Frequently Asked Questions About Living with COVID-19

Is it safe to travel in a plane during the pandemic? Here's the answer.

How can I boost my immune system?
Are small gatherings of family safe during COVID-19?
Are there treatments or therapies for the elderly?
Will the virus lose potency over time?
What are some safe activities I can engage in during the pandemic?
How can I be safe while flying? Is there anyone who shouldn't fly?
What can I do to help my mental and emotional health during the pandemic?
Can I get an effective examination via telemedicine?


How can I boost my immune system?


Over the years, you've probably seen many magazine articles and TV shows talking about unique herbs and exotic fruits that can boost your immune system. Unfortunately, there's no magic pill where your immune system is concerned. You’ll need to put in the work to get your whole body healthier.

The COVID-19 virus makes the need for a strong immune system more important than ever. People at highest risk for this potentially deadly disease typically have weakened immune systems. This includes people over 65 (our immune systems weaken as we age), and people with serious chronic health conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A stronger immune system isn’t just important for the current pandemic. It helps fight disease-causing germs, including those that cause the common cold and seasonal flu.

To help your body’s immune system do its job, start with a visit to your MDVIP-affiliated physician – via telemedicine or in person. Find out what you can do to lower your risk for chronic conditions you don’t currently have and the best ways to manage any conditions you do have. You’ll also want to have your vitamin D levels checked. (Your doctor tests your vitamin D levels as part of your MDVIP Wellness Program annually. If you haven’t had your wellness program visit, contact your physician’s office to schedule it.) Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system. If your levels are low, your doctor may recommend a supplement.

 There’s also plenty you can do on your own to support your immune system and lower your risk for respiratory infections like COVID-19. A healthy diet and regular exercise should be at the top of your list – as you might expect, since both measures promote health in so many ways — and, in particular, help your immune system. Here are five other steps you can take. 


Are small gatherings of family safe during COVID-19?


If you've been hunkering down, you're probably dying to see family. But keep this in mind: It's exposure to others that raises risk of contracting COVID-19 whether you're related to them or not.

And family gatherings, unfortunately, have become COVID-19 spreading events. There are lots of stories of small family groups getting together and spreading the disease. 

A lot of recent research shows that the risk transmission is linked to the duration and intensity of contact, the kind of contact that occurs when friends and family get together. 

That doesn't mean you can't get together -- it just means your risk goes up just as it does when you venture out to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant. Here's how the CDC ranks gatherings:

Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events and gatherings.

More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).

Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

If you're trying to host a family gathering, here's some advice from the WHO:

  1. Always check local guidelines before planning your event.
  2. Brief guests about precautions before the event starts; during the event, remind guests of these precautions and ensure they are followed.
  3. Choose outdoor venues over indoor spaces – if indoors, ensure the area is well-ventilated. 
  4. Minimize crowding by staggering arrivals and departures, numbering entries, designating seats/places and marking the floor to ensure physical distancing between people of at least six feet.
  5. Provide all necessary supplies – hand hygiene stations, hand sanitizer or soap and water, tissues, closed-lid bins, distance markers, masks.


Are there specific treatments or therapies for the elderly?


COVID affects people differently. This is why one person who contracts it can have cold-like symptoms, while someone else can have life-threatening complications. 

Being older, however, raises your risk for complications because as you age, a number of health challenges raise your risk for infection and complications:

  • Older people tend to have chronic conditions.
  • Their immune system is weaker.
  • Inflammation can be more intense in the elderly, which can lead to organ damage.
  • Lung tissue become less elastic, raising your risk for COVID-19 complications should you contract it. 

If you are elderly, you can help lower your risk of contracting COVID-19 by following recommendations from Johns Hopkins and the CDC: 

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Disinfect commonly used surfaces like countertops, canes and handrails.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Sneeze into tissues.
  • Keep your hands away from your face. 

You should also social distance yourself from others but try not socially isolate. It's not good for your mental health to cut yourself off from the world. Stay in touch with loved ones, friends and neighbors via telephone, video chat and/or social media apps. 


Will the virus lose potency over time?


Early in the pandemic, many people were hopeful that the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, would fade like another coronavirus with a similar name. In 2003, SARS-CoV, as it was called, infected nearly 9,000 people worldwide, but was controlled and disappeared after eight months. 

According to the CDC, which now maintains a SARS-CoV web page for historical purposes, only eight people in the United States had confirmed cases and they all were infected overseas. SARS did not spread more widely in the community in the United States.

The difference with the new coronavirus is that it transmits more easily that SARS, starts spreading before symptoms show up and has a higher proportion of infections that are mild. This mix of factors is ripe for spreading the disease. With the first SARS virus, symptoms were more easily spotted, and medical workers could diagnose and isolate victims. 

We also don't know a whole lot about the new coronavirus -- it was first identified less than one year ago. We do know that some viruses like SARS fade relatively quickly, and other viruses, like influenza, become seasonal — they're active all year, but more active at certain times. Unfortunately, scientists don't know exactly why. (Though even NASA is trying to answer this question about SARS-CoV-2.) 

Other viruses like herpes hide in our bodies and flare up occasionally. Still, other viruses are around all of the time. More research is needed before SARS-CoV-2 is categorized into one of these buckets, but for now, the disease is not seasonal and isn't fading. 


What are some safe activities I can engage in during the pandemic?


For safe outdoor individual activities, the Mayo Clinic recommends walking, running, hiking, cycling, fishing, golfing, boating and outdoor fitness classes that allow for social distancing. 

Social activities could include picnics, visits to open air farmers markets, small gatherings at home and drive-in movies as long as you know the people you are socializing with are healthy and you continue to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands regularly and disinfect commonly used surfaces. For more ideas on safe activities during COVID, check out this advice from Johns Hopkins.


How Can I Be Safe While Flying? Is There Anyone Who Shouldn't Fly?


Ideally, you should only fly if necessary. However, if you must fly, you may be relieved to know that most viruses do no spread easily on flights because of how the air circulates and is filtered on the plane. 

But that doesn’t mean the entire experience is safe. In order to fly, you have to encounter a lot of different people on your way to the plane, from transportation to security lines to check in. You may have trouble social distancing.

Once on your flight, you may be faced with social distancing issues as well. Some airlines are trying to spread patients out, while other are filling seats. Even if the air around you is filtered, you may be forced to sit next to someone for several hours, increasing your risk for infection if that person is sick.

There are also other obstacles that you may have to overcome. For example, you may have to quarantine when you arrive or take several tests to demonstrate you’re not sick with COVID-19. And you may be flying to a place where COVID-19 is rapidly spreading. 

Travel, in generally, increases your chance of getting the condition and the CDC advises you stay at home, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

Check local restrictions before you fly. Several states require you to quarantine upon arrival. Others may require a negative test. 

If you are going to fly, the CDC recommends that you wear a mask, use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces and practice social distancing wherever possible. This includes commuting to and from the airport, as well as standing in line to check-in and on the jetway. 

You should avoid flying if you are sick or recently recovered from being sick. If you plan on flying, here are some tips to help keep you safe.


What can I do to help my mental and emotional health during the pandemic?


Pandemics are scary and can easily raise trigger stress, anxiety or depression. Keep in mind you want to social distance but not isolate yourself completely from others.

Stay in touch with loved ones, friends and neighbors via telephone, video chats or social media apps. Continue your activities through Zoom or other types of streaming services. Start up a new hobby and keep positive people around you — ditch the negative ones.

There are also online resources and apps that can help with mental health. And the National Institute of Mental Health has links to mental health resources. 

And of course, if you need to really talk to someone, call your MDVIP-affiliated doctor, mental health provider or a crisis helpline.


Can I get an effective examination via telemedicine?


Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Modern technology has enabled doctors to consult patients by using HIPAA compliant video-conferencing tools. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors, including MDVIP-affiliated physicians, have turned to telemedicine to conduct safer appointments. 

While there may be some trepidation regarding the effectiveness of televisits, many components of a physical exam can be done over video with cooperation from patients and thorough explanations from doctors. For appointments that do not need physical interaction, telemedicine visits have few limitations. In fact, patients in MDVIP-affiliated primary care practices have been able to reach their doctor by phone for 20 years – and handle some routine care issues.

There are some limitations when it comes to more thorough examinations; for instance, a doctor may want to feel a specific area of your body -- such as a lump -- and you may need to see the doctor in person. What’s comforting is that 35 studies found that these kinds of visit makes it easier to receive medical service and improves the comprehensiveness of service. 

 Curious about telemedicine? Here’s more on having online visits with your doctor

Similar Posts
Can Vitamin D Help Protect You From COVID-19? / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / May 13, 2020
You Think You’ve Got Coronavirus. Here's What You Should Do Next / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / March 24, 2020

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