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COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Editor’s note: This post was first published Jan. 28, 2020 and last updated Oct. 25, 2021. It is updated weekly with the latest information.

Cases of a new coronavirus continue to be identified in Michigan. This is a rapidly developing situation and information is constantly changing and being updated as officials learn more about the virus that causes COVID-19.

Oct. 25, 2021 update:  

  • Millions of Americans are now eligible for a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have received emergency use authorization for a third “booster” dose for individuals at least six months after they were initially vaccinated who may be at a higher risk for COVID-19 due to their health conditions, older age, job status or living arrangements.
    • The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has received emergency use authorization for a booster dose for people age 18 and older at least two months after they were initially vaccinated.
  • As of Aug. 23, the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the FDA for use in individuals age 16 years old and up. The vaccine continues to have emergency use authorization for individuals age 12 to 15 years old and for booster doses for the immunocompromised.
  • As of Aug. 11, federal health officials are advising that women who are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant get vaccinated against COVID. The new advice comes after an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of data from a vaccine monitoring program.
  • New variant cases of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 continue to be discovered in the U.S. Learn more about variants of the virus here. 
  • The more contagious Delta variant is now the dominant variant of the virus in the U.S.

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Individuals and organizations across Michigan are being asked to limit non-essential travel, leave work or school if you feel sick and to practice good hygiene. COVID-19 has been declared a national emergency.

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Staying Safe and Healthy in the Pandemic

The pandemic has altered daily routines for many as precautions including frequently washing hands, wearing a face covering in public places and social distancing are still recommended. When traveling, it’s important to take the health of yourself and others into consideration.

Though some doctor’s visits may have been postponed in the early months of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to schedule a trip to the doctor – especially for children. Staying healthy and protected against common illnesses like the flu through vaccination is essential to reduce the burden on health care workers fighting the coronavirus.

Consider getting tested for COVID-19, or learning more about the types of tests available. The CDC advises if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes yet you are not symptomatic, you need a COVID-19 test and should self-isolate for 14 days.

Many of the measures intended to fight the spread of coronavirus can also put people at risk of feeling isolated and for coping behaviors like substance abuse, which can lead to negative mental health effects. Online mental health resources are available to help.

Symptoms

The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread when the respiratory droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes land on the mouths and noses of people nearby and may be inhaled into the lungs. The CDC advises some COVID-19 infections can occur via airborne transmission through “exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” and COVID-19 spreads less commonly through touching a contaminated surface.

The CDC believes people are most contagious when they are the sickest. According to current estimates, it takes two to 14 days for symptoms to appear.

There is a lot of variability in patient symptoms from COVID-19, and some individuals may show no symptoms at all.

COVID-19 has been reported to cause symptoms including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. Increasing shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to wake up, or bluish lips or face are emergency warning signs and are reasons to seek medical assistance without delay.

People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19

According to the CDC, adults over the age of 65 — particularly those over the age of 85 — and people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing a serious illness from COVID-19.

Officials are continuing to learn more about COVID-19 every day. Based on what officials know now, adults with the following conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

Adults with the following conditions may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC:

It is important to remember that stigma and discrimination occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality. COVID-19 does not target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds.

People over the age of 80 should especially take precautions, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The CDC is advising those at a higher risk to stock up on supplies  and medications in case of an outbreak in their community — and plan to stay home as much as possible if an outbreak occurs. People over the age of 80 should avoid crowded, poorly ventilated areas, have backup plans for home health care if they are homebound and cancel any cruise ship plans, according to Messonnier.

Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often when you go out in public.

For people with underlying medical conditions, it’s important that you continue to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor to keep your conditions under control. Before changing a prescribed medication regimen, first talk to your doctor about your concerns and follow their advice. They have up-to-date information about the latest recommendations.

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Precautions

To prevent the spread of the virus, one should take the following precautions:

  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol-based.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and a cough.
  • If you are sick with a respiratory illness, practice cough etiquette: maintain your distance, cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues or clothing, and wash your hands.
  • If you have a fever, are coughing and have difficulty breathing, seek medical care and share any travel history with your doctor.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • The CDC is recommending that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
  • The CDC advises if you test positive for coronavirus to self-isolate for 10 days; a 14-day quarantine is recommended if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified disinfectant products that have qualified for use against COVID-19, some of which are familiar household names. Coronaviruses are some of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the right disinfectant, according to the EPA. Make sure to read the label on the disinfectant product before using it, especially the portion about how long the product should remain on the surface.

In addition to hand washing, using the right disinfectant products is an important step to prevent and reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

COVID-19 Vaccines

As of Aug. 23, the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the FDA for use in individuals age 16 years old and up. The vaccine continues to have emergency use authorization for individuals age 12 to 15 years old. The Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine both have emergency use authorization from the FDA for individuals age 18 years old and up.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses to be effective against COVID-19 and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose.

Vaccines are being administered in phases according to need and a larger distribution schedule. In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is managing the vaccination effort. The CDC have guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on how they can safely visit with others. Read more here.

At this time, the CDC do not recommend taking acetaminophen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol or Advil prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccines to prevent any vaccination symptoms. Patients who take these medications as a part of their current treatment plans should consult their primary care providers first before making any changes.

As of May 12, all Michiganders age 12 and up are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old as of May 10.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise individuals who are 18 and up and received the initial two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago are eligible for a booster dose if they meet the following criteria:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise individuals who are age 18 and up can receive a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months after they were initially immunized.

Vaccines are available through local health departments, hospitals and health systems and commercial pharmacies. In the future, primary care providers will also offer the vaccines. Federally qualified health centers across Michigan are also offering vaccines.

  • Find a vaccination location in Michigan by visiting Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine
  • The CDC has launched an online tool to help people find vaccination opportunities near where they live.

Each state is distributing vaccines in a different way. If you live outside of Michigan and are seeking a COVID-19 vaccine, click here to see how to get a vaccine in your state.

Seeking Medical Care for COVID-19

The CDC is advising you to call your health care provider for medical advice if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or if you live in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and you develop a fever and symptoms.

Tell the health care worker about your recent travels or contacts, and the professional will decide if you need to be tested for COVID-19. The guidelines that clinicians are using to decide who to test are being re-evaluated daily. These decisions are currently being made in consultation with the local health departments under guidance of the MDHHS and the CDC. For more information, see this link.

As there is no treatment for COVID-19, people who have a mild illness may be able to isolate from others and care for themselves at home.

The CDC advises those being evaluated for COVID-19 and those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to monitor their symptoms. If your illness is worsening — for example, if you have difficulty breathing — the CDC advises you call your health care provider and tell them you either have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.

If you have a medical appointment, call the health care provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the health care provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Before entering the health facility, put on a facemask to protect others in the office or waiting room from possibly being exposed. Ask your health care provider to call the health department.

If you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19 and need to call 911 for an emergency, notify the dispatcher of your status regarding the coronavirus. If possible, the CDC advises putting on a facemask before help arrives.

  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has launched a statewide coronavirus hotline. Call 1-888-535-6136 to speak with health officials from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
  • Find a free testing site in Michigan by visiting Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest.
  • MDHHS will also answer questions by email by contacting [email protected] from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Telehealth Options

Health care leaders are encouraging patients to use telehealth options in order to access virtual care during the coronavirus outbreak. For patients with mild symptoms including headaches, stomachaches and vomiting, painful urination, cold and flu symptoms, eye irritations and mild rashes and injuries, virtual care provides a convenient way to access health care professionals.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network offer two options to access virtual care: the 24-hour Nurse Line and Blue Cross Online Visits.

Additionally, BCBSM is offering a free crisis hotline for emotional support for members and non-members at 833-848-1764, which is staffed by BCBSM’s behavioral health partner New Directions.

Additionally, ask your primary care provider if they are available to you via telemedicine through their own patient portals or other means.

BCBSM, BCN Coverage

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network have expanded their insurance coverage in numerous ways to help members confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will waive all copays, deductibles and coinsurance for COVID-19 vaccines to commercial members.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will cover the cost of the third dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for the broad population once it is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This applies to fully insured commercial plan members. Employer groups subject to the Affordable Care Act are required to cover administration of vaccine doses. Blue Cross will work with employers to guide them through applicable requirements. 
  • Blue Cross and Blue Care Network are covering all COVID-19 treatment through September 30, 2021. Member cost sharing is also waived.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Care Network are waiving member cost sharing for physician-authorized COVID-19 testing and resulting services as of March 18, 2020 in line with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Testing and associated services must be consistent with CDC guidelines.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Care Network are waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day and 90-day prescription maintenance medications.

Additionally, Blue Cross and Blue Care Network have taken several actions to help customers and members through the uncertainty of the pandemic:

  • Donating $1 million to be used for emergency personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for Michigan dentists
  • Returning more than $21 million in one-time credits to more than 180,000 members with commercially insured individual health care plans
  • Returning more than $100 million in credits to senior members, employer group customers and 2019 individual plan subscribers on their health, dental and vision premiums
  • Adding two new Blue Care Network plans that simplify coverage and provide more clarity on out-of-pocket costs for members
  • Holding rates on plans offered through the individual marketplace in Michigan to moderate rate increases for 2021
  • Supporting Michigan-based physician organizations and practices in their efforts treating COVID-19 patients
  • Relaxing some administrative requirements to allow Michigan’s physician organizations and health systems to spend more time treating patients and hasten their diagnoses and treatment

Read more about how to enroll in a health care plan:

Cases

After the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was first detected in China, the first U.S. cases of COVID-19 were reported in January 2020.

Here are the number of COVID-19 cases and associated deaths as of Sept. 10, 2021:

  • 223,357,882 cases and 4,608,758 deaths globally.
  • 40,613,015 cases and 654,698 deaths in the U.S.
  • 964,317 cases and 20,447 deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan.

Cases of the virus continue to be reported as the outbreak spreads.

Restrictions in Michigan

For Michigan residents, there are numerous resources available for those in need of help during the pandemic:

Travel Guidelines and Restrictions

Traveling can increase your risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19; however the CDC advises fully vaccinated individuals can travel at low risk to themselves. The CDC asks travelers to consider their risk of exposure before going on any trip. Masks are federally mandated on most forms of transportation including airplanes, trains, intercity buses, taxis, rideshares, ships and ferries — as well as in transportation hubs like terminals. As of June 10, masks are not required in outdoor areas at transportation hubs.

The CDC advises if you have traveled out-of-state or out-of-country to follow any state or local government requirement for self-quarantine; understanding that even if you do not show symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 for up to 14 days after being exposed. Find the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals here.

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.

Foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, most European countries, the U.K., Ireland, India, South Africa and Brazil within the last 14 days are prohibited from entering the U.S. The travel ban does not apply to American citizens, permanent legal residents of the U.S. and their families — though they may have to travel through certain airports to receive enhanced screening measures.

The U.S. border with Mexico is closed to non-essential traffic for tourism and recreation, though trade is not affected.

The CDC recommends all travelers avoid voyages on cruise ships due to the increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases in the close quarters onboard, including COVID-19. Additionally, older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at an increased risk for more severe disease — including avoiding crowded places, non-essential travel like long plane trips and avoiding cruise ship travel.

Coronavirus 101

The CDC considers the novel coronavirus to be a serious public health threat. The strain of coronavirus behind the current outbreak is named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is named COVID-19.

This strain of coronavirus was previously unknown to health officials.

There are multiple types of coronaviruses that health officials are already familiar with, including strains that cause the common cold, the strain behind severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the strain behind Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The term “coronavirus” refers to a group of viruses that have crown-like spikes on their surface.

The novel coronavirus’ genes suggest that it originated in bats, as did SARS and MERS, according to the CDC.

World Health Organization officials believe the coronavirus outbreak began at a large seafood and live animal market in the city of Wuhan, China, in 2019 and that it likely spread at first from animals to humans. Now the virus is spreading from person to person across the globe.

The situation is rapidly evolving, and the CDC is committed to share updated information as it becomes available.

Find answers to frequently asked questions here:

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. S. George Kipa, deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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Photo credit: Moyo Studio

 

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