All your coronavirus questions answered

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A Costco store in Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks sold out of bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper and disinfecting wipes, among other products. Photo credit: Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

There have now been 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Los Angeles County, a far cry from outbreaks in China, Italy and South Korea, but still a source of anxiety for many residents. 

The rising numbers prompted the L.A. County Public Health Department to issue new guidelines on Monday, calling on certain groups of people to begin practicing “social distancing.”  Those groups include the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems. 

Certain groups should avoid mass gatherings and stay approximately six feet away from others when possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What does this mean for you? We have answers to your pressing questions.

For anything you do not see here, please email benjamin.gottlieb@kcrw.org.

How can you prevent yourself from getting coronavirus?

Martin Chenevert, an emergency medicine physician at UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica, shares tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after touching any surface that’s available to the public.
  • You do not need to wear a mask. They are not effective and can create a false sense of security.
  • Avoid touching your face after touching a public surface.
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick.


L.A. County displays its recommendations for ways to protect oneself from getting coronavirus. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

What should you do if you think you have coronavirus?

The answer to this question, it depends on your health. Here are Dr. Chenevert’s recommendations if you are a relatively healthy person and have a fever, cough, or other sign of respiratory illness:

  • Stay home and take care of yourself.
  • Take Tylenol, Motrin, or some other fever-reducing drug.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Do not go into crowds.
  • Do not go to work.
  • Avoid immediate contact with family members and/or other people living in your household.
  • If you feel that you are seriously ill (i.e., you are short of breath, you are extremely weak, or have other signs of more severe illness), you should seek medical attention. However, make sure to call your medical provider before you go in to make sure there are proper procedures in place to receive you. 

If you are elderly, pregnant or have a compromised immune system, you should see your medical provider if you believe you have contracted coronavirus. 

Should you cancel your travel plans?

Cancelling travel plans remains a personal choice at this point. 

Airplanes, while considered to be hotbeds of spreading disease, actually have very sophisticated ventilation systems, says Dr. Chenevert. 

Prices for tickets are also low. 

That being said, you should check the CDC’s travel restrictions before booking any international travel to avoid the possibility of being quarantined. 

If you are high-risk (elderly, pregnant or have a compromised immune system), you may want to consider canceling travel to countries with major outbreaks.

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