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A doctor answers viewer questions about COVID-19

During these confusing and unprecedented times, we all have questions. The NewsHour is beginning a new weekly segment in which viewers submit theirs to us online and via social media, and we’ll do our best to track down some answers. Amna Nawaz has our first installment of “Ask Us" with Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    During these difficult times, we all have questions.

    And, tonight, we begin a new weekly segment, Ask Us.

    We want you to submit your questions via our Web site and our various social media platforms, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

    For the record, Facebook is a funder of the "NewsHour."

    Amna Nawaz brings us some answers.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Thanks, Judy.

    And thanks to all of you for sending us your questions.

    We want to answer as many as we can.

    And, for that, I'm joined today by Dr. Ranit Mishori. She is professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and senior medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights.

    Welcome, and thanks for being here, Dr. Mishori.

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Thank you so much for having me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, I want to get to as many questions as we can. Let's jump right in.

    The first one comes to us from Ingrid in California. She submitted her question via Instagram.

    Here's what she has to say:

  • Ingrid Echeverria:

    Do you have to go through complete decontamination routine every time you go out?

    I understand washing your hands, cleaning the doorknob, your keys, et cetera. But do you have to wash your clothes, take a shower each time we come back from the store?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What do you say to Ingrid? How careful do you have to be?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Well, you have to try to be as careful as possible.

    But I think you don't have to do all of that every time you step outside of the house. The key is that this virus is transmitted by being around other people. So, if you have to go to work, if you're an essential worker, and you work with a lot of people, you work at a store, or you're a health care professional, yes, when you come home, take your clothes off, put them in the wash, jump in the shower.

    But if you go for a walk around the block or going to get groceries, you obviously have to wash your hands. You have to make sure that, when you do go out, wear a mask to protect others.

    But showering and putting your clothes in the washer every time you step outside of the house, that's not necessary.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Here's another question about what's safe or not safe to do. This one comes to us from Clare Sullivan in Wisconsin. She submitted her question on Facebook.

    And she writes: "I'm 67 years old. I still go to my son's house five mornings a week to help care for his baby. Both parents are working from home. Is this safe?"

    What do you say, Dr. Mishori?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    If you can stay home, stay home. If you don't have to take public transportation, do not take public transportation. Try to be as safe as possible.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, even if you're going to a family member's house, that's the only place you're going, caring for a grandchild, still wear a mask, take all those precautions, if you can?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Absolutely. Take as many precautions as possible.

    And understand that, if you're around other people, you may get the virus and you may transmit it to people you come in contact with. And, as I said, the ideal situation would be for you to stay home and not go out at all, unless it's absolutely necessary.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's hear now from Jason Fuller. He submitted a video question via Instagram to us.

    Here's what he has to say:

  • Jason Fuller:

    My question is, for those who are experiencing mild symptoms, is there any particular self-care regimen that they should be doing?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mild symptoms, we know a lot of people have them. What do you say to Jason?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Yes, so, a lot of people have them, and we tell them to stay home, which is exactly what he's doing.

    The question is, what do you do at home? The coronavirus, some of the symptoms, when they're milder, are like any other viral symptom — viral infection.

    So, you would get some rest. You would drink a lot of water. You can take over-the-counter medications to help with pain, to help with a fever. But the key is, if you have the coronavirus infection, you want to isolate yourself at home.

    So you want to, ideally, if it's possible, to have your own room, to have your own bathroom, not to eat with other family members, to try and keep yourself in isolation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We want to go to Jennifer Thomas. She submitted a video question via Facebook.

    And she wants to know about what happens if you catch the virus and recover. Here's her question:

  • Jennifer Thomas:

    If a person is officially declared recovered from COVID-19, can that person be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus later, if exposed again?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's a great question. Dr. Mishori.

    If you're sick, you recover, can you still pass the virus onto other people?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    This is one of these excellent questions that we don't have an answer to just yet.

    At this point, what we know is that there's some very preliminary studies from China and from Korea showing that some people potentially can get reinfected after they have recovered. And then, if they can get reinfected, they can also infect others, potentially.

    There's a very big question mark about this. We also know that there are infections from asymptomatic people. So, I think, at this point, we don't have an answer for that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Still so much we don't know.

    I do want to move on to a question from Mary Liz Towne. She wrote in on our "PBS NewsHour" Web site with a question specific to her family. She asks: "When will it be safe for my 83-year-old mom with underlying health issues and cognitive decline to leave her apartment?"

  • Ranit Mishori:

    I think one of the issues is, the vaccine is probably not going to be available for another year, year-and-a-half.

    So, for now, stay home. Later on, hopefully, May, June, July — the models differ in terms of when the peak is going to take place in different cities and different states in the United States. So we have to be patient and wait, hopefully, not a year or year-and-a-half. Sooner.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Hopefully not.

    One last question before we let you go, Dr. Mishori.

    This one comes to us from Janet. She's in New Mexico. She sent in a video on Facebook.

    Here's Janet's question now:

  • Janet Warner:

    What is the permanent damage done to the lungs and heart by the virus?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Dr. Mishori, do we know what the long-term effects will be?

  • Ranit Mishori:

    We're just beginning to find out, because we have the groups of people who are just recovering from very severe disease.

    What we do know is that the virus itself or the inflammatory reaction that is caused by the virus can cause damage and irritation to the lining of the lungs. Similarly, with heart disease related to COVID-19, we are now discovering that the virus or the inflammatory reaction is causing damage to the muscle itself.

    What's important to know is, for people who have been in the ICU or have been ventilated for days or weeks, their recovery, regardless of long-term damage to the lungs or long-term damage to the heart, is going to be very long.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We are learning so much more every day.

    Dr. Ranit Mishori, thank you so much for taking some of these questions and providing answers today.

  • Ranit Mishori:

    Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And thanks to all of you for your questions.

    You can keep sending us more via "NewsHour"'s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, or on our Web site. That's PBS.org/NewsHour.

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