Covid-19 Town Hall Q&A Recap

May 12th, 2020

Liberty HealthShare offered members special one-on-one access to the virtual town hall event, “COVID-19 Q&A,” on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, with health expert Peter Pitts. He answered these questions for our members and friends of Liberty.

Is social distancing really helpful?

It’s tough not to have our regular routine and see our friends and grandchildren, yet short of a vaccine, sheltering in place is how we are going to beat COVID-19 at this time. We are mitigating the virus, since we can’t control it, and denying the virus the "oxygen" to thrive will help avoid spreading it.

Does wearing a mask help reduce the spread of COVID-19?

It is assumed that 25 to 50 percent of people that have the virus have no symptoms, so any little bit helps. You are at your most contagious prior to your symptoms showing. This is another important reason to wear a mask and protect one another. We are all in this together.

Is hydroxychloroquine a helpful treatment?

There are people who use this drug to treat Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis. Some doctors may use this to treat COVID-19, yet it’s not an entirely safe medicine for all. This treatment is up to your doctor’s discretion.

Are we close to a vaccine?

I think we are 10 months to a year away from a vaccine. The way to get back to as near-normal as quickly as possible is to pull together.

What about antibodies?

The antibodies show in the blood of people who have already had COVID-19. Using a little bit of the disease to beat it is not new and can help us develop a vaccine. Using antibodies as a treatment could make the symptoms less severe and the course of the illness length shorter.

What about testing?

Testing can help you determine if you have COVID-19 and helps us understand how the virus is shrinking and growing so that we can study it. The antibody test is important to identify people who could help others who have COVID-19 recover more quickly. It can also help us understand who has had the virus and help determine the course of the disease and where we are nationally.

What’s the most effective way to reduce the spread of the disease?

The number one practice to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is washing your hands.

Does the coronavirus only travel six feet?

We have to assume the virus could travel further. This is why we want to limit being in social situations.

Do you think the virus can stick to our clothing or shoes?

I leave my shoes outside and wash them once a week.

Can I get COVID from my pets?

Please refer to the best source on this:

Can the virus be spread through a water sport like canoeing?

Please refer to the best source on this:

Will testing be available in pharmacy stores?

At-home testing would be optimal and I think we will get there; however, right now you must get a test through your doctor. If you really want to get tested for COVID-19, work with your physician. If you have no symptoms, don’t overburden the healthcare system by asking for tests.

When will life get back to normal?

We need a vaccine. People need to get vaccinated. Once COVID-19 dies down, we are going to forget. We have to change our approach to health literacy, and vaccination is at the top of the approach.

Why isn’t herd immunity a solution?

Sheltering in place is in lieu of the effect a vaccine gives us and denies the virus entry.


Member Questions

Peter took the time to answer our members’ submitted questions that weren’t answered during the webinar.

How do we distinguish the symptoms of COVID19 from other flus/viruses?

Let me direct you to the best source on this:

Is it possible that this new virus is no more contagious than the seasonal flu?

See this article on this topic:

Can you know if someone is an asymptomatic carrier?

Only if they get tested for antibodies – and test positive.

I think I already had the virus. Am I immune from catching COVID-19 again?

There is evidence of re-infection, so having had COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean you are immune to getting it again. It is possible you will have some degree of immunity. But research is ongoing on this issue.

With the incubation period of at least 14 days, what precautions are most effective to date?

The best precaution is social distancing, self-quarantine, enhanced personal hygiene and wearing a mask.

What is the sensitivity and specificity of the COVID-19 testing?

Testing to determine whether or not you have COVID-19 are very accurate. Tests to determine whether or not you have COVID-19 antibodies have a range of margins of error depending on the manufacturer. To reduce the margin of error, request a test kit that has been approved by the FDA (best) or granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA (next best).

How should people who must travel as part of essential supply chains protect themselves and others?

In such circumstances, social distancing, masks, and personal hygiene are three ways to protect yourself if you must travel.

How safe is food, both takeout and the grocery store?

It depends on what you buy and where you buy it from. That being said, it is wise to wash all foods you buy, as well as the containers you buy them in. Also, please wash your hands thoroughly when you get home from food shopping – before you put the food away.

Should I wear gloves at the store, or does this spread more germs?

Please refer to the best source on this:

What are the most promising treatments for COVID-19?

There are many promising treatments both for those already suffering from the virus as well as for a vaccine for the general public. For example, the drug Remdesivir has just been given an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA for use in patients with “serious manifestations” of the virus. These are people who are in the hospital already – older, with respiratory and other serious health conditions. Also, the use of convalescent plasma (using the antibodies from a donor who has already had COVID-19) has shown some promise but is still under investigation. Please – do NOT self-medicate.

Is this a virus that will recur every year like the seasonal flu?

As of yet, this is unknown, although it seems likely.

How should I proceed if I had symptoms of COVID-19 but did not get tested for it?

If you think you may have had COVID-19 (and it’s more than 14 days since your symptoms have ended), you can get tested for antibodies. If you test positive for antibodies, you had COVID-19.

Is swimming an advisable activity for our family?

Here’s what the CDC says about water and the coronavirus:

I've heard the plasma treatment is expensive. True?

Right now, plasma transfusions are experimental. There is no set or “customary” costs – at least not yet.

How often do COVID-19 tests produce false negatives?

The tests to determine whether or not you have the virus are highly accurate. Tests for antibodies differ based on manufacturer and the route to market the FDA has permitted.

We have had other corona-like viruses like SARS and MERS. It has been years in some cases. What progress has been made to make a vaccine in that time?

Vaccines are hard to design and difficult to manufacturer. Unlike MERS and SARS, the global healthcare community has committed to an all-hands-on-deck strategy for vaccine development.

Only N95 masks are supposed to be effective at protecting you and others from the virus, yet they are unavailable to average citizens, so how is wearing a mask effective?

Any mask will help protect you from those who may have COVID-19 – and protect others from you. N95 masks are designed for healthcare and other essential workers and should be reserved for them since they are in such high demand. And, yes – you should wear a mask while exercising if you cannot maintain appropriate social distancing.

Any tips for cleaning surfaces?

Soap and water, regularly and thoroughly! Learn more here.

Would appreciate a few words explaining the magnitude of national response to this outbreak compared to other outbreaks of illnesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unique in our lifetime. The national response has been invented from scratch and we are still learning how to best combat the virus. The role of personal responsibility actions (self-quarantine, social distancing, masks, and enhanced personal hygiene) have been potent weapons in successfully battling COVID-19.

If a vaccine is 10-12 months away, aren’t we destined to get the virus unless we maintain sheltering in place until then?

Minus a vaccine, COVID-19 remains a potent threat to all of us. That’s why it’s important to protect those most at risk and mitigate the likelihood of everyone else from contracting the virus by practicing smart and tactical social behaviors.

Any insight on why children do not appear to get it as frequently as adults?

This is a very important question to which we do not as yet have answers. For more on this question, see here.

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Follow Peter Pitts online

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