Questions and answers about the novel coronavirus

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing readers free access to critical local stories about the coronavirus during this time of heightened concern. See more local coverage here.

How many people have tested positive for coronavirus in Utah?

For more information, visit the state’s Health Department website.

What is coronavirus disease 2019, called COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a virus that has not been previously identified. It is not the same as coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. It was first identified in China and has spread globally.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Fever, cough and shortness of breath are the primary symptoms associated with the disease. They may appear two to 14 days after exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe and it has led to a number of deaths.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

What if I have symptoms?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, call the Utah Coronavirus information line at 1-800-456-7707. Your health care provider will work with the Utah Department of Health and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

For people who have respiratory symptoms but “otherwise are not feeling that ill,” call your health care provider before going to an emergency room or doctor’s office. This will help keep ER’s from being overrun by people who do not immediate help.

Who is at risk of contracting coronavirus?

Anyone who develops a fever and symptoms, such as a cough, fatigue or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from an area with widespread coronavirus illness or anyone who had close contact with someone showing these symptoms. Certain populations are more at risk than others, such as the elderly, people with compromised immune systems or people with lung conditions.

How does this new virus spread?

The virus is thought to spread mostly through person-to-person contact: between people who are near each another (within about 6 feet) and 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 or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Or people can pick these droplets up by touching an infected surface and then touch their face.

How severe is the virus?

Most coronavirus illnesses are mild, consisting of a fever and cough. Most people with the infection don’t require hospital care. A much smaller percentage of people get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia.

What events and places are canceled or closed in Utah?

An onslaught of shutterings have followed Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s call on March 12 to limit mass gatherings statewide to 100 people for two weeks in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s an ongoing list of cancellations and postponements.

How do I protect myself and others?

Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Then, immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Stay home if you’re sick, and avoid touching your face.

• You should also wash that extension of your hand and breeding ground for germs — your phone. Tests done by scientists show that the virus can live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The CDC recommends cleaning all “high-touch” surfaces daily, including phones, keyboards and tablet computers.

Open your windows and don’t share food.

Can I be forced into quarantine?

The legal authority to impose quarantines on individuals is rooted in the “police powers” granted broadly to states, counties and cities to protect public health. Here are answers depending on where you live.

If you think you have a mild case of COVID-19 or were in contact with someone who has this virus, authorities are asking you to self-quarantine for 14 days.

How is travel being impacted, and should I travel?

The State Department has issued a global Level 3 health advisory telling U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel” to all countries because of the worldwide effects of the disease. This is the department’s second-highest advisory. A list of destinations with travel notices is available here.

How can I find out about cases in other U.S. states?

The CDC keeps track of the number of confirmed positive cases in each state. The number changes daily, but you can view a map with real-time updates.

Have we answered your questions?

You can send questions not answered here to webmaster@sltrib.com.

Sources: Utah Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention