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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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 smokers' vulnerability, food safety, visiting older parents, hair cut needs, and rural vs. urban impact.

Q: I've been a smoker for years. Am I more likely to get the coronavirus?

  • Being a former or current smoker does not necessarily make you more likely to catch the virus, but it could make your symptoms worse if you do catch it. The same goes for vapers and anybody with asthma.
  • Panagis Galiatsatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medicine, strongly recommends that smokers use the outbreak as an impetus to quit, so "your lungs can reserve all of [their] energy" to fight the virus.

Q: What is the best way to make sure my food deliveries, takeout and packages are all coronavirus-free?

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling a package, making a trip to the grocery store, or having a quick food run.
  • The Food and Drug Administration says there's no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food. The best thing, of course, is to keep washing your fruit and vegetables with water and possibly with mild soap or fruit/vegetable washes.

Q: My older parents have been quarantined for the past two weeks, and nobody in my family has shown any symptoms. Is it safe for us to visit them and take our kids with us?

  • It's risky. It only takes one infected person to spread the virus, and you can be contagious before you start feeling any symptoms, Axios' Stef Kight writes.
  • If you do decide to check in on older family members, make sure everybody is washing their hands and keeping a six-foot distance from one another.

Q: I'm long overdue for a haircut. Is it safe to get one?

  • Many state and local governments have ordered salons, spas, and other grooming places to shut down, in the hopes of containing the virus.
  • The more often you venture outside, the more exposed you are and the higher your chances of infection.

Q: How is the COVID-19 outbreak affecting rural areas of the country, compared to the major cities?

  • Americans living in rural parts of the country will find it easier than city dwellers to stay away from crowds. But rural communities have more limited access to health care, and people living in rural areas tend to be older, putting them at higher risk, Axios' Kim Hart notes.
  • Many jobs in rural communities, like those in the service and agriculture sectors, don't offer paid sick leave.

Got a question? Send it to coronavirus@axios.com. We'll get in touch with the experts and answer a new batch of questions every Saturday.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.

Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.

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