    In an interview posted by the U.S. Food and Drug administration, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas had this to say on the safety of food coming out of plants that have been shutdown due to outbreaks:

    "I want to reassure you that the U.S. food supply remains safe for both people and animals. There is NO evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  The virus that causes COVID-19 causes respiratory illnesses and is much more likely to be spread through person-to-person transmission."
    Could small butcher shops partner with Minnesota hog farmers to sell their meat instead of euthanizing the hogs that cant get processed at the large closed plants? Are there laws preventing this? — Kim

    We brought this question to director of dairy and meat inspection for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Nicole Neeser, who said there is no rule against butchers buying animals from farmers or individuals buying animals and then bringing them to a butcher willing to prepare it.

    She went on to say most smaller plants and butchers are pretty full or even “over full.” So while they can’t solve all the problems created by the closures of bigger processing plants they do make an impact.

    We are a family of eight. Does that mean under the "stay safe" order we can only have two more people visit? — Jenni

    State health commissioner Jan Malcolm clarified during a press briefing that the guidance is 10 or fewer total, regardless of how many people are from the same household. But, starting June 10, up to 25 people may gather outdoors.

    When will Minnesota courts reopen? — Dawn


    Minnesota courts are beginning the gradual process of resuming in-person hearings, as judges and court employees may return to their offices starting May 18. 
    Chief Justice Lorie Gildea has ordered a preparedness plan to be implemented before more face-to-face proceedings may take place.

    Her plan includes social distancing, wearing masks, and the daily cleaning of courtrooms and offices.

    Starting June 1, a limited number of criminal jury trials may resume. But civil jury trials will not be held until September.

    Meanwhile, anyone going in to a federal courthouse in Minnesota must wear a face mask starting Monday. However many proceedings are still being conducted by phone and video link.

    Federal criminal jury trials are postponed until July 5, as are other proceedings such as sentencing hearings where defendants do not consent to videoconferencing.

    Is it advised that I wear a mask, even outside while exercising? — Cathy

    Yes, during a press briefing health commissioner Jan Malcolm clarified that while there isn’t a hard rule in place to wear masks they are still highly suggested any time you leave your home, including while exercising outside.

    Do residents living in Minnesota need to be concerned if mosquitoes capable of spreading the COVID-19 virus? — RoseMary

    The World Health Organization has reported that the new virus cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites, stating:

    "To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing."

    Does freezing kill the virus if it exists on food packaging? — Kathryn


    "Some of you have asked if freezing food kills the virus. The answer is no. Refrigerating or freezing would actually help the virus survive longer – that's why research labs freeze virus samples to preserve them, as Rachel Graham, a virologist who studies coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health, notes. But if you're worried about handling a frozen dinner, just remember to wash your hands and throw away the packaging after you've removed the food, Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, says."

    Will I need to be quarantined after returning home from another state? — Judy 


    However, it is a good idea to practice social distancing, especially after traveling, and you should absolutely self-quarantine if you think you or someone you live with has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

    You should also check the guidelines in the state you are traveling from and through for extra guidance. Some counties in Minnesota also suggest self-quarantine after travel, check your local government website for more information.

    Are weddings still allowed? — George

    It’s a tough one, without a definitive answer yet. At a recent press conference Gov. Tim Walz, even as he expressed hope for the summer, made it clear that summer graduation ceremonies, weddings and youth camps are still a question mark.

    But when it comes to places of worship: On June 10, allowance will expand to 50 percent capacity, with the same social distancing and public health guidelines in place.
    The maximum event gathering size is 250 people for both indoor and outdoor services, which applies to both weddings and funerals. It does not include “related celebrations or social gatherings,” according to the guidelines.


    Find more information about the guidelines for venues here.

    Closures across the state

    Updated: June 17

    Is there any definitive statement regarding an extension of the shutdown mandate? — Annette

    Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he would let the original stay-at-home order expire on May 18. Replacing it with new guidance -- a "stay safe" order.

    This guidance has been extended but continues to change as the state slowly opens up.

    What did Gov. Walz specifically mandate for Minnesota dentists? — Tracy


    In early May, the governor announced a new executive order that will allow doctors, hospitals and dental clinics to resume elective surgeries and non-emergency dental procedures as well.


    What about elective surgeries? — Susan

    Gov. Tim Walz lifted restrictions on many elective procedures for health care professionals, including elective surgeries, in early May. You’ll of course want to contact your health care provider first to check their preparedness and availability.

    Are people exempt from the stay-at home order if they work at a restaurant that does take out only? — Itzel

    Yes, the same rules apply for restaurants and bars as before the "stay at home" order, dine-in services are closed but delivery and takeout services can continue.

    Do companies need to do anything to declare them essential? Do essential employees need to carry a letter authorizing workforce travel? — Carol

    The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development have a full list of businesses considered critical here. And those with further questions on whether or not they fall into a category can reach out to state economic development officials at criticalsectors@state.mn.us

    Essential employees will not need any kind of special documentation to prove where they work or where they are going during the order, Gov. Walz said.

    Now, nonessential businesses are allowed to open in varying capacities.

    How can Minnesotans with expiring drivers license renew there licenses now the the counties have closed there license centers? — Mike

    Many state driver and vehicle services are available once again as of May 19 — with some substantial changes to how office visits can be conducted.


    Only 14 regional exam stations will open to start, including: St. Paul, Arden Hills, Anoka, Eagan, Plymouth, Rochester, Mankato, Marshall, Willmar, Detroit Lakes, St. Cloud, Duluth, Grand Rapids and Bemidji.


    Available tests will include knowledge tests, permit applications and motorcycle and commercial driver’s license road tests. Starting May 26 the open stations will also offer class D road tests in addition to other services.


    There will be new regulations during your visit, too. DVS staff and customers are required to answer health-screening questions upon entering. Staff will also wear personal protective equipment, and customers are strongly encouraged to do so as well. And be prepared to social distance; signs will be in place to help customers stay 6 feet apart.


    Those who have a driver’s license set to expire soon, or one that has already expired, are encouraged to pre-apply for renewal online.


    Walz also signed a bill into law on March 28 that provides an extension for Minnesotans whose driver’s licenses or ID cards expire during the peacetime emergency. The peacetime emergency is currently in effect until June 12. Those with expired licenses will have two months after that to renew under the law.


    Read more about the changes at the Department of Public Safety’s website.


    Can I visit family or friends in their home or have a small group in my home?

    Yes, but still with limits. Indoor group gatherings remain limited to 10 or fewer people. People are still being asked to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.


    But up to 25 people may now gather outdoors.


    Ideally, people should also wear masks, said state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. She also encouraged people to meet outside, which she said presents a bit more of a “safe zone” as compared to confined indoor spaces, and also stressed not to gather if anyone in the group is ill. 


    One big caveat: Officials strongly encourage the elderly and people with underlying health conditions to stay home as much as possible, because other people can transmit the coronavirus to members of vulnerable populations before they develop symptoms. And some people never develop symptoms, or the symptoms can be quite subtle. 


    This is “a stealth virus,” said state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield.


    Read more in our guide to gatherings here.

    Social distancing

    Updated: June 17

    Is it OK for me to take a daily walk outside (on nice days) by myself during this COVID-19 event? — Chris

    Yes. Stress and anxiety run rampant during crises like this and exercise can help mitigate those feelings and boost your immune system.

    However, the same general guidance for preventing coronavirus’ spread applies for nature, too: No large groups, try to maintain approximately six feet between yourself and others, wash your hands often and well, and stay home if you’re sick or have been potentially exposed to COVID-19.

    State parks and trails are open, and the Department of Natural Resources is keeping what's open and guidelines for outdoor activities updated here.

    Since there's an increased demand on services like Instacart, is it better to go to the grocery store or to order online for delivery? — Elizabeth

    Going to the grocery store will likely be essential for many. You can take precautions to make the visit safer.

     

    Those steps include avoiding peak hours (usually midday and you can also search for your local store on Google to check for the busiest times), washing your hands before and after the visit, avoiding touching your face while at the store and — if you have disinfectant wipes or if the store provides them — wipe off cart and basket handles before and after you use them.

    I worry about the items I bring home. Should I be dowsing everything in bleach spray? — Nancy
     

    Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

    Daniel Kuritzkes, an infectious disease expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told NPR that the food itself “is probably not a major risk factor.” That’s because most infections from the new coronavirus appear to start with the respiratory system, not the digestive system.

    Infection comes from getting the virus on your hands and then touching your own eyes, nose and mouth. Making washing your hands before and after handling your food important, as well as keeping clean surfaces and utensils.

     

    If we go to drive-thru pick up at a restaurant, isn't that a vulnerable act for the public? — Pam

     

    The CDC recommends drive-through, pick-up or delivery options over dine-in, and a few small actions after getting your meal can help reduce any risks.

    NPR interviewed Drew Harris, a population health researcher from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who suggests taking the food out of the containers they were delivered in, throwing those containers out, then washing your hands thoroughly before eating. 

     

    “We don’t want to get too crazy about this, but taking reasonable precautions should be sufficient,” he said.

    How do I safely handle delivered newspaper and mail? — Judith

    The U.S. Postal Service is monitoring the situation and is following the guidance of health officials. According to the CDC, the World Health Organization and the Surgeon General there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.

    Note that it is still a good idea to wash your hands before and after touching any objects or surfaces that were likely touched by many other people.

    Why aren’t day cares closing? Parents are feeling safe sending their kids, because they haven’t closed. Are they? — Tonya

    Gov. Tim Walz has ordered schools to close for in-person sessions for the rest of the academic year to slow the spread of the virus, but state officials urged child care centers to remain open to help essential workers go about their regular jobs.

    Some early childhood educators made the decision to close their centers anyway. Still, many remain open, which is a decision that’s been tough for some day care staff and parents worried about the risk of infection or spreading COVID-19.

    Whether to keep day cares open or order them to close is a lose-lose situation: Close child care centers and you leave families that can’t telecommute unable to find care for their young ones. Stay open and risk spreading the disease further. Read related reports by Riham Feshir here and here.

    I am 65 years old. Can I visit my grandchildren at their house or mine? — Patricia

    The official guidance from health care professionals is that older adults avoid contact with children during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    A study found that 13 percent of children with confirmed cases of COVID-19 didn't show symptoms and public health officials say your risk of severe illness from this infection goes up significantly after age 50.

    "We want to minimize the risk of that child passing on disease to their grandparents, who are at increased risk," Sean Morrison, a geriatrician with Mount Sinai Health System in New York told NPR

    Morrison went on to suggest alternatives such as video chats, phone calls and care packages.

    Where should I go to donate blood? I'm not sick but I wonder if I need to be socially isolated for a period of time before I can donate? — Karen

    A spike in blood drive cancellations means many organizations have an urgent need for blood and platelet donations. Donation centers like The American Red Cross and Memorial Blood Centers have guidelines on their websites for people who wish to donate.

    You should not donate blood if you are sick or think you may have been in contact with someone who is sick. You should also call ahead to make an appointment rather than going directly to a center — this makes it possible to maintain social distancing between donors.

    Public health

    Updated: June 17

    What does it take for schools, besides universities, to take the step to cancel in-person classes and go online? — Amy

    Hundreds of schools across the nation have closed in response to COVID-19. Many closures are triggered by a known infection or exposure of a student or staff member.

    Gov. Tim Walz announced that he was ordering K-12 public schools across the state to close and extended the closure through the rest of the academic year in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

    Closing schools is a big decision with far reaching consequences as many parents need to make arrangements for child care and many families rely on the free or reduced-prices of school lunches. But it’s also a practice proven to slow the spread of diseases.

    "Closing the schools before anyone in the schools is sick is a very difficult thing to do," Yale University sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis told NPR, "even though it's probably extremely beneficial and much wiser."

    Walz's office said his emergency executive order “requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers" so those individuals can stay on the job. It also "makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need."

    Summer schools and camps are permitted to open and a decision on how the next academic year will be handled is expected by the end of July.

    Kids don't seem to be getting the disease. Can they transmit the virus if they've been exposed to it? — Laura

    While children do appear to be less susceptible to the disease and often exhibit milder symptoms when infected, the potential is there for infection and there’s no evidence they can’t spread COVID-19.

    While they might not end up feeling as sick, the guidance for prevention and care are much the same for kids as infected or exposed adults — contact your doctor for guidance, stay home and limit contact with others. It can be an emotional time and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some guidance to help children get through emergencies and on how to care for them at home.

    Should we cut back on non-essential outings? — Aimee

    Health officials suggest avoiding large crowds and confined spaces with many people — advice many large events have acted on in the form of cancelations and postponements. Groups with the greatest risk for serious infection should especially consider limiting non-essential travel and outings.

    If you feel sick you should stay at home. If you think you’ve come into contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19, you’ll also want to stay at home for two weeks and watch for symptoms (see self-quarantine.) 

    When you do go out for essential trips, try to keep a distance of a few feet (six feet when possible) from others. Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching things like handrails or door handles.

    Practices like banning large gatherings, working from home, and closing schools — often referred to as social distancing — might not seem as essential to a healthy person, but it’s an important step in limiting the spread of a person-to-person virus like COVID-19. NPR has a great Q&A related to social distancing you can check out here.

    How do I know if I'm in a vulnerable population? — Hilary

    You'll want to contact your health care provider for specific guidance but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those with weakened immune systems and older adults -- ages 50 and older -- are at greater risk of becoming very sick from the virus.

    It's especially important for people who think they may fall into this group to take preventative actions and limit close contact with others -- especially if there is a reported outbreak in the area. Find their full guide here.

    Getting prepared

    Updated: June 17

    What supplies should people stock up on to mitigate coronavirus? — David

    Cheryl Petersen-Kroeber, director of preparedness and response with the Minnesota Department of Health, said people should make sure to have enough food, prescription drugs and cleaning supplies in their house in case they need to stay home for a couple of weeks. She also suggests checking out Ready.gov for tools people can use for emergency situations.

    Stocking up is important, not because there are currently fears of any supply shortages, but because if there is an outbreak you'll want to avoid crowded places, and if you are infected you'll need to stay home.

    Are insurance companies going to allow customers to stock up on prescriptions? — Mary

    This will largely depend on your insurance provider and the prescriptions you need. For daily medications, health officials suggest stocking up for several weeks, if you are currently unable to do this reach out to your insurance provider for approval and your doctor for guidance.

    As of March 13, HealthPartners said it is authorizing -- and covering -- early refills of prescriptions. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota is waiving early refill limits on 30-day prescription medications and encouraging members to order 90-day refills by mail. The company also says that members will not face additional charges for non-preferred medications. 


    Medica has not relaxed its policy for the early refill of prescriptions. But members may request early refills, through a process typically used when travel is involved. Medica says it may adjust its policy as the coronavirus situation evolves.

    Has the WHO banned use of ibuprofen due to Covid-19 — Elizabeth and Richard

    Health officials also suggest stocking up on nonprescription medicines like pain relievers, cold and flu medicine and stomach remedies which can be bought over the counter.

    There have been conflicting reports on whether ibuprofen can aggravate COVID-19. But most infectious disease experts say there's no good scientific evidence at this point to support that claim, reports NPR.


    What can I do to prepare for this? How much should I be freaking out? — Anna

    State health officials have stressed that while they are directing Minnesotans to prepare, there is no reason to panic. In fact, stress can dampen your immune system so remaining calm is key. As mentioned above, stocking up can help you feel more prepared if an outbreak does occur.

    Make plans with family and loved ones for in case someone gets sick or if you have new child care needs because of school or camp closures.

    Another important piece of being prepared is prevention, so make sure you're washing your hands, covering when you cough and staying home except for essential travel.

    What if someone in my house gets sick but I am not sick. Do I need to be quarantined until I am sure I haven't been infected? — Stefanie

    The CDC does say that if someone in your household is sick that you must also stay home. If possible, use a separate bedroom and bathroom than the infected family member and avoid sharing food and drinks. Continue preventative measures like covering coughs and washing hands. Keep frequently touched surfaces clean using soap and water or a common household detergent.

    You can find more on how to care for someone with COVID-19 in the home here.

    Symptoms and spread

    Updated: June 17


    What are the symptoms? — Duane

    Mild cases of COVID-19 — and the majority of cases are mild — cause symptoms similar to a cold or flu. They include a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath with some patients also reporting a sore throat and headaches.

    But in about 20 percent of patients, infections can become more serious. It can attack the lungs, causing an immune system response that can destroy lung tissue and cause inflammation that can then trigger other problems.

    "The lack of oxygen leads to more inflammation, more problems in the body. Organs need oxygen to function, right? So when you don't have oxygen there, then your liver dies and your kidney dies," Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University told NPR.

    For a look at how the symptoms differ between COVID-19, flu and colds, check out this guide.

    The CDC added six more symptoms those infected may experience to the known list.

    How is it spread? — Sarah

    Here's the latest on what the CDC says about how the virus is typically transmitted:

    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, sneezes or talks.
    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
    • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
    And also:
    • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.

    How long is the virus viable on inert surfaces, like books or handrails? — Kirsten
    What cleaning products do you recommend for best stopping the spread of the virus? — Linda

    A recent study found that the virus can live on surfaces for about two or three days -- with that time varying depending on the type of surface. But household cleaners and just some simple soap and water have been proven to wipe out COVID-19 on household objects and surfaces.

    When cleaning, focus on areas that get touched often, such as counters, faucets, handrails and door knobs.

    You can find the CDC's official cleaning recommendations here.

    If you’ve gotten the coronavirus, when are you no longer contagious? — Mike

    There is not an exact time frame for how long an infected person is contagious, however, according to the CDC it appears people are most contagious when they are experiencing the most symptoms and the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases reports that there has been evidence that people can spread COVID-19 before they start exhibiting symptoms.

    Decisions on how long someone should be quarantined or isolated are being made on a case-by-case basis. Here's the official statement from the CDC:

    "How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

    Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

    The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
    The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
    The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart."

    Keep in mind, "someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people," the CDC reports. " For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.
    It is also very important to remember there is a difference between quarantine and isolation.
    Just because a person is in quarantine that does not mean they have COVID-19. Quarantine is used in reference to people who appear to be healthy but who may have been exposed to someone who is known to have COVID-19.
    Isolation is used for people who do have potential coronavirus symptoms and have decided to or have been told to stay home and away from the public.

    If a person had the disease and recovers, are they immune from the disease? — Tom

    While it's something health professionals are looking into, it is not yet clear if someone can be reinfected with the virus after recovering.


    "Based on immunity to SARS [and] MERS, and seasonal coronaviruses, a reasonable expectation is that most, and maybe nearly all, people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 will have immunity for a year or more," says Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This immunity will likely protect people "at least against severe disease and against shedding a lot of virus that would make them highly contagious," Lipsitch says.

    If we get symptoms, what specifically should we do? Go to our doctor, or urgent care, or ER? Or call our doctor? — Ah-li

    If you are exhibiting symptoms, the CDC is advising you first call your doctor's office. This allows them to take precautions against it potentially spreading within the health care system. It also gives your health care professional time to cooperate with the state public health department and CDC to determine whether a test is required.

    Does the coronavirus affect animals/pets? — Barbara

    While different coronaviruses appear across many animal species, including cats and dogs, there is no evidence that this specific strain is transferable to or from your pets -- though they can test positive for it. Health officials do suggest washing your hands before and after being around your animals and, if you become sick, to include them in any quarantine plans.

    The CDC has reported it "is aware of a very small number of pets, including dogs and cats, outside the United States reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with people with COVID-19. CDC has not received any reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. To date, there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to people."

    Travel safety

    Updated: June 17

    Is domestic flight travel still advisable for March? — Cheryl
    Is it safe to travel to California this summer? — Diane K.
    [I’m going on a trip to another country.] What precautions should I take? What are the risks? — Jeanne

    While there are not restrictions on domestic travel, public health officials are encouraging people to social distance, which involves avoiding places that are potentially crowded as well as confined spaces -- airports and airplanes are often both.

    They also warn against traveling to areas where the virus is prevalent. Travel outside the country has been impacted, with some airlines canceling flights to areas experiencing high outbreaks and some universities suspending study-abroad programs

    President Trump announced travel restrictions for Iran and health officials are urging people not to travel to countries including China, Iran, South Korea and much of Europe. The U.S. government has banned travel from Europe, although the ban makes exceptions, including for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

    The border to Canada has also been partially shut down to travelers.

    The Minnesota State Health Department's official advice for anyone traveling is:


    "Review travel recommendations posted on CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel if you are planning to travel, and keep an eye on the news for updates on this evolving situation."

    My husband is in Peru where there is a travel ban for two weeks. Does he need to quarantine himself when he comes home? — Marilyn
    Yes. The CDC recommends anyone traveling back from an area where COVID-19 was prevalent and widespread self-quarantine for 14 days and watch for symptoms.

    Where or how (not social media) can I get the most up to date info on where COVID has been positively identified? — Diane

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more information about highly impacted areas on their website as well as some tips for traveling safely. The page is updated frequently.

    Masks and prevention

    Updated: June 17


    "Will wearing a face mask prevent me from becoming infected?" — John
    "What mask is recommended and where does one acquire them?" — Linda

    As cases of the coronavirus have skyrocketed, there's new thinking about the benefits that masks could offer in slowing the spread.

    Recently, the CDC began suggesting that people wear cloth face coverings in places where social distancing is more difficult, like grocery stores, even if the person is not sick.

    Wearing a mask is "an additional layer of protection for those who have to go out," former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NPR in an interview. It's a step you can take — on top of washing your hands and avoiding gatherings.

    However, there are also shortages of many types of masks with many turning to DIY versions. Officials are also stressing that N95 medical masks should be reserved for health care workers.


    "Can a mask be reused, or wiped with antibiotic wipe, or use a fresh, new one each outing, or each day?" — P.R.H.


    A previous NPR article touches on the potential problems with washing and reusing masks:


    MacIntyre notes that cloth masks — which people wash and reuse — are also common in Asian countries. She says there's no evidence to show they have any benefit, and her research suggests they "may actually be harmful," because infrequent washing and moisture retention can make cloth masks a breeding ground for pathogens.

    Read the full article for more information.

    Most seem to be sold out. Any ideas for sources? — Laurie

    The number of masks we have in the U.S. is unclear, but it appears to be far from enough. There is certainly a great shortage, as medical staff reuse and try to clean what masks they do have. Minnesota officials are trying to assess the supply of respirator masks and other protective equipment. They say as that becomes clear, the allocation of the protective masks and other devices can be prioritized and optimized.

    3M has said 90 percent of its U.S. N95 respirator mask production is designated for health care workers. The rest is going to workers in the energy, food pharmaceutical and other industries critical to the fight against COVID-19.

    However, health professionals say that many different kinds of cloth face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and medical grade masks are not necessary for many not in the health care industry.

    Learn more about the different kinds of masks being used and the potential shortages in our FAQ.
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