COVID-19: What You Need to Know
Editor’s note: This post was first published Jan. 28, 2020 and last updated at 4 p.m. Feb. 25, 2021 with the latest confirmed state, national and global COVID-19 cases.
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.
Feb. 25, 2021 update:
- The CDC has launched an online tool to help people find vaccination opportunities near where they live.
- Search for a COVID-19 vaccination location on VaccineFinder.org
- The state of Michigan has expanded COVID-19 vaccine availability to mortuary service workers and people age 60 or older if their healthcare provider is removing barriers to access, as of Feb. 15. As of March 1, workers in food processing and agriculture will be eligible to get vaccinated. Federally qualified health centers across Michigan will also begin offering vaccines soon.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will continue to waive cost sharing for members who are diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 through Sept. 30, 2021.
- Some health experts say it’s time to wear two face masks as the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new chapter with the emergence of new variant strains.
- The Better Business Bureau is advising individuals to avoid sharing photos of their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media due to scams.
- At this time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.
- New variant cases of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 continue to be discovered in the U.S.
- The B.1.1.7 variant that has origins in the U.K. has been identified in Michigan and new cases continue to be reported. Learn more about this new variant of the virus here.
- The first U.S. cases of the B.1.351 variant were identified in South Carolina Jan. 28 and in Maryland Jan. 30. This variant has origins in South Africa.
- The first U.S. case of the P.1 variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in Minnesota. This variant has origins in Brazil.
- Two COVID-19 vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines are being administered in phases under the direction of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
- As of Feb. 25, there are 585,352 cases and 15,453 deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan.
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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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.
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.
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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:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Adults with the following conditions may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
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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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. Due to the emergence of new variant strains of the coronavirus, consider wearing two face masks as an additional precaution.
- 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.
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As of December 2020, two vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use against COVID-19. The vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna both require two doses to be effective against the disease.
Vaccines are in short supply and 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.
As of Feb. 15, the following groups are now eligible to receive the vaccine in Michigan:
- Healthcare workers
- Staff and residents of long-term care facilities
- Police officers, firefighters and inspectors
- Pre-K through grade 12 teachers
- Prison and jail officers
- Childcare providers
- Mortuary service workers who routinely work with infectious materials
- People age 65 and older
- People age 60 and older if their healthcare provider is removing barriers to healthcare access
As of March 1, workers in food processing and agriculture will be eligible to get vaccinated in Michigan.
Vaccines are available through local health departments, hospitals and health systems and some commercial pharmacies. In the future, primary care providers will also offer the vaccines. The week of Feb. 8, retail pharmacies across the country will begin receiving shipments of COVID-19 vaccines. Initial federal retail pharmacy partners in Michigan include Meijer, Rite Aid and Cardinal Health’s pharmacy services administrative organizations, LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe. Federally qualified health centers across Michigan will also begin offering vaccines soon.
- Find a vaccination location in Michigan by visiting Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine
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.
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.
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.
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Additionally, ask your primary care provider if they are available to you via telemedicine through their own patient portals or other means.
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 and Blue Care Network are covering all COVID-19 treatment through September 31, 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:
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 Feb. 25, 2021:
- 112,849,164 cases and 2,503,390 deaths globally.
- 28,390,327 cases and 507,465 deaths in the U.S.
- 585,352 cases and 15,453 deaths in Michigan.
Cases of the virus continue to be reported as the outbreak spreads.
- As of Feb. 8, contact sports can resume in Michigan with masks; if mask wearing is not possible participants must follow testing protocols.
- Michigan restaurants and bars can reopen to indoor dining Feb. 1, with certain restrictions in place including a 10 p.m. curfew, 25% capacity limits and tables of no more than 6 people. These restrictions will remain in place until March 29.
- On Jan. 8, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidance for in-person instruction, with the goal that all Michigan school districts offer an in-person learning option March 1 or sooner.
- On Oct. 21, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an emergency order updating requirements for residential care facilities to allow for indoor visitation under certain circumstances.
- Face coverings continue to be required at most Michigan businesses, schools and government buildings with few exceptions.
For Michigan residents, there are numerous resources available for those in need of help during the pandemic:
Traveling can increase your risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19. The CDC asks travelers to consider their risk of exposure before going on any trip. State or local governments may have issued local travel restrictions. Check with public health departments for more information. As of Feb. 2, 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.
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.
Foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, most European countries, the U.K., Ireland, 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.
As of Jan. 26, airline passengers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the U.S. Quarantines for people returning from international travel are also planned.
The CDC is recommending that travelers avoid all non-essential visits to all global destinations as a result of the pandemic.
The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are 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.
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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