In one of the most collectively shared crises in the last century, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically and quickly impacted the lives of societies around the world. Blind to age, race, gender, ethnicity, or economic status, coronavirus has turned the lives of many upside-down and placed us all in a state of heightened anxiety.
Whether you’re sheltering in place in a nearly locked-down city like New York or trying to go about a quasi-normal life in a less affected region, you surely have plenty of questions about all the facets of health, travel, economy, and daily life that are impacted by the virus.
The New York Times has compiled an incredibly informative compendium of frequently asked COVID-19 questions that cover all the areas of our newly altered lives—and they’ve taken down their pay wall for all articles related to the virus. Here are a few answers we find particularly helpful:
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, stay where you are and call a doctor. They should give you advice on how to get tested and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if you’re sick or think you’re sick, but only mildly ill, you should isolate yourself, and you shouldn’t leave your house except to go to the doctor.
Is there a vaccine yet?
Not yet. But in mid-March, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced it was beginning the first testing in humans of an experimental vaccine. Such rapid development of a potential vaccine is unprecedented, and it was possible because researchers were able to use what they already knew about related coronaviruses that had caused other outbreaks, of SARS and MERS.
Other companies, using different approaches, are also trying to manufacture coronavirus vaccines. But it’s not certain they’ll work yet.
And despite the rapid progress, even if the vaccine is proved safe and effective against the virus, it will not be available for at least a year.
Should I wear a mask?
No. Unless you’re already infected, or caring for someone who is, a face mask won’t help. And stockpiling them can do more harm than good, making it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need to help on the front lines.
My kids are scared. What can I tell them?
Before you talk to your children, it’s important to understand your own anxiety and keep it in check. If your child is worried about the coronavirus, listen to him or her, rather than respond with comments like, “It’ll be fine.” Dismissive reactions can make children feel like they’re not being heard, said Abi Gewirtz, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Minnesota.
Emphasize the importance of washing hands after using the bathroom and before or after meals. Children (and adults) should sing “Happy Birthday” twice to make sure they’ve been washing their hands for at least 20 seconds. You should also frame school cancellation as positive — more time to have more fun at home! — and encourage your children to get exercise.
How is COVID-19 different from the flu?
The flu and the coronavirus can cause similar symptoms — a whole-body malaise, with a fever, a dry cough and a noticeable shortness of breath — but there are differences. Because the symptoms are so similar, doctors will sometimes rule out the flu first.
Spring allergy season tends to trigger many of the same symptoms in many people, adding another diagnostic wrinkle.
Here’s how to tell the difference.
Should I stock up on groceries?
No one knows how long many of us will have to work from or stay home, so having food and supplies on hand is essential. Melissa Clark, a cookbook author and food writer for the Times, recently wrote about stocking your pantry.
But experts say people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty appearance of store shelves, food suppliers and retailers say the supply chain remains strong. In the meantime, plan two weeks of meals. Substitute ingredients if you are missing something. Be creative. And don’t forget to be generous with your neighbors.
Can I still travel?
Depending on where you want to go, not easily. In March, as more and more governments around the world hoped to slow the spread of the coronavirus, they began to impose travel restrictions and even close their borders.
In the United States, President Trump has said he is considering some restrictions on domestic travel. (The military has curtailed domestic travel for service members and their families.)
And if you do go anywhere, remember to practice social distancing: stay away from groups and keep at least six feet of distance between you and other people.
My taxes are due in April. What do I do?
The United States has moved the tax filing deadline to July 15, giving Americans an additional three months to file their income tax returns.
Some states are also making changes. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is tracking those on its website.