Understanding how COVID-19 spreads

Posted at 1:44 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 22:51:04-04

NORFOLK, Va. - As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Virginia, health officials are urging people to stay at home and keep a safe distance between each other if they are outside.

The virus spreads person-to-person through close contact from respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It appears to be spreading pretty easily, doctors say. As a result, social distancing is very important right now. Anyone who has symptoms is urged to stay home, but the virus can be asymptomatic, meaning someone can have it without displaying symptoms.

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"You need to stay indoors because we want to slow the spread so that we can safely get through this together," said Dr. Charlotte Baker, a professor and Doctor of Public Health at Virginia Tech.

Baker talked with News 3 about real life examples of the spread of the virus. For example, she says it is okay to go outside for a jog or a run, but you need to keep six to 10 feet of separation between you and another person. "If someone has it and they're walking around, if you keep that six to 10-foot barrier, you're doing a really good job of protecting yourself," she said.

Still, she wouldn't recommend going on a big hike with others, but says immediate family members who live in the same house would be fine to walk together outside.

If a neighbor comes down with it, Baker says the risk of exposure would be low unless you've been in direct contact with them or if they have been knocking on your door.

If you live in an apartment and someone in the building becomes infected, Baker says the risk would still be low unless you had direct contact with the person or they were in several units. Her advice is to bring wipes to press any elevator buttons or when touching any door handles. "The bottom line is wash your hands," she said. "Make sure you're keeping yourself clean."

As the virus continues to spread, scientists are getting more and more information. "Don't jump to conclusions," she said. "Just continue living a good life and we'll get through this safely together if we work together."

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