City officials answer frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19

The sun sets over the Live by Loews hotel and the Entertainment District Jan. 14 in Arlington. 

The COVID-19 virus brings many questions, and there might be some confusion out there on it.

The Shorthorn spoke with Dr. Cynthia Simmons, Arlington EMS System medical director, and Emergency Management administrator Irish Hancock on various COVID-19 questions.

What is the best way for a person to practice social distancing?

Simmons said the best way a person can social distance themselves is to stay home and limit social interactions between anyone other than a person's immediate family.

When people do go out, they should maintain a six-foot distance from any other individual, she said. Washing hands, wiping down surfaces and wearing masks are other ways to help when going out, Simmons said.

If a person recovers from a positive case of COVID-19, can they get it again?

It’s unclear if antibodies confer immunity, but some studies have shown antibodies can prevent reinfection at least for a couple weeks, Simmons said. However, research on the subject is still in its preliminary stages, she said.

Does the COVID-19 test search for anything else or just COVID-19?

Simmons said there’s two types of COVID-19 tests. One uses polymerase chain reaction testing that tests specifically for COVID-19. The other one is an antibody test that can have cross reactivity to other viruses, she said.

The antibody test might show positivity, and that positivity may be reflected if the individual had a previous coronavirus or other upper respiratory virus. The tests aren’t as specific as the original polymerase chain reaction tests, she said.

If someone has a mild case of COVID-19 and a person contracts the virus from them, would that person have a mild case as well?

The viral load is a term meaning that the more exposure there is, the more likelihood of infection there is, Simmons said. Health care workers are in this category, since they have an increased viral load by seeing sick patients in emergency rooms and intensive care units, she said.

However, that doesn’t translate into the severity of the infection, she said. Factors such as age, gender and underlying health conditions contribute to the severity of infection. There are some relationships with incidents of infection but not necessarily severity of infection, she said.

Is there a certain mask that is best to wear when going out?

There are several types of masks, Simmons said. A surgical mask is usually made out of pleated paper material or non-woven material. She said these masks are designed to fit loosely and are designed to protect from coughs and sneezes.

An N95 mask or respirator is designed to filter out airborne particles and is mainly designed for health care workers who are in close proximity with infected people, she said.

Cloth masks help slow the spread of the virus and prevent people who have the virus from spreading it to others, she said. Some people might be asymptomatically shedding the virus, and cloth masks can help prevent the person from spreading the virus, even if they don’t have symptoms.

Is there any estimation or prediction on when things will get back to normal?

Every expert in the world is trying to figure that out right now, Hancock said. The city is utilizing tracking of Arlington hospitals, patient loads and increases in positive and negative COVID-19 cases to determine how bad it is for the city, he said.

When it comes to the timeline for normalcy, the city is talking with medical experts like Simmons and listening to the guidance of its elected officials at the local, county and state level, he said.

What is the actual process for getting a COVID-19 test?

Most people are being tested at their primary care doctor, Simmons said. If a person feels like they have symptoms, they should call ahead and see if they can get an appointment with their primary care doctor.

There are a number of doctors who have tests at their offices, and the same goes for clinics, she said. The emergency room has tests as well if a person feels sick enough to go get tested at one.

Has there been any discussion with the Texas Rangers or Dallas Cowboys on using their stadiums as overflow patient sites?

Hancock said the city has plenty of facilities that can be used if need be before having to look into special event venues. The city has looked at venues that could be utilized, such as closed hospitals and medical facilities, which would be more appropriate than special event venues, he said.


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