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LINKEDINCOMENTARIOSMÁS INFORMACIÓN

Here are some big questions and answers to concerns about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Have a new question? Ask us here.

What is COVID-19?

It is a respiratory disease spreading from person-to-person and is caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). The disease poses a serious public health risk. COVID-19 can cause mild to severe illness, with the most severe illness occurring in adults 65 years of age and older and people with underlying health conditions.

How bad could this get?

Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 17 had eclipsed 30,000, with notable hot spots in New York, New Jersey, South Dakota and on the Navajo Nation in Arizona.

As of April 17, global case numbers had climbed to more than 2.2 million confirmed cases, including nearly 695,000 in the U.S. There have been more than 154,200 deaths worldwide, including almost 31,500 in the U.S. and 169 in Arizona.

It's difficult to say when this wave of infection will end, and concerns are being raised about a second wave of illness in the fall.

CORONAVIRUS IN ARIZONA: Updates on where the virus is now, symptoms, travel 

What about schools, workplaces and the economy?

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"The level of uncertainty that you have as a small business owner right now is absolutely terrifying," says Joe Czerwinski, owner of Focus Climbing Center in Mesa. Arizona Republic

Across the U.S., schools are shut indefinitely. People are being encouraged to work at home whenever possible. Tighter sanitation and social distancing measures have been put in place at essential workplaces in Arizona, which remain open.

All of the shutdowns, which included the closing of bars and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery business, created havoc with the economy and workers. The state's 112 consecutive months of job growth abruptly ended and Arizonans began filing for unemployment pay in record numbers, surpassing weekly totals from the Great Recession.

Tourism, a major driver of Arizona's economy, was one of the first sectors hit by the pandemic, and traffic plummeted at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Many iconic resorts and hotels have temporarily closed their doors, including the Arizona Inn in Tucson, the Enchantment Resort and Mii amo spa in Sedona and the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. 

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Should I wear a mask?

The CDC recently reversed guidance that said people who are well do not need to wear a mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus. 

Both the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services now advise wearing a cloth-based face covering when people are out in the public accessing essential services.

The reason for the reversal is that new evidence has shown the virus can be spread by people showing no symptoms. The point of wearing a mask is to protect others, though a mask may be better than nothing in terms of self-protection if you are very close to someone who is coughing or sneezing. It should not be considered a substitute for social distancing and hand-washing, public health officials say.

As a public service, The Arizona Republic is offering coronavirus coverage relating to public safety free of charge. Subscribe now to azcentral.com.

Previously, face masks were recommended only for people who have new coronavirus and are showing symptoms, to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

Public health officials are asking people not to use medical grade face masks, as they should be saved for health care workers.

"Surgical face masks are designed to keep secretions in," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "Surgeons wear them so that they don't get saliva or secretions on the patient. It's not to protect themselves from the patient."

Another kind of medical grade mask called an N95 respirator is designed to keep infectious particles out, she said. 

Are there travel restrictions and if so, what are they?

Travel restrictions are changing daily.

To see the latest updates on travel and the new coronavirus go to the CDC websitehttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

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How is COVID-19 different from the flu?

Evidence is showing that COVID-19 is much deadlier and more contagious than the seasonal flu. The flu has a fatality rate of 0.1%. Most estimates show COVID-19 is at least 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu.

But some symptoms of new coronavirus are similar to the flu, and both can cause pneumonia and both can be deadly.

Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine against new coronavirus. The effectiveness of antiviral medications against the new coronavirus varies.

By contrast, there are antivirals that can treat the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu.

Reported illnesses from the new coronavirus have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In some cases, people lose their senses of smell and taste.

"It's quite contagious or you wouldn't have seen the numbers explode as fast as we did in more than one location," said Dr. Bob England, interim director of the Pima County Health Department.

Most of the time, the virus causes mild symptoms and sometimes no symptoms at all, England said. Also, transmission has occurred from people who have no symptoms.

"In all likelihood, a vastly large number of people are having mild or no symptoms," he said.

Does hand sanitizer help?

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. 

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, the CDC says. England recommends using sanitizer with 70% or more alcohol.

You can tell the sanitizer's alcohol content by looking at the label.

BEST DEFENSE: Wash your hands to guard against coronavirus. Are you doing it right?

Is anyone at greater risk of dying from this virus?

As with seasonal flu, people with compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions are more at risk, public health officials say. People over the age of 65 are also at higher risk. Also at higher risk are health care workers, especially if they aren't wearing personal protective equipment.

Native Americans, older people and men are dying in disproportionate numbers in Arizona from COVID-19, data released by the Arizona Department of Health Services on April 13 shows, although information on the race and ethnicity of cases and deaths is incomplete.

Even young and healthy people can die of the flu, but it's rare. As of April 17, state data showed five of Arizona's 169 deaths from COVID-19 were in people ages 20 to 44. The remainder have been in people 45 and older, with the majority of deaths — 72% — occurring in people older than 65.

Using data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina in February found mortality rates for people with COVID-19 who are ages 30 to 39 are .2%. By comparison, mortality rates for those older than 80 years old are 14.8%, he found.

How do I protect myself and my family?

Public health officials advise taking everyday preventive actions to avoid the spread of all respiratory infections, including the new coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.