This site serves as a central COVID related resource for our community. Please explore and check back regularly for up-to-date changes and resources.
 If you have any questions about COVID-19 or the resources available in our community and you do not find the desired information on this site, please email us at info@jcovid.com.

Welcome. 

We are a diverse group of community members committed to providing education for the public, guidance to individuals, and up-to-date information to guide public policy to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have a question?

 

Feel free to browse some of our frequently asked questions. Or, reach out to us with the email link below.

Many questions need more a more personal touch.

Here are some of the questions we have answered this week via email:

What precautions should I take in my daycare? …  I may have been exposed, what steps should I take next?  …  Do I need to take a test when I come back from vacation? …  How can we get our child tested before going to school? 

Community Healthcare Proffesionals Letter of Chizuk (9/8/20)

Click here to see the recent letter reiterating recommended measures to prevent spread of COVID-19. 

What precautions can I take if I need to have a maintenance person come to my house? (updated 7/26/20)

The following steps may be taken to minimize exposure when having a maintenance person in your home: The worker should be in the home for the shortest possible time. Whenever able, discussion should take place by phone prior to the appointment; this can be done from the car before entering. Ensure that the maintenance person has not had any symptoms of COVID-19. Once inside, the family and the worker should maintain a 6-foot distance as able. When in the same room, both the worker and family members should wear a mask. Surfaces contacted by the craftsman should be sanitized after the work is done.  See here for full guidance from the CDC. 

I need to get tested for COVID-19. Where can I get that done? (updated 7/26/20)

For PCR testing (to know if someone currently has COVID-19):

1) Publicly available and free tests can be done through Baltimore County, which operates a number of clinics. An appointment is required. These are nasal swab tests. Click here for more details.

2) There are many urgent care or pharmacy locations that offer COVID-19 testing. More information can be found on on the Maryland State Testing website.

3) The JCOVID Medical Team is offering PCR testing under the auspices of Dr. Avi Rosenberg, MD PhD. Please see the BJL COVID Info page for more information. 

Note: If you test positive, you will be called by a contact tracer. This is an important step in protecting our community. Click here for more information.

For antibody testing (to know if someone has already had coronavirus): The test should be done at a laboratory chain, and a prescription is required from your personal doctor.

I am finishing up a 14 day quarantine. Do I need to take a test? (7/15/20)
No testing is recommended at this time after finishing quarantine.
For more about quarantining, see this page from the CDC website
I have to quarantine for 14 days. Can I take a test and get out of quarantine? (7/9/20)

The vast majority of those who will develop symptoms (after being exposed to an infected person) will do so within 14 days. Not everyone has the same infection timeline, though. Some will get sick (develop symptoms) earlier in that time frame, and some later. People become contagious to others anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before they develop symptoms.

“Testing out” of quarantine is tricky. For example, say someone gets tested at day 5, and the result is negative. That person may still go on to develop symptoms at day 9. The negative test result at day 5 was a “false negative”. It was just too early in the course of the infection, and there was not enough virus present in the nose to create a positive test result. This would likely lead to many people assuming they are negative, infecting others, and only finding out later that they were just tested too early.

There may be situations where an early test can make a difference. If you have concerns about a specific situation, reach out to your personal healthcare professional to discuss.
Can my children play sports outside with other children (6/14/20)?

Playing sports is a great outlet for kids (and adults!). Any group activity, even outside, carries some risk of spreading COVID-19, but the amount of risk varies with the sport. In baseball, people are naturally spaced out and have less physical contact. Playing tennis or frisbee or having a catch with a football are lower risk activities, as well. In contact sports, like football, basketball or hockey, people are closer together much more and can have a lot of physical contact. These sports carry a higher level of risk of transmitting and catching the virus.

Wearing masks while playing sports could prevent some of the spread of droplets, but should not be done if it is very hot outside or if an individual has asthma or is sensitive to face masks.

The virus may be transmitted by several people touching the same things. Gloves are not helpful in preventing the virus from spreading. Make sure to avoid touching your face (which is how the virus gets into your body) and sanitize or wash your hands after playing (or even after parts of the game – after batting, for instance).

It’s a good idea to stick with a few people that will play regularly, and not to change up the group, in order to limit how many people will be mixing together.

Can I have outdoor meals with friends or family? (6/12/20)

Yes! Outdoor meals carry a fairly low risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. As a reminder, try to  maintain a separation between families. Consider using separate tables for each nuclear family or placing empty chairs between families for physical distancing. If proper distancing is maintained, masks need not be worn for an outdoor meal itself once food is served.

A mask should be worn by anyone who does not live in the home before entering to use the restroom. Perform hand hygiene before and after entering the home and, of course, after using the restroom. A designated hand towel for one family of guests, or paper towels, should be used – guests should not share host hand towels.

A family which is in close contact with an elderly or vulnerable individual living should discuss with a health professional before attending or hosting a meal with guests.

How about indoor meals with family? (6/12/20)

Indoor environments carry a higher risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. For this reason, outdoor meals are preferred at this time. (See below)

However, if both the host and guest families have been healthy (no symptoms concerning for COVID-19), and they have not been exposed to a known case of COVID-19 within 14 days, the risk for an individual in either family being infected is generally low. As such, if an outdoor meal is not feasible, it may be reasonable to have an indoor meal.

Masks should ideally be worn when not keeping 6 feet of distance (such as during extended conversation, when playing games, etc.; masks are not necessary when eating). Space should be provided at the table (as discussed by outdoor meals, above). Guests should perform hand hygiene as often as needed, including close exposure to a non-family member, before and after eating, after using the bathroom and when leaving the hosts’ home. Ideally, indoor meals should include only one other family. 

As above, family which is in close contact with an elderly or vulnerable individual living should discuss with a health professional before attending or hosting an indoor meal.

If I am having an indoor meal, why do I still need to wear a mask in the home? (6/12/20)

The risk of COVID-19 transmission is not an “all or nothing” proposition. Outdoor interactions are less risky than indoors, having fewer people is less risky than having a large crowd, and being closer than 6 feet (even indoors) carries a higher risk than remaining further away. Time matters too, as longer interactions increase the risk of spread, and viral spread doesn’t always happen right away. Wearing a mask for part of a discussion can still be helpful. 

As we relax some areas of caution (such as having indoor guests), keeping other, less restrictive precautions (like wearing masks and social distancing inside the home) lowers the risk of transmission. 

Can my children have playdates? (6/12/20)

At this time, public health professionals have indicated that it seems safe to open up to having outdoor playdates. Playdates  should ideally take place between only two families. Masks are not necessary for younger children, but parents should wear masks if they will be sitting together. Children may share the same toys, play together on climbing equipment, etc. Hands should be washed or sanitized frequently when appropriate (during transition times, before eating, after a child touches their nose extensively.). 

Any family in which a family member has had any symptoms concerning for COVID-19 or possible exposure to COVID-19 within the last 2 weeks should not allow their children to play with others until speaking with a health professional. A family which is in close contact with an elderly or vulnerable individual  (ie living with them, or seeing them regularly in an inside setting) should discuss with a health professional before allowing playdates. 

If we are re-opening, why do we still need any regulations? If my child's school opens, does that mean COVID-19 is over? (updated 6/5/20)

Baruch Hashem, there continues to be a decrease in cases in our state, counties, and community, and we have been blessed to begin “opening up”. While this is a wonderful step forward, we need to remember that the virus is not gone. There are still cases being diagnosed in our area, and in our community, on a daily basis. Every day there are reports of other countries or states having a spike in cases, and having to re-close some of what was opened. This could happen in Baltimore, as well.

Our goal as a community should be to continue to re-open. However, it is important to remember that re-opening is not “all or nothing” – it is step by step. Taking too many steps at once carries a higher level of risk. Please see below for specific steps to take during this time. 

How do I keep my family safe as we re-open? (6/5/20)

There are two main risks that we need to think about during the opening up phase: risk of infection to individuals, and risk of spread in the community.

1) Each family unit needs to understand their own “family risk”. This is based on who lives in the home or people they see on a regular basis. A family unit that includes higher risk people (such elderly adults, or those with high risk conditions including high blood pressure, heart problems, or obesity, etc.) should consider being more careful than those whose family unit does not. 

2) Our community is like a large spiderweb. Each of us has multiple people whom we see every day, and each of those people has their own group  of contacts. If one person becomes sick, they are able to transmit the virus to their entire group of contacts. Group activities, including minyanim, school classes, or camps, can quickly broaden that web. When we join a regular group activity, even if it is outside or informal, any activity that could put us at risk of COVID-19 become a public risk, as well. 

Is there a difference in the risk of catching COVID-19 inside vs. outside? Am I at risk of catching COVID-19 in a car? (6/4/2020)

COVID-19 is definitely spread much more easily indoors than outdoors, including in cars or buses. There is less risk involved when holding group activities outdoors.

How do we know: Many studies have looked at how COVID-19 spreads. In a study of more than 300 outbreaks in China, the vast majority occurred indoors or in transport settings, like cars or buses. In an indoor choir practice in Washington state, one person spread the virus to many other members, even though they stayed 6 feet apart. 

Why is this? We are still learning a lot about COVID-19, but here are some likely reasons:

  • The less virus a person is exposed to, the less likely they become infected. The ventilation is better outdoors, with a lot more air movement, so droplets (of saliva) are blown away more quickly and don’t remain concentrated in one area. 
  • The increased heat, humidity and ultraviolet light from the sun that occur outdoors during the warmer weather may help kill coronavirus on surfaces within a few minutes.
  • It is often easier to social distance outside because there is more room.
  • The better ventilation outdoors is an important safeguard (although certainly not completely) for times when people are not observing social distancing properly. 

As always, spending longer times together, and having more people in the same space, confer a higher risk of viral spread.

Do I need to wipe down all of my groceries? Do I have to worry about getting COVID-19 from Amazon packages? (5/26/20)

Contamination of boxes and food containers does not appear to be a significant route of spread for COVID-19. Respiratory droplets from a sneeze, cough or even talking can land on food or packages, and theoretically could cause COVID-19 infections. However, the virus doesn’t live long on these surfaces, especially outside in the open air. In most cases, a lot of time passes between someone in a store or warehouse handling your packages and you touching them at home. By then, the virus is no longer active and unable to make people sick. Additionally, with the increased awareness and precautions that are being taken in stores, such as wearing masks and gloves, and frequent hand sanitizing, there is a much lower risk of droplets landing on your packages. (Of course, if someone sick with COVID-19 recently handled your packages, extra precautions are appropriate.)

Please also see the next question.

See also: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/shopping-food-during-covid-19-pandemic-information-consumers

Does this mean that I can't catch COVID-19 through touching surfaces? (5/26/20)

The information in the previous item is true regarding groceries and packages. However, the reasons above may not apply to many other situations. For instance, if one person who is infected touches his or her nose or mouth, and then touches a surface (like a door handle or desk), the virus may well be able to infect a second person who touches that surface shortly afterward. For this reason it remains important to practice hand hygiene and to try to avoid touching one’s face when in public areas, and to disinfect surfaces when there is concern for contamination (especially in stores or other higher traffic settings). 

See also: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

Why do I need to wear a mask in public? Why does the CDC now recommend masks, when it did not before? (5/25/20)

woman wearing face covering, with a detail showing how the cloth barrier helps to contain respiratory droplets that she exhales

Masks are an important part of preventing COVID-19 spread, but not because they protect the wearer – the spaces that masks have are likely to let in small particles that are floating in the air. However, the value of everyone wearing masks is that it can prevent people who have the virus from spreading it. Even simple cloth masks are able to catch much of the larger respiratory droplets that we make when we breathe. And since many of the people who spread COVID-19 don’t yet know that they have it, the best way to prevent spreading the virus is for everyone to wear masks when in social settings. We all protect each other – kol yisrael areivim.

(Image Source: CDC)

Have a question?

Please feel free to reach out to us at medical@jcovid.com to discuss with a member of our medical group. Please include a phone number where we can reach you, the best times to reach you, and the latest time we can call. 

Our goal is to offer personalized guidance, help to assess the potential risks and benefits, and provide the necessary information for individuals to make educated choices. We may also be able to offer reasonable modifications that can lower the risk of COVID transmission in a given situation. 

How do public health and medical professionals address these questions? Are there answers to these questions?

This is a new virus, and there is still much to be understood. However, over the last few months, much information has been published from all over the world, about how the virus is transmitted and how it affects people. Some of this is done by experimentation in a lab, and some of this is reported by studying areas where there have been outbreaks and transmission of the virus. By monitoring the scientific literature, and by carefully watching how the illness is affecting different locations, combined with a background knowledge of public health and medical sciences, we can start to understand what to expect in different situations, and how to lower the risk. 

For Medical Professionals

If you would like to be involved, we would love your assistance. Please reach out to us at medical@jcovid.com and we will contact you. 

If you have symptoms, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19, get tested! Click here for more information. 

Resources

  • For more detailed reading on COVID-19, be sure to check out Dr. Dan Grove’s blog, “My Covid Journey
  • Please also see our sister site, BJL COVID Info, for community updates, testing information, and more
  • See Mishpacha Magazine’s informative article, “Just the Facts”, looking at 9 common coronavirus myths (6/3/20)
  • See here for Ami Magazine’s excellent interview with Dr. Michael Saag discussing COVID-19. (Reprinted here with permission from Ami Magazine.)