For the past several weeks, Anchorage Daily News readers have filled our inboxes with smart questions about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the many ways it is affecting our community.
We’ve answered a few of the most commonly asked questions below. Please keep the questions coming — we’ll keep updating this page when we’re able to answer them.
Be aware: Some of the answers to the below questions might change, as public health experts’ understanding of the coronavirus continues to evolve. If that happens, we’ll update our answer and explain why.
Can you recover from COVID-19, and if so, how does the state of Alaska track that?
Yes, the state of Alaska has started publishing and tracking the number of people they consider “recovered” from the upper respiratory illness. As of Friday evening, there were 63 people who had recovered from COVID-19 in Alaska.
What’s the difference between community, secondary and travel-related cases?
The state of Alaska tracks residents of the state who test positive for COVID-19 and the state lists how they think each person contracted the virus.
If someone is suspected of getting COVID-19 from travel outside of the state, they’re listed in the official case count as a travel-related case. A secondary case means someone who was in close contact with another person who has already tested positive for the illness. Someone who is listed as a community case is someone who is sick but it’s not known how they got the illness.
Since cases are announced by a person’s residency, ones listed as community spread along with a location doesn’t necessarily mean that location is where the person got the illness, it’s just where they’re residence is.
What does flattening the curve mean?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “flatten the curve,” invoked at several junctures as officials went to work preparing for COVID-19, but what does it mean? Flattening the curve is a tactic that public health experts have described to keep from overwhelming a state or community’s health care system.
The curve refers to a line on a graph, which really is just the number of cases a state or community has on any given day, plotted out over several weeks. If that line increases sharply, past how many hospital beds and health care staff is available, the state is beyond its capacity to deal with the outbreak. For that reason, officials want to flatten the curve on that graph — to slow down how many people get the virus at once, which makes the pandemic easier to deal with locally.
Social distancing mandates are in service of flattening that curve, blunting spread of COVID-19 by keeping people temporarily apart.
Can you freeze the virus to kill it?
There isn’t enough information about the new coronavirus yet to understand how it interacts with temperatures and becomes inactive, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That point also depends on the material that the virus is on as well as the environment that it’s in.
Should I be wearing a mask?
If you’re heading out into public, yes, you should be wearing a face covering, according to the state’s new recommendations. It’s possible you might have COVID-19 and never realize it, because your symptoms could be so mild. But just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you aren’t unknowingly spreading the illness to others who might become much sicker.
For that reason, wearing a mask can be helpful. Since the virus is spread through droplets, the kind that hop out of you during a cough or a sneeze, a face covering, especially a tight and thick one, can do a lot to keep those droplets from flying about.
Health officials are now recommending masks for anytime you’re in a public place where it’s hard to social distance, like the grocery store — but they’ve been sure to note that homemade masks, a bandana, ski mask or other fabric covering are key.
Health care workers need medical-grade masks because they interact with people who are infectious with the virus every day, and since the masks are in short supply, officials have asked that the general public use homemade face coverings instead.
You shouldn’t rely on a face-covering as your only defense against COVID-19. The masks piggyback onto other already effective ways of controlling the virus, like hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces, as well as staying at least six feet away from others.
You can read the entire health recommendation here.
Can insects carry the coronavirus?
Ticks and mosquitoes are not known to spread the coronavirus, according to the CDC.