Life as we knew it in Northeast Ohio has been grinding to a halt because of the coronavirus. You’ve been asking WKSU’s OH Really? about everything from risk factors to home remedies. We've been gathering answers to your questions about the virus.
Akron photographer Shane Wynn is a small business owner and had a question about insurance. She discovered her policy will not cover loss of income because a virus is listed as an "excluded peril." She wants to know if that’s common.
Sarah spoke with an insurance expert, Jill Bisco, to find out. Bisco, the director of the University of Akron’s Risk Management and Insurance program, spent 24 years in the industry and says this language is standard in most policies.
"If the business is closed by a governing body, is that different than if it chooses to close on its own for the safety of its employees? I think some of this is going to play out over time; I’m sure attorneys will get involved [and] I’m sure the courts will eventually get involved in interpreting policies. But the thought process coming from the insurance carriers, in reading their contracts, the intent was not to cover things like this — not knowing what ‘this’ was going to turn into. They didn’t want to have claims if, in previous years, maybe eight employees out of 10 got the flu and had to close. They didn’t want to be responsible for paying for those types of losses."
Bisco encourages people to read their policies and seek guidance from their insurance agent.
Coronavirus in December?
Ted Hill sent in a question about whether the coronavirus might have been around up to four months ago — or if there are two strains — since he suspects he had something similar to the disease last December.
Dr. Erika Sobolewski, the medical director at Summit County Public Health, says there are two strains. But due to the limited amount of testing, they don’t really have a good grasp on where things are. She does believe that there probably were cases undetected in February, and it’s possible they go back to December. However, she says it’s also difficult to gauge since so many viral infections present with similar symptoms.
She also touched on risk factors. We received questions from Colleen Johnson and Christine Tuel about obesity, high blood pressure or asthma increasing the risk of getting COVID-19 or its severity.
Sobolewski says those are always risk factors for any illness. The most concern right now is for those who are immunosuppressed either due to disease or chemotherapy. She likens health to a big picture and "the more problems that you have, the more concern that we have with how things will shake out with how ill you may possibly be."
We also received questions on whether there are home remedies or over-the-counter medications to treat or prevent COVID-19. Sobolewski points out that, as with symptoms, for home treatment you’ll need to look at the pattern set by influenza.
Everything they’re recommending is supportive care: stay home, stay hydrated and use things to control your fever. She adds that most over-the-counter treatments, like cough suppressants, will be the ones to use at this point.
Warm weather and the coronavirus
Edwin Upton asked whether cases of COVID-19 will go down when warm weather hits, either because school is out or because it’s too hot and humid for the virus.
This was answered during WKSU's call-in show on Wednesday, March 18 with guest Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.
“We have not been told anything about that and there just is not enough research. There is a lot of information circulating out there that has little or no research behind it.” She recommends people get information from the websites for Summit County Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and/or Ohio Department of Health.
Skoda was also asked it’s safe to handle mail. Although she has not gotten any information about special handling, she points out that mail has always arrived at our homes after being handled by many different people. So it’s probably a good idea to get in the habit of washing your hands after touching mail, however, Skoda says the risk of getting the coronavirus from your mail is "extremely low."
Another area people are wondering about are restaurants. The governor has closed them for dine-in, but has repeatedly encouraged carry out orders. We received questions about whether it's safe even to do that since the food could be prepared by someone who has the virus.
Several restaurants, such as Melt, have posted online about the precautions they’re taking to ensure the food is prepped in a sanitary environment.
— Matt Fish (@MattFishMelt) March 16, 2020
Others, such as Sweet Mary’s in Akron, have simply closed altogether for now but hope to re-open soon.
Mar 17, 2020 at 4:17pm PDT
So in this case, it seems like social media posts are the best place to find out what your favorite local restaurants are doing — and how they’re doing — at this time.
Watch what you flush
Finally, we received some information this week from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District that would be useful for our listeners who have been unable to find toilet paper, which has been flying off store shelves, and instead are using toilet paper alternatives.
The sewer district wanted to remind people that wipes should not be flushed. The only things going into your commode are what they call the three P’s: paper, as in toilet paper and the other two, which most people already know.
You can ask your questions about the coronavirus here for OH Really? — our initiative to make you part of the reporting process.