Here are key takeaways from KET’s March 27 program on the spread of coronavirus-19 disease, called COVID-19, in Kentucky:
Answers to New Viewer Questions About COVID-19
- How long after contracting COVID-19 is a person contagious?
Most persons with COVID-19 are most infectious at the beginning of their illness, even before they become symptomatic, says Dr. Kathleen Winter, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health.
“We think that (being contagious) declines in the first week, but people can still have lingering symptoms,” she explains. “We know that if we test somebody who’s two or three weeks into their illness, they might still test positive. That shows that they have some of the virus still in their body, but it may not actually be able to be infecting somebody else, it might just be residual virus particles.”
- Are gastrointestinal problems a symptom of COVID-19? What about loss of taste and smell?
About 20 to 30 percent of persons with COVID-19 report having gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, Dr. Winter says. “The loss of taste and smell is very interesting,” she continues. “That has just come to our attention recently in some news reports, and it’s all anecdotal data. We don’t have good hard science to support it, but I’ll say that with every case I’ve talked to since then, I’ve asked that question. I’ve heard that it does happen, and I’ve heard that it’s very remarkable.”
- What is herd immunity, and how will it affect the spread of coronavirus?
Herd immunity to a virus develops within a community through vaccination or exposure, Dr. Winter says. “With something like measles, everyone for the most part has either been vaccinated or maybe they had measles as a child,” she notes. “They are immune, they are protected.” According to Dr. Winter, if herd immunity exists, “we don’t see transmission in the community if a new person comes into that population and has that disease, because (the community) is buffered by all of the people that are immune.
“With this, it’s a novel virus that has never infected humans before,” Dr. Winter continues. “There is no baseline herd immunity – we are all susceptible to getting this virus. And because of that, we can see these very fast rates of transmission. So once a new case comes into a population that’s highly susceptible, it can take off like wildfire. That’s what we’re seeing, and that’s really what we are concerned about.”
- Is ordering takeout food really safe?
“There are ways ordering takeout can be safer,” says Dr. Winter. “If you are really concerned about there being potential contamination on the outside of your container, make sure when you bring it home that you transfer it to a plate. If you are very concerned, you can always heat your food. We know that heat will kill this virus and that can be one way to help reduce your risk.”
- Are homemade masks effective?
Dr. Winter explains that homemade masks are useful for persons who have the virus or are showing symptoms as they can partially contain the spread of infectious droplets from sneezing, coughing and/or breathing. They are not effective, however, at preventing a person from inhaling droplets, she says.
Help for Kentuckians Who Have Lost Their Jobs in the Crisis
Unemployment claims in Kentucky have increased sharply over the past two weeks as many businesses have closed following a statewide order from Gov. Andy Beshear. Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman encourages those who have lost their jobs to apply for unemployment benefits through kcc.ky.gov. (Persons without computer access can file by phone at (502) 875-0442 and call (502) 564-2900 for general information about unemployment benefits.)
“There is no stigma about needing or wanting unemployment insurance,” Coleman says. “As a state and as an administration, the governor and I are committed to making sure that every Kentuckian has what they need through this crisis, and we will continue to work to make sure that we help Kentuckians as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Unemployment benefits have been expanded to include the following groups that previously were not eligible, Coleman says. These are:
- Self-employed individuals
- Independent contractors
- Freelance workers
- Substitute teachers
- Childcare workers for religious organizations and nonprofits
Reasons for filing to receive unemployment under the new guidelines have been expanded to assist persons who have a reasonable risk of exposure during the pandemic or are caring for a family member who has been affected by COVID-19.
“If you just lost your job or your business temporarily closed, the first thing you should do is go to our website,” Coleman says. “There is a button on the website that will allow you to click and file a claim. In order to file a claim, you need a little bit of information. Part of it is personal information like your Social Security number, your mailing address and your phone number. You will also need a little bit of information about your employer.”
The required employer information includes the company’s name, mailing address and phone number as well as the dates of the applicant’s employment and the reason he/she is no longer employed. Having all of that information collected beforehand will make it easier to file for benefits online, Coleman says.
During a typical week, Coleman says that about 2,000 citizens apply for unemployment insurance. The state is now receiving about 30 times that amount, requiring swift and significant upgrades to Kentucky’s benefits system. More staff have been hired to deal with the surge in filings, and those seeking benefits have been advised to contact the unemployment office on particular days based on the first initial of their last name in order to space out requests.
The schedule for filing for unemployment insurance in Kentucky has been divided as follows:
- Sunday: last name begins with A-D
- Monday: last name begins with E-H
- Tuesday: last name begins with I-L
- Wednesday: last name begins with M-P
- Thursday: last name begins with Q-U
- Friday: last name begins with V-Z
Coleman says that Kentuckians who missed their scheduled filing date with last names starting with letters before V can also file on Fridays.
“People need to know that if they wait until the date that they are assigned, it’s not going to in any way impact the payment they receive,” Coleman says. “This is solely to make sure that we can balance out the volume of calls and to get to people as quickly as possible.”
Once a claim is filed, Coleman says that you should log back in after 24 hours to get a status update. “We’ve also waived the waiting period to receive unemployment insurance,” she adds. “As soon as you get that decision, that’s when we can make sure that unemployment insurance is getting out to individuals.”
According to the lieutenant governor, most people can expect to receive their first unemployment payment two to three weeks after their claim has been approved, and the amount will be based on their current taxable income.
Kentucky’s small business owners seeking assistance can get it through filing for unemployment, Coleman explains, since self-employed individuals now qualify for benefits. They can also apply for federal assistance through the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program offered by the Small Business Administration. Contact https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance for more information.
“The way you can think about it is, at the state level we’re providing support for the business owner, and at the federal level they are providing support for the actual business itself,” Coleman says.
The Kentucky Career Center has set up 12 phone numbers around the state for questions about claims specific to each region.
“I would continue to echo the governor in asking for patience and grace, and we will continue to practice empathy and do everything we can to help those folks,” Coleman says.