December 17, 2020 - 4 min read
Frequently asked questions and facts about coronavirus
To help our members keep their employees safe and healthy, we’re providing answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Nearly a year after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the United States, confusion about the virus remains prevalent.
A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that almost half of U.S. adults (48%) reported having read news or information about the virus that appeared to be false. Three in ten respondents believed that the coronavirus was engineered in a lab, with younger adults more likely to have expressed that belief.
The misinformation that surrounds COVID-19 can put the health and safety of your employees at risk. At Blue Shield of California, we’re guided by our mission to help our members navigate this difficult time with greater awareness and understanding.
By providing fact-based answers to the most frequently asked questions, we believe our members will be able to educate their employees on steps to dramatically lower the risk of contracting coronavirus.
Q. What the most effective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19?
A. Coronavirus spreads when infected individuals in close contact exchange respiratory droplets through coughing, sneezing, or speaking.
Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends disinfecting surfaces in common areas that are frequently touched.
Q. What are the most common symptoms for coronavirus?
A. It’s important to let your employees know that COVID-19 affects each person differently.
A small number of individuals who do contract the virus are completely asymptomatic but still capable of transmitting the virus. Others will only show mild symptoms of infection such as nasal congestion, a sore throat, or a low-grade fever. But the majority of those infected with coronavirus exhibit the following symptoms between two to fourteen days after exposure:
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Loss of taste or smell
• Nausea or vomiting
• Body aches
Share with your employees that symptoms like these can persist for months even after recovering from coronavirus and that seniors are more likely to experience lingering symptoms after their initial recovery.
Q. What pre-existing conditions place individuals at an increased risk for coronavirus infection?
A. Much of what epidemiologists understand about why particular groups appear to have a greater likelihood of becoming seriously ill following coronavirus infection continues to evolve. But a pattern has emerged that allows state and government health officials to identify those who are most at risk.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults diagnosed as obese or suffering from type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for developing serve illnesses from coronavirus. Other conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, and sickle cell anemia.
Even if one or more of your employees have been diagnosed with any of these chronic medical conditions, it’s important to remember that safety measures like mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, and social distancing are effective ways to stay safe.
Q. Can you get COVID-19 twice?
A. Yes, unfortunately. It is entirely possible to contract coronavirus after recovering from a previous infection. The first documented case of reinfection was reported in Hong Kong in August of this year.
While public health experts do think people develop some kind of immunity to the virus, there is little consensus about how long that immunity lasts.
Q. Can children spread COVID-19?
A. Yes. While research released earlier in the pandemic suggested that children were not likely to spread the coronavirus, recent studies do, in fact, indicate that kids can become infected with COVID-19 and infect others, even if they appear to be asymptomatic.
Most importantly, certain cases of the coronavirus in children lead to a condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, which can result in heart and organ failure.
Q. Can an employer require COVID-19 testing?
A. Yes. Employers are within their legal rights to screen their employees for symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection such as fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath.
However, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must ensure that an employee’s COVID-19 status remains confidential.
Employers must also keep in mind that as the facts about the virus change, the guidance from state and federal authorities will change as well.
If your employees have questions about worksite testing, please review the California Department of Public Health's public memo to employers on COVID-19 worksite testing.
Q. Is it safe to get a flu shot right now?
A. Yes. Getting the flu shot has become an essential tool in helping to keep your employees safe.
Getting a flu shot will not protect your employees from contracting the coronavirus. But many of the same measures that help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection are also effective against the seasonal flu.
Be sure your employees know that the majority of Blue Shield of California insurance plans provide access to $0 flu shots in a variety of convenient locations across California.*
Q. If employees do get coronavirus, how long are they contagious?
A. An individual with coronavirus may be contagious for 48 to 72 hours before they show any symptoms.
The latest medical research suggest that people are likely to spread COVID-19 to others for up to two days before noticing the tell-tale signs of infection such as fever, chills, and body aches.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who test positive for coronavirus should isolate themselves for at least ten days and, in cases of severe illness, remains isolated for up to twenty days.
Q. When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available in California?
A. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 11, allowing for distribution throughout the United States.
The availability of the vaccine will be determined by the California Department of Public Health based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even as press reports suggest that a vaccine will be made available in the weeks and months to come, safety is still the most effective tool for keeping your employees safe and your business up and running.
*For most plans, member’s cost is $0 as a covered preventative care benefit under the Affordable Care Act. Some exceptions apply for select ASO groups. Contact your Blue Shield representative for more details.
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