What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a virus and it is a new or novel coronavirus. COVID has impacted lives across the United States and all across the world. It has brought the world to a standstill in what seems to be a blink of an eye and now people everywhere are learning to adapt and overcome in these challenging and unprecedented times.
Breakdown of the name COVID-19
CO = corona
VI = virus
D = disease
19 = year first identified, 2019
Information regarding COVID-19 is always subject to change as new data and information is made available. As always check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organizations (who.int) for up-to-date information.
Spread of COVID-19
COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets (sneezes, coughs, talking, etc). It seems to be possible to spread COVID-19 by touching an object contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, etc. For example, an infected person coughs on a table, then a healthy person touches the table before rubbing their nose. However, the virus does not survive for long periods of time outside of a host, so this is not thought to be a significant source of spread.
Myth Busting: COVID-19 is not transmittable through food! Also, the chances of getting COVID-19 from your mail is extremely unlikely, as explained above.
Tracking the spread
Here are some helpful sources to track the spread of the virus on a local through global scale. Sources listed here in alphabetical order and update their COVID data regularly, however, some may require a sign-in or account to view their data because they are news outlets.
CDC: For USA specific information about COVID
Florida Department of Health: For Florida specific information.
Gainesville Updates: Follow Alachua County Emergency Management on Twitter for up to date local COVID updates at @AlachuaCoEM or go to their website by clicking here.
Google: Offers a wide variety of easy to access data, statistics, and information.
Johns Hopkins: COVID dashboard to quickly & easily see statistics on a global scale which can be easily filtered by country, also includes a ‘last updated’ marker so you can make sure the information is up to date.
The New York Times: Has worldwide statistics, that can be narrowed country and state. Information is updated regularly. However, may require an account to access (has limited free access).
Testing for COVID-19
COVID-19 testing availability and access depend on location, so check state and local health departments about specific details. There are currently two FDA approved viral tests available, a nasal swab or saliva sample which is collected and then sent to a lab to be analyzed.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 practice self-quarantining for at least 14 days – stay inside and away from other people. This gives time for any symptoms to develop if you are infected and reduces the chances for you to spread the virus to others. Consult your doctor to see if getting tested is necessary, and note that false-negative test results are possible.
UF COVID-19 Updates: Information about testing, interpreting your results, and what to do next.
UF Screen & Test: Schedule a test, locations for testing, and other helpful related information.
Florida COVID-19 Testing Sites: All locations listed here are free and open to the public, however, some locations may require appointments.
- Stay at home & away from other people
- Wear a mask if need to be around people or pets
- Stay clean – don’t share items, disinfect ‘high-touch’ surfaces, etc.
- Contact your doctor – appointments, medications, advice, etc
- Monitor your symptoms for ‘emergency warning signs’
- Take care of yourself – rest and hydrate. Over-the-counter medicines can help alleviate symptoms/discomfort
- Notify everyone you may have had contact with during the incubation period to get tested or to self-quarantine
- If self-quarantining consider arranging to have food/supplies delivered so you don’t have to go into public spaces.
- Remember just because you don’t have the virus now does not mean you can’t get it later.
- A negative test result can happen if a person gets tested before the 14 day period it takes for symptoms to develop is over. This means that it is possible to test negative for COVID-19 even though you are infected.
- Continue to exercise caution, and take the appropriate steps to continue to protect yourself and the people around you.
- Consider Self-Quarantining for at least 14 days
- Even if you have had COVID in the past and have since recovered, you are not immune to catching the virus again. There is evidence to suggest that it is possible to get COVID more than one time.
Tips for Prevention
- Stay at home when possible – many places offer delivery or curbside pickup options for groceries and other supplies
- Avoid in-person gatherings – socialize online when possible
- Wear a mask when in public – many places now have mask ordinances so check local and state guidelines
- Clean & Disinfect: There is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning only removes germs, dirt, etc, while disinfecting kills germs.
UF has offered online, in-person, and hybrid classes. Masks are required on campus and in buildings. Social gatherings are restricted, weekly COVID surveys are available on One.UF, and COVID testing is available by appointment. Many events have limited in-person attendance, are completely online or postponed until further notice. In preparation for the spring semester, UF had canceled spring break and extended winter break by one week to compensate. Find more information about UF’s response to COVID-19 here.
Now in the spring 2021 semester, UF has implemented a new rule that anyone taking in-person classes, using any open on-campus facility such as the library, or living in a dormitory must take a COVID-19 test every two weeks. There are multiple testing locations on campus including both walk-up and drive-by sites. UF uses a quick and easy to administer spit test, and test results can take up to 72 hours to be received.
From Symptoms to Recovery
Neither list of symptoms is conclusive, please consult your doctor or health care provider if you think you have COVID for more accurate information.
Symptoms can appear anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure and can vary person by person. For example, not everyone with COVID will show symptoms (asymptomatic) and not everyone will experience the same symptoms.
If you experience any of these emergency warning signs, please seek medical care immediately.
- Fever or Chills
- Shortness of breath or Difficulty breathing
- Muscle or Body aches
- New loss of taste or Smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or Runny nose
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or Pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or Stay awake
- Bluish lips or Face
Generally, people with mild cases of COVID may recover in 1-2 weeks, and it’s recommended that people with milder cases stay home/isolated for about 2 weeks to ensure a full recovery. However, this is not the same with more severe cases where recovery may take over 6 weeks and extreme cases may lead to hospitalization or even death. At this time the exact mortality rate of COVID is not known but current data suggests that the rate is between 3-4% as compared to the seasonal flu which has a mortality rate below 0.1%.
There is some evidence to show that there may be lasting damage to some parts of the body in people who have recovered from COVID. Including damage to the heart, kidney, lungs, and brain. However, at this time not much information is known about how common these damages are in people that recover from COVID, or how long it may take for a complete recovery. From prior knowledge about lung damage, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years for someone to recover from lung damage.
Progress of COVID-19 Vaccines
Multiple possible vaccines from different companies are currently being developed here in the USA and around the world. A few companies have completed testing, and have gotten approval to begin releasing their vaccines for general use. It’s up to the governments to decide how and when to give out the vaccines and decide who gets them first.
The first few months of the vaccine rollout here in the US were focused on getting health care and other essential workers vaccinated first along with more at-risk groups such as the elderly. But now many places are beginning to offer vaccines to the general public. Here in Alachua County, there is a COVID-19 Vaccine Waitlist that anyone can signup for. More information can be found on the Alachua County Department of Health website and you can sign up for the vaccine waitlist here.
Exciting news about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccines! Multiple countries around the world, including the United States, have approved the use of multiple COVID-19 vaccines. Here in the U.S., the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine was approved by the FDA on December 11, 2020, for emergency use for individuals 16 years and up. Currently, the U.S. bought 100 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, but this is currently not enough for everyone in the U.S. and the U.S. will most likely not be able to buy more doses until mid to late 2021 due to the short supply and high demand. So with only 100 million doses at hand, it is up to the state and local governments to decide how to disperse the doses, and who would get them first. The CDC recommends that healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities should be the first groups to receive the vaccine. UF has received 20,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as of December 14, 2020, and will begin distributing them sometime this week to designated groups of people.
Sources: “Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine” (FDA), “COVID-19 Vaccines” (WHO), “Who Gets Vaccinated First?” (CDC), “What You Need To Know As The First COVID-19 Vaccine Heads Your Way” (NPR)
Living and dealing with COVID-19 this past year has been stressful and terrifying for everyone and this vaccine may seem like the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are some things to know. First and foremost in the U.S., there are not enough doses for everyone to get one, this means that herd immunity is not possible, so social distancing and mask-wearing are still necessary to protect the spread of COVID-19.
Although it may seem like these vaccines were made very quickly, realize that the technology and methods used to develop the vaccines are not new, plus the strand of virus that causes COVID-19 is from a family of known viruses. So there is was some existing information that could have been used to develop this particular vaccine. Also, one of the main reasons that vaccine development takes years to complete is funding, due to the severity of this pandemic companies looking to develop a COVID-19 vaccine have to access millions or even billions of dollars in funding, (funding breakdown to the right). With access to the funding, prior knowledge, and already developed techniques it was the perfect recipe to create a COVID-19 vaccine on a limited timeline.
Not all forms of misinformation can be covered here, so the best tool you can use to combat falling for false information is to practice critical thinking. Be careful with the information that you come across on the internet, in person, or otherwise. Think carefully about where the information came from – ex. is the source is trustworthy?
Below is a great lecture hosted by the Montana State University AIChE chapter. The guest speakers, Joe Moran and MD al Azim are both scientists at Merck Pharmaceuticals and they discuss various aspects of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. You can watch the lecture below or click here to be directed to the MSU AIChE YouTube page.
The seminar is about 2 hours total and timestamps for the main topics are listed to the right. Also, shown below is a flyer about the seminar & a more detailed agenda.
COVID Research Underway = 4:23/1:59:25
Development = 11:33/1:59:25
Commercialization = 29:44/1:59:25
Manufacturing = 37:05/1:59:25
Q&A = 57:02/1:59:25
Coping in the COVID Era
Dealing with COVID and all of its disruptions to your normal daily routine can be overwhelming. So here are a few tips to deal with the world and the constant flow of news and information. Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive and is not an adequate stand-in for professional/medical assistance.
- Take a moment to assess your own mental and physical health.
- Take care of your body – remember to rest, eat, stay hydrated, and take precautions to wear a mask
- Reach out to friends/family – virtual when possible – talk about your concerns, and also check in on them to see how others are doing
- AIChE regularly hosts virtual social and other bonding events to help promote a sense of community and friendship. Check out our social media to find out when the next event is!
- UF Counseling and Wellness Center has resources regarding mental health and other health-related issues.
Links to sources used are provided, please keep in mind that information available is always changing and being updated so the information provided by these sources may now be out of date or inaccurate. Also, note that some sources used are new’s articles that may require a login or account to view the articles, if this is the case, try opening the article in incognito or private browsing.
Where to Find More Information & Misc Facts
On YouTube, the SciShow channel has a COVID-19 News and Updates playlist that is regularly updated with the latest news and breaks everything down to simple, easy to understand videos. (Features Hank Green!)
The CDC has instructions on how to make a mask with and without a sewing machine, found here. There are also other resources/templates that are easy to find online, however, the effectiveness of a homemade mask is hard to determine.
Is your mask, homemade or not, effective against COVID? A general rule of thumb that has been frequently used is that if you cannot blow out a candle/flame with the mask on then it can be assumed to be effective. Video featuring Bill Nye to demonstrate is here.
Did You Know: Pets and other animals can get COVID-19, including pet cats, dogs, and other common pets. Currently, there is little information about the spread of COVID-19 from humans to animals and vice versa. It is also unclear at this time which animals are susceptible to the virus. So if you have COVID protect your pets by wearing a mask indoors or having someone else, who is healthy & not infected) take care of them while you are sick. Check out this article by the CDC for more information.
Combatting Vaccine Misinformation: Living and dealing with COVID-19 this past year has been stressful and terrifying for everyone and this vaccine may seem like the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are some things to know. First and foremost in the U.S., there are not enough doses for everyone to get one, this means that herd immunity is not possible, so social distancing and mask-wearing are still necessary to protect the spread of COVID-19. Although it may seem like these vaccines were made very quickly, realize that the technology and methods used to develop the vaccines are not new, plus the strand of virus that causes COVID-19 is from a family of known viruses. So there is was some existing information that could have been used to develop this particular vaccine. Also, one of the main reasons that vaccine development takes years to complete is funding, due to the severity of this pandemic companies looking to develop a COVID-19 vaccine have to access millions or even billions of dollars in funding, (snapshot of funding breakdown below). With access to the funding, prior knowledge, and already developed techniques it was the perfect recipe to create a COVID-19 vaccine on a limited timeline.
How AIChE UF is handling COVID-19
Previously, UF AIChE moved all events online. Now, almost all events are zoom optional, and in- person events provide masks and should allow enough open space for social distancing.