HealthEC’s COVID-19 Response

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Frequently Asked Questions


Who is at Higher Risk of Severe Infection?

Based on currently available information the following groups of individuals are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

  • People 65 years of age and older; especially persons >85 years of age
  • Persons with underlying cardiac disease including HTN, CAD CHF, and persons with DM
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • Oncology patients including multiple myeloma, people status-post bone marrow or solid organ transplantation
    • People who are immunocompromised due to poorly controlled HIV/AIDS and other immune deficiencies
    • High-dose or prolonged use of corticosteroids for any purpose including chemotherapy, asthma, COPD, auto-immune disease, etc.
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) and smokers
    • People with certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with renal failure or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness
  • Different parts of the United States are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity. Some parts of the U.S. are in initiation phase of the pandemic, meaning spread is just beginning. More than half the states are in the acceleration phase, exhibiting some degree of community spread. The length and severity of each pandemic phase varies depending upon many factors including the risk factors of the population, characteristics of the virus, public health response, and preparedness action of the public.
  • All 50 states have reported cases of COVID-19 to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • S. COVID-19 cases include:
    • Imported cases in travelers
    • Cases among close contacts of a known case

How does the virus spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby (within 6 feet) or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

How easily does the virus spread?

Currently, throughout much of the U.S., the virus is spreading between people with no link to travel or to another known positive case. This is referred to as “community spread”.

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
COVID-19 appears to be more contagious than SARS due to its high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the potential for asymptomatic people to transmit the virus.

Can the virus spread before symptoms present? 

There is some concern that COVID-19 can be spread prior to the development of symptoms, but this has not been confirmed.
There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 in people without symptoms (asymptomatic). Other viruses, like influenza, can be transmitted for 24 to 48 hours before symptoms develop. However, in general, symptomatic persons are a much more important source of transmission. 

Can the virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects?

Yes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Coronaviruses may survive on surfaces that have been contaminated with respiratory secretions for up to 3 days. For example, a sick person coughs on their hand and then touches a doorknob. The virus can then be spread if someone touches their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Although live virus has been documented to survive on inanimate objects/surfaces, transmission from this mechanism has not been documented.

Note: common disinfectants kill coronaviruses on surfaces.

Is the virus airborne?

Research has shown that COVID-19 can remain viable suspended in the air for at least 3 hours.

However, again, it is not known if transmission can occur through this route.

Can COVID-19 be spread through water?

No, it is not known to spread through water sources.

Rapid spread in nursing home?

The virus can quickly spread in residents, workers, and visitors. Infection control and cleaning/disinfecting guidelines have been established specifically for long-term care facilities.

Can I get COVID-19 from my dog?

Dogs have been found to carry the virus, but it is unclear on their impact regarding transmission to humans. Avoid close contact with ill dogs and wash your hands after petting or playing with your dog. 
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Hear From Our Infectious Disease Expert

 Dr. Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, MD, MPH
Senior Medical Director
Dr. Jaeger has helped managed numerous infectious disease outbreaks over the past decade. As a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Dr. Jaeger was the Medical-Clinical team lead for pandemic H1N1 2009 in San Diego, CA, and was the Executive Director, Bureau of Health Care Systems Readiness, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, for the NYC DOHMH(Department of Health and Mental Hygiene) responsible for all-hazards preparedness including Ebola and other special pathogens. Most recently, in her role as Director of Infectious Disease and Population Health, Boston Public Health Commission, Dr. Jaeger was responsible for managing Hepatitis A virus and HIV outbreaks among persons experiencing homelessness in Boston. Dr. Jaeger has also served as a subject matter expert for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) and Shatterproof, RIZE Massachusetts, and the GE Foundation.

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