What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new, or novel, coronavirus not previously seen in humans. Individuals that contract COVID-19 tend to experience symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste or smell. These symptoms may begin to appear within 2 to 14 days. Some individuals are asymptomatic and will experience no symptoms at all. Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases can still spread the virus to others, however, making it essential that preventive measures be followed to the greatest extent possible.
Is There a Vaccine or a Treatment for COVID-19?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, all individuals over the age of 16 are now eligible to be vaccinated. Go to the COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Map to find a location near you and schedule an appointment. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has published a useful guide that takes you through the process of getting a COVID vaccine. Additionally, the Allegheny County Health Department has created an online portal that enables residents to schedule their vaccine appointments. It can be found here.
Who is Most at Risk?
COVID-19 is currently spreading throughout our community. As such, everyone is at some degree of risk. But there are certain people whose risk of infection is higher, including healthcare workers, service industry workers, and people who have had close contact with persons infected with COVID-19. The individuals most at risk of severe health outcomes include the elderly, or those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or the immunocompromised. There is also strong evidence to suggest that younger people can experience severe outcomes as well.
The Allegheny County Health Department is leading the response to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Its personnel have been closely monitoring the pandemic and been involved in frequent briefings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Emergency Services has implemented measures to identify whether 9-1-1 callers seeking help are at risk of having COVID-19. Responders have been provided with enhanced personal protection kits should they encounter someone who has, or could have, the virus.
How Residents and Businesses Can Help Protect Themselves and Others
COVID-19 is an airborne disease. It’s primarily transmitted through droplets emitted when one coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, or breathes. So when you go outside your home for work, for shopping, for eating, or any other activity that necessitates interacting with the public, it is essential that you wear a mask. Universal masking offers the best chance of slowing down the spread of COVID-19, while allowing businesses to remain open. Remember your mask protects others, and their masks protect you. Social distancing is also crucial. Whenever you’re outside, always try to maintain at least six feet of distance from others. Other important preventive measures include covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or using your elbow or sleeve, washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer with 60-95% alcohol), and routinely cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and objects. All of these measures can go a long way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Businesses should adhere to the following guidelines: require both employees and customers to wear masks, maintain proper ventilation (a person is more susceptible to infection in a poorly ventilated space), encourage sick employees-or employees that may have had exposure to COVID-19-to stay home, emphasize cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene, performing routine cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces, and most importantly, practice physical distancing to the greatest extent possible.
If you have traveled out of state, particularly to an area that’s a hot spot, it is strongly recommended that you self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
The Allegheny County Health Department is providing ongoing information on COVID-19 through its website (www.alleghenycounty.us/coronavirus), social media pages (Facebook.com/AlleghenyCountyHealth and twitter.com/HealthAllegheny), and Allegheny Alerts (www.alleghenycounty.us/alerts). They have also created a dashboard, which provides an abundance of useful information about COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County. It is available at https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Resources/COVID-19/COVID-19.aspx
You are also recommended to check the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website, which has extensive resources and updates about COVID-19 (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCov)