Apr 18, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus Q&A: masks, lending books and self-isolating

Illustration of coronavirus surrounded by question marks
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., Axios is answering readers' questions about the pandemic — how it spreads, who's at risk, and what you can do to stay safe.

What's new: This week, we answer five questions on reusing masks, keeping up with specialist doctor's appointments, being neighborly, self-quarantining and handling outside food.

Q: What are the best practices for reusing and cleaning face masks?

  • For cloth masks:
    • The CDC advises laundering the masks in a washing machine with detergent.
    • The University of Utah advises going a step further and recommends washing masks in water that's at least 160°F with soap or detergent. It also recommends soaking cloth masks for 5 minutes in a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach per quart of water.
  • For N95 masks:
    • The FDA does not recommend the reuse of N95 masks by the general public. It advises that the general public use cloth masks and keep N95s available for health care professionals.

Go deeper: New coronavirus surge: Disinfecting health care worker face masks

Q: What is the best way to keep up with specialist appointments like physical therapy?

  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams advises postponing elective surgeries to avoid stressing the hospital system and possibly exposing patients to the virus.
  • The American Physical Therapy Association recommends rescheduling non-urgent in-person care. It's worth noting that many physical therapists are utilizing tele-health and video conferencing to work with their patients.
  • Communicate with your health care provider about possible alternatives and the best way to move forward.

Q: How can I be a considerate neighbor? Can I offer or accept home-cooked foods or share books?

Go deeper... Q&A: How can I best help my community while social distancing?

Q: How long should I self-isolate after testing positive?

  • The CDC published guidelines for how and when to discontinue isolation after testing positive.
    • The signs for recovery include: 3 days without fever and without the use of fever-reducing medicines, improvement of respiratory symptoms, and the passage of 7 days since the symptoms first appeared.
    • The CDC site also notes that you can request a test to confirm recovery, but they may be limited.
    • Those who tested positive for the virus but don't have symptoms should isolate for at least 7 days after their first positive diagnostic test.
  • Your doctor can provide the best guidance for your specific health concerns.

Q: Can I microwave or freeze my food to kill the virus on the packages?

  • The FDA says there's no evidence of food packaging or food itself being associated with coronavirus transmission.
  • The CDC states that coronaviruses generally "survive for shorter periods at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments," but there isn't any direct data to support a temperature-based cutoff for the virus.
Go deeper