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How Prepared Is Bloomington For COVID-19? An IU Official Answers Your Questions

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). (CDC/Alissa Eckert, MS)

We asked for your questions about how COVID-19, the new coronavirus, might affect Hoosiers. Now, we've got some answers.

City Limits Editor Bob Zaltsberg posed your questions about the virus to Indiana University’s Graham McKeen, the assistant university director of public and environmental health.

Bob Zaltsberg: One listener sent in a question - "Does the state has a plan to handle the pandemic?"

Graham McKeen: Yes. They certainly do… They’ve quickly developed guidance and it’s on the ISDH website. I’d definitely recommend going there. They have guidance for businesses, for primary schools, for universities, for first respondents, you name it, we’re starting to see some of that guidance. They also have guidance for mass gatherings and other large events.

READ MORE: Indiana Prepares For Potential Spread Of Coronavirus

BZ: How prepared are Bloomington and IU for an outbreak?

GM: IU started working on plans early this year. The university has mapped out what would happen if several scenarios are realized. But it's difficult to be prepared for every possible scenario.

There are going to be challenges across the board to respond to this virus that is not unique to any one city or government agency or university. My biggest concern are health care workers and health care capabilities … we don’t want our hospitals or health care facilities to be overwhelmed. That’s a bigger concern.

READ MORE: MCCSC Preps E-Learning Alternative In Case Of Coronavirus Outbreak

BZ: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

GM: Some people may not experience any symptoms. Eighty percent or maybe more of people are going to be asymptomatic, experiencing little to a mild illness. That presents a problem, because they are still carriers and may not know they are spreading the illness.

It presents like the cold or the flu…it could be the elements of any other kind of cold, runny nose, headache, those kinds of things. I really wish this virus had some kind of rash, conjunctivitis, red-eye, something that could make it more able to be discerned, but that is not the case.

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-section through the viral genome, seen as black dots.
Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-section through the viral genome, seen as black dots. (Courtesy of the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention)

BZ: And after exposure, how long is someone contagious?

GM: How long you’re infectious, exactly, is unknown.

There’s two things I’d really like to know about this virus. One is the period of infectiousness. How long can you spread it we know you can spread it asymptomatically we can also spread it pre-clinically, before you have symptoms. The incubation period, the time from exposure to the time you have symptoms, is general two to 14 days, and the overwhelming majority of that is in the first week. If you come in contact with a known case we’re going to want to quarantine you. 

BZ: A questioner sent in, "the number of people who die from influenza is many more times than those who die from the COVID-19 virus. So what makes it more dangerous?"

GM: The scale of the two illnesses is the big difference – more than 30 million estimated flu cases this year to 107 confirmed cases of the nouveau coronavirus. But more data is needed on COVID-19 to truly understand it. So far 2 percent of the people who get it wind up dying, compared to one-tenth of 1 percent of people who get the flu. While he thinks COVID-19’s mortality rate will drop considerably, even if it’s one-half of 1 percent it would be more dangerous.

I would say COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal flu, but it hasn’t yet spread to 30 million Americans. That’s why we’re going to these mitigation strategies. 

READ MORE: Bloomington Stores Seeing Shortage Of Medical Masks

BZ: What can an individual can do to keep from getting sick?

GM: Wash your hands. 80 percent of all infections right here... Wash your hands before you touch your face. Don’t touch your face or nose or eyes as much as you do. Stay away from others if you are sick ... staying away from others who are sick and vice versa… when they talk about social distancing, they are talking about trying to stay two meters or six feet away from somebody.

Have a question? Ask City Limits:

Our community is changing, from closing businesses to traffic and road construction to affordable housing, and we see the impact of these changes all around us.

We want to know: What questions do you have about how the Bloomington of tomorrow will impact your work, your personal life, your community and your future?

Here’s how it works: You submit a question you’d like us to explore about how Bloomington has changed over the past few decades, what you want to see for the city in the future and how ties with IU continue to shape the community.  

So: What do you wonder about how Bloomington is changing and how it impacts your life?

Interested in an ongoing conversation how Bloomington is changing? Join our Facebook group!

 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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