Your Coronavirus Questions Answered

March 13, 2020
Weekly Columns

As Coronavirus continues spreading across the U.S., I urge everyone to exercise caution and work to protect your own health and the health of your friends and family. Many of you have called or written to me asking for more information, so Congressman French Hill and I hosted a telephone town hall to answer questions. Dr. Nate Smith from the Arkansas Department of Health joined us on the line, and his advice was so valuable. You can watch our full town hall at www.facebook.com/RepWesterman, or visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov for more details.

I wanted to share some of the questions we received, so you can remain informed on what’s going on:

Q: What are some symptoms of the Coronavirus, and how do you know you should go to the hospital?

A: The symptoms of novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, can look like a lot of other things, especially during flu season. People will start out with a fever or cough, but it is different from the flu. The flu will hit you pretty suddenly, but COVID-19 tends to come on a little more gradually. It usually takes several days before people are feeling badly. Most of these cases – at least 80 percent – are very mild and people don’t get very sick. The big thing doctors are looking for is if someone has traveled to a place where there is active COVID-19 spread or if they’ve been in contact with someone known to have the infection. Make sure to call your doctor and explain your symptoms over the phone before heading to the hospital, to avoid exposing others to potential contamination.

Q: Is Arkansas prepared to handle COVID-19 if things get bad?

A: The public health lab at the Arkansas Department of Health has enough free agents at this time to do between 1,800 and 2,000 tests. They will also be able to obtain additional tests if they run out. Private physicians can now send those tests to private labs to get results as well, and then those results are reported to the Arkansas Department of Health. If your physician recommends a test, the Department of Health ensures it’s fulfilled. Keep in mind that someone who is not sick really does not need to be tested – the test will not tell you whether you might get COVID-19 in the future. It is most useful for someone who is having symptoms. And if someone is having symptoms but has no exposure at all, then it’s not a high likelihood that they will test positive. Once someone has been tested, the Department of Health recommends that they self-quarantine for 14 days, or at least until the test results return.

Q: Do surgical masks do anything to protect the wearer?

A: Surgical masks are designed to keep the surgeon from contaminating the patient during surgery, so they’re good for sick individuals to wear to prevent any droplets from spreading and contaminating those around them. But they’re not designed to filter air out, so surgical masks are not recommended to protect you from someone else. Health care workers who are taking care of sick patients use a different kind of mask, along with gowns, gloves, and something to protect their eyes.

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