Months into the nation's battle with the novel coronavirus, rates of infection are climbing in some states while others are easing social distancing restrictions.
So what can you do to help slow the transmission of COVID-19?
The USA TODAY Network has assembled a panel of experts from the University of Wisconsin to help answer questions from readers.
Please keep in mind scientists and doctors continue to learn much about this new virus, and guidance is changing. They will provide the best information that is available.
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I see many people wearing a mask with just their mouth covered. How effective is the mask?
A mask that is not covering the nose will not stop a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 from contaminating the air in front of them when they exhale. Similarly, a mask covering only the mouth will fail to prevent an uninfected person from inhaling contaminated air. Since it does not take a lot of virus particles to cause infection, a partially worn mask may not be effective enough. This reminds me of when I see people wearing a bicycle helmet without buckling the strap or wearing it so loosely that it doesn't cover the front of their head. The intention might be there, but there is a higher risk of head injury following an accident if the helmet is unable to do what it is designed to do.
— Ajay Sethi, PhD, MHS, associate professor, Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What can I do to help my young child get used to wearing a mask?
There are a few things you can do to help encourage children to wear a mask:Let them pick out masks made from fabric that feature book, TV or movie characters they like.Have them watch videos on why and how to wear a mask that are aimed toward kids (see an example on the Dear Pandemic Facebook page.)Set consistent rules for when and where masks need to be worn and stick to them.Model good mask-wearing behavior for your child.Offer praise and rewards for good mask compliance.Remember that masks are only recommended for children aged 2+ years.
For more tips for mask use among kids, see a related post on the Dear Pandemic Facebook page.
— Amanda M. Simanek, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Zilber School of Public Health and associate editor for the Dear Pandemic Facebook page.
RELATED:27 great face masks kids will actually want to wear
Why is outdoors safer than indoors? If I’m outside, do I still have to worry about all the other things like staying 6 feet apart and wearing a mask?
The main benefit of being outdoors is that increased airflow and space cause any droplets released when a person sneezes, coughs, laughs or talks to become diluted in the environment more quickly compared to in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces. For this reason, the likelihood that you will come into contact with a quantity of virus in the air that is sufficient to cause infection may be lower outdoors. However, since droplets typically travel 1-2 meters in the air before falling to the ground, maintaining a 6-foot distance from those outside your household and avoiding crowded spaces is still advised in outdoor settings. Wearing a cloth mask adds yet another layer of protection to those around you, even in outdoor settings, by reducing the amount of droplets you expel into the environment in the first place.
Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cloth face masks be worn in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, particularly in situations where maintaining adequate distance from others is challenging.
— Amanda M. Simanek
If I get tested six days after flying and the test comes back negative, am I safe to visit my new granddaughter or should I continue to self-quarantine for the full 14 days?
For infected people who go on to develop symptoms, the median incubation is 4-5 days, so that means 50% of people who go on to develop symptoms will do so more than five days after infection. If you are symptom-free six days after returning from your trip and traveling was your last high-risk exposure, then testing negative does not necessarily mean you are uninfected because false negative results are more likely in pre-symptomatic than in symptomatic individuals.
Unfortunately, we know less about false negative test results among infected people who never go on to develop symptoms (i.e., asymptomatic throughout infection). However, among both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, a negative test six days after high-risk exposure is more likely to be accurate than inaccurate. So, are you absolutely safe? It's hard to say for sure. Are you safer? Yes, and you'd be even safer if you test negative on day 7, on day 8, on day 9, etc.
Of course, you want to avoid getting COVID-19 from your family. If your granddaughter and her family are symptom-free and have not had any high-risk exposure in the last 14 days, it is safer for you to visit than if one of them were ill or had recent high-risk exposure. I assume you want to hold your new granddaughter. So, although you won't maintain your physical distance, wearing a mask is a good idea.
— Ajay Sethi
I am 24 and have COVID and am at home. How long do I need to quarantine? 14 days from first symptoms? 14 days since last symptoms?
I am sorry that you are ill. Your health care provider may or may not test you for COVID after your symptoms resolve. Moreover, some people who have recovered from COVID and are no longer infectious may test positive because the test is detecting the presence of viral remnants.
So, based on symptoms only, the CDC recommends that you wait at least three days after you recover, which is defined as having no fever without medication and improvement in your respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) and that you wait at least 10 days after your symptoms first appeared.
— Ajay Sethi
Contact John Diedrich at (414) 224-2408 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @john_diedrich, Instagram at @john_diedrich, LinkedIn or Facebook.