The health and safety of families and caregivers is our top priority. This time of year, we are accustomed to taking precautions to prevent the spread of infectious viruses like the flu. This year, there’s a new worry: coronavirus, which has spread to more than 50 countries, including the US.
In late February, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised that person-to-person spread of the virus in the US is likely to continue—and that more cases are expected to be identified in the coming days.
We’ve assembled the following frequently asked questions to help you best protect yourself and your loved ones.
WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is short for “coronavirus disease 2019.” According to the CDC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses common to many species of animals, such as camels, cattle, cats and bats. In rare cases, these viruses can jump to and spread among humans, such as with MERS and SARS. The current coronavirus was first detected in 2019 in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. It has since been detected in travelers and confirmed in a person without known exposure to the region or other known patients.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is passed through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands or touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth without washing hands. In short, it’s passed along like a cold or flu.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Like influenza, COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms from none at all to severe breathing difficulty. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, body aches and fatigue. Cases can range from mild to severe, where shortness of breath may indicate a more serious form of the illness. The CDC believes these symptoms may present in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure.
WHAT’S THE RISK?
According to the CDC, at present the risk is low with 80% of cases being mild — although their risk assessment and recommendations will continue to change as the CDC learns more about the virus. For now, the virus does not appear to be spreading freely in communities in the United States, according to officials. The US government has instituted travel restrictions to a number of countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19, including China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran, but the level of risk in each country will vary day to day while more information is gathered. For an updated list of risk assessments and travel restrictions, visit the CDC website.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD I TAKE?
According to the CDC, the best ways to prevent contracting coronavirus are, quite simply, to avoid coming into close contact with people who are sick. Close contact is considered more than a few minutes within 6 feet of a sick person or direct contact like kissing or sharing utensils. In practice, that means using everyday best-practices for disease prevention. Here’s what the CDC recommends:
- Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60-95% alcohol.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
While a vaccine is in development, at present, known medications are ineffective in preventing or treating COVID-19.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I’VE BEEN EXPOSED TO CORONAVIRUS?
If you’ve been to China or have been exposed to someone with coronavirus in the past 14 days, the CDC recommends the following:
- Call your doctor. Give your doctor advanced notice that you may have coronavirus before your visit so their office may take precautions to limit the risk of exposure to other people.
- Restrict activities except for getting medical care. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t spend time in public areas or use public transportation.
- As much as possible, stay away from people even in your own home, including using a separate bathroom. Try and avoid contact with pets or other animals, as well.
- Wear a facemask and cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw used tissues or face masks into lined trash cans. Wash hands vigorously and often for at least 20 seconds, using soap and water or use hand sanitizer containing 60-95% alcohol.
- Avoid sharing personal household items, monitor your symptoms, and clean surfaces daily.
WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY KIDS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
Experts recommend that parents ease children’s concerns about the coronavirus by having candid conversations while also trying to maintain a sense of calm. Here are some tips:
- If your child has heard about the virus, talk to them at an age-appropriate level about the coronavirus and the risks so they get accurate information from you.
- Emphasize good hygiene – remind them to wash their hands often, avoid touching their face and sneeze into their elbows.
- Tell them that doctors, scientists and other professionals are “working very hard” to address the issue and keep us safe.
BACKUP CARE GUIDELINES
IF SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CORONAVIRUS, IS SHOWING SYMPTOMS, AND/OR IS IN QUARANTINE FOR CORONAVIRUS, CAN CARE.COM PROVIDE BACKUP CARE?
If anyone in your household may have been exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus), is experiencing symptoms, or has traveled recently to a CDC-designated Level 2 or 3 area, we require a 14-day wait period since last possible exposure before requesting Child or Adult Backup Care. When you request Backup Care, you will need to confirm that no member of your household has the virus or is within this precautionary wait period.
In the case of actual infection, we will require you to confirm that you have received medical clearance.
CAN I USE BACKUP CARE FOR MY CHILD IF THEY HAVE A FEVER?
To avoid the spread of contagious disease, we cannot provide Backup Care to any person who has a fever above 100 degrees.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN REGARDING THE HEALTH OF YOUR CAREGIVERS OR THE PROTOCOLS WITHIN THE CHILD CARE CENTERS IN YOUR BACKUP CARE NETWORK?
As it relates to COVID-19, we are requiring our care providers to adhere to the CDC-recommended best practices described here. Additionally, we perform the same screening for our care providers as we do for families requesting Backup Care, as described above. As always, we encourage our care providers to get annual flu shots and to inform us if they are ill or have symptoms that would prevent them from being able to safely provide care.
Our child care center partners enforce a policy in which children and teachers stay home when sick to avoid spreading illness to others.