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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

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Fauci says he was having surgery when CDC testing changes were approved

Anthony Fauci was in the operating room under general anesthesia last Thursday when the White House coronavirus task force approved the narrowing of CDC testing recommendations to exclude asymptomatic individuals, according to CNN's Sanjay Gupta.

Why it matters: Fauci, who had vocal cord surgery last week, told Gupta that he is "concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is."

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker

FDA authorizes Abbott's $5 rapid COVID-19 test

Results from the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test will be available in roughly 15 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories.

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it received emergency use authorization (EAU) from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 test that works without lab equipment.

The big picture: Abbott said it will ramp up production of its "highly portable," $5 tests to 50 million by the beginning of October.