There’s a lot of misinformation about the pandemic out there – get the facts from local health officials and offices.
Fact: Masks work
“We know that masks are effective at preventing transmission of COVID-19 when they’re worn consistently and correctly by a large portion of the population,” said Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department.
“We see that in settings where we know there’s enforcement, like schools. We don’t see a lot of spread at schools where there are teachers enforcing mask-wearing. But we see a lot of spread in school-associated settings when kids can take their masks off while they hang out.”
The county health department notes on its website that masks can reduce transmission by somewhere between 75% and 82%. And in an analysis of 115 COVID-19 studies, Brigham Young University researchers noted that some estimate it’s 90%.
Why? Masks can prevent respiratory droplets from spreading beyond the infected person’s mask (called “source control”), according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coronavirus website. When uninfected people wear masks, they can prevent droplets from reaching the wearer’s mucous membranes.
The Mayo Clinic has a detailed guide on how to wear, remove, and care for face coverings.
What if I feel healthy?
A mask is still recommended. People are most contagious just before they exhibit symptoms (presymptomatic), and some people never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) but can spread COVID-19.
Do I still have to social distance while wearing a mask?
Yes. If you’re around someone you don’t live with, wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.
“More than 70% of spread is happening between people who know each other well,” Rupp said. “And that’s happening because they let their guard down and they’re not wearing their masks consistently, like at dinner with family. We’re comfortable with those people, they feel safe to us. … I know I find it awkward to wear a mask when I visit my parents, for example. But that’s where we’re seeing the spread.”
Fact: COVID-19 is not just a bad case of the flu
Early symptoms may be flu-like, but there are major differences:
- They are different viruses.
- There is a flu vaccine.
- COVID-19 symptoms may take longer to appear.
- COVID-19 can cause loss of taste and smell.
- COVID-19 can become more severe and affect the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain.
- COVID-19’s long-term effects on these major organs are unknown.
- COVID-19 is more contagious and contagious for longer.
- The flu can be transmitted 5–7 days after symptoms begin (and sometimes 1 day before symptoms).
- COVID-19 can be transmitted at least 2 days before and 10 days after symptoms begin.
Fact: Young people need to be careful too
While recovery rates for people under 30 are higher than for older people, young people have spread the disease to higher-risk groups rapidly, the World Health Organization noted in an August press conference. Older adults can catch the virus from a child, grandchild, and other young loved ones and have higher rates of severe cases and death, according to the CDC.
And you may not be that lucky. As of Dec. 11, more than 2,000 Utahns aged 15–44 were hospitalized for confirmed COVID-related reasons, according to the Utah Department of Health case counts.
Fact: A negative COVID test doesn’t mean you’re in the clear
Testing gives us a lot of data about community spread and some reassurances about our health, but a negative test doesn’t mean we’re in the clear.
PCR tests are highly accurate, but timing is important. Median incubation of COVID-19 is four to five days, though it can be up to 14 days, according to the CDC. So you could get a negative test result two days after exposure because it wasn’t fully incubated at that point. That’s why experts recommend getting tested five to eight days after exposure.
Plus, a negative COVID test gives you information only up to that point in time. Work, school, or socializing bring new exposures that the test won’t capture, Rupp said.
Fact: You can help too
You can do a lot while we wait for a vaccine and for things to get back to normal.
Pay attention to local restrictions and guidelines
These guidelines are designed to reduce spread in the community. Follow them to save lives and prevent further overwhelming hospitals and medical staff.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones
Call loved ones, send a card, or drop off a care package. If they are high-risk, offer to do things like pick up groceries or prescriptions. Zoom is a great way to connect and look for visual cues about their health.
Even when it feels like it’ll never end, remember that this is temporary.
Help spread accurate information
A lot of misinformation has spread about COVID. Help set the record straight by sharing information from experts. The CDC, Salt Lake County Health Department, UDOH, University of Utah Health, and Intermountain Healthcare are regularly sharing credible information about COVID-19.