As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the new coronavirus grow in Pennsylvania, questions are mounting about testing, treatment and more.
From our in-depth coverage to daily updates and live coverage, we are working to provide the important information you need.
After conversations with medical professionals, statements from local, state and federal officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions.
Am I allowed to go outside?
Yes. It is even encouraged if you are going outside for exercise, gardening in your backyard or getting some fresh air on the porch. But medical experts recommend keeping at least 6 feet between you and other walkers or bicyclists.
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close to try and control the spread of the very contagious coronavirus. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, remain open.
As of Sunday, there is no order in place for Pennsylvanians to stay at home, but it is highly recommended by state and federal health officials to practice social distancing.
Even if Pennsylvanians are ordered to stay at home at some point, you will still be permitted to leave for essential reasons. The essentials include food, gas, medical appointments, shared custody dropoffs and pickups, and going outside for exercise.
Do I need a doctor’s note to get tested for the coronavirus?
Several testing sites have opened in Pennsylvania, and more are set to open this week.
WellSpan, UPMC, Penn State Health, Lehigh Valley Health, Geisinger and Penn Medicine all have testing sites and require a referral from a doctor.
That doesn’t mean you have to go to your doctor’s office. You can call your doctor’s office and possibly get a referral over the phone. You can also have a virutal doctor’s appointment through most websites.
Urgent care centers can also refer patients for testing.
For patients without a primary care provider, WellSpan has a toll-free Coronavirus Information Hotline has been set up at (855) 851-3641.
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
How Pennsylvania is planning for the spread of coronavirus Wochit
The CDC recently updated its recommendations to medical providers to say if a positive result wouldn’t change treatment, a patient should not be tested.
If someone has no symptoms or mild symptoms, they should stay home and do not need to be tested, according to the CDC.
A person with worsening or severe symptoms should contact their doctor or seek emergency care if they have difficulty breathing or other urgent symptoms.
Federal and state authorities also recommend priority testing for healthcare workers and older residents in nursing care facilities.
Who can get the coronavirus?
It was previously suggested people 65 and older are much more susceptible to the disease. But as the virus has spread throughout the U.S., data shows the majority of people hospitalized are 18 to 49, according to the CDC.
How do you get the coronavirus?
The virus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC.
That’s why social distancing, which is staying at least 6 feet way from others, is so important.
Is it safe to get groceries during senior shopping hour?
USA Today, our flagship news organization, explained it this way:
Acknowledging that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19, a growing number of stores are dedicating time or opening earlier for senior shoppers and other at-risk groups.
But Tania Elliott, clinical instructor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone, says she doesn’t advise it. “That gives a false sense of security,” she said. “By encouraging older people with chronic diseases to go out at a dedicated time, you’re still exposing them to a bunch of other people, and if one person in that crowd is infected, then the virus will spread.”
Elliott said she’d rather see stores limiting the number of people who can enter during a given time period so that there are fewer people in the store. She also encourages healthy people to do the shopping.
When will the coronavirus pandemic end?
President Donald J. Trump last week said the coronavirus outbreak could rage on and change American life until July or August.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an 18-month outlook.
Leaked British documents show the coronavirus outbreak lasting until spring 2021.
And local hospital executives say they are not preparing for a short event. They are planning long-term.
There is no specific end date and it largely depends on how much the disease spreads, and that depends on how well the American people follow guidelines for social distancing and staying at home.
Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
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