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Should I buy a face mask? And other frequently asked coronavirus questions

Health officials and experts dispel misconceptions about COVID-19

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows COVID-19, or the coronavirus. (CDC via AP)
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows COVID-19, or the coronavirus. (CDC via AP)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With multiple cases of coronavirus now reported in Florida, it’s only natural for people to wonder how this infectious disease might affect them.

To help separate fact from fiction, News4Jax has compiled a list of frequently asked questions along with answers based on a combination of insights from health officials and infectious disease experts.

So, let’s get to them...

How many cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Florida?

Florida currently has two confirmed cases of coronavirus – a Manatee County man with no history of traveling to regions impacted by the virus and a Hillsborough County woman who has traveled to Italy, one of the countries where the illness has spread. A third, unconfirmed, case was reported Tuesday in Hillsborough County, with someone who lived with one of the confirmed patients.

What’s the state doing about confirmed cases of coronavirus?

According to the Florida Department of Health, both confirmed patients are currently in isolation and will remain isolated until given the all-clear by public health officials. In hopes of containing the virus, officials are working with confirmed patients to identify and monitor anyone they may have exposed to the virus. At least 184 people are currently being monitored, according to the health department.

What do I need to know about the State of Emergency in Florida?

Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order directing officials to declare a public health emergency in response to coronavirus. In a nutshell, that means public officials and agencies are given access to the resources required to protect the public from a crisis, in this case an infectious disease. As part of the governor’s order, the state is developing a response to COVID-19 to help contain the spread of illness.

How can I learn more about measures the city is taking to prepare?

The city’s Emergency Preparedness Division (Jaxready) has launched a web page as a go-to resource for Duval County residents to get the latest information about the coronavirus. It will provide any updates for the Jacksonville area on the page.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19, or the coronavirus?

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and they may emerge two days to two weeks after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although some people might experience mild symptoms which pass within a few days, others – including the elderly or those with existing medical issues – are more at risk to come down with a severe case of the virus.

How does coronavirus spread?

This infectious disease is believed to spread from person to person, the CDC said. This can happen when individuals either come into close contact with an infected person or when an infected person sneezes or coughs with others nearby. The CDC noted it might also be possible for the virus to spread when people touch an object or surface that has one of these droplets on it before touching their face.

Should I stock up on face masks?

The CDC does not recommend that healthy people or those without symptoms buy and wear face masks. Instead, the agency recommends that these masks be used by people who are infected with the virus to avoid spreading it to others around them. Derek Cummings, a biology professor at the University of Florida, said there are two reasons the public should not buy face masks.

“I think one of the key considerations is that we want our health care personnel to have access to the limited resources of masks because they’re actually trained to use them and we need them to stay healthy to take care of the rest of us,” Cummings said, adding that there is “little data to support that untrained individuals in the community get any protection from wearing the masks.”

How am I supposed to protect myself from this virus?

The CDC recommends a wide range of measures to prevent exposure to the virus. This includes: avoiding contact with sick people, staying home from work or school when you’re ill, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, washing your hands frequently – especially after going to the bathroom or before eating, and cleaning or disinfecting items or surfaces that you frequently use.

What treatments are available for coronavirus?

Currently, there is no antiviral treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, according to the health department. It is recommended that those infected with this virus get supportive care to relieve symptoms, while those with severe cases of this illness should seek medical care to keep their vital organs functioning properly.

Is there testing available for suspected cases?

Public health officials are relying on certain criteria such as travel history to figure out when someone ought to be tested for coronavirus. That’s why they recommend that people call their doctor or health department if they have symptoms or encounter a confirmed patient. Health care providers and health officials will then determine if someone requires testing for COVID-19 infection.