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Are doctors refusing to administer COVID-19 tests to some? Answers to some of your most pressing pandemic questions

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COVID-19 is dominating the conversation in our daily lives, but there are still some basic question you might have.

Do you know exactly how you could get this new coronavirus? Do you know what to do if you're sick? We know you've got questions about coronavirus just like us, so we set out for answers. 

How can I get coronavirus? Can I get it from touching a shopping cart after someone with COVID-19 does?

Coronavirus spreads through droplets from the nose and mouth of someone who has COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

You could get it by breathing in a droplet someone coughs or breathes out if you’re standing too close. That’s why WHO is recommending staying six feet apart from other people.

You could also get coronavirus by touching something or somewhere one of those droplets landed and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. There are a lot of unknowns around COVID-19, but the WHO says it likely can survive anywhere between hours and days on a surface.

So it’s not a bad idea to wipe down that cart -- and anything else someone infected may have touched -- with a disinfectant. While you’re at it, use hand sanitizer or soap and water to wash your hands and, as always, avoid touching your face -- that’s how you can get infected.

I’m sick but I’m not in an at-risk category, what should I do?

The experts say: stay home.

State and local health officials are recommending that anyone feeling sick but with only mild symptoms should stay home unless you’re in a high-risk category. So unless you’re 65 and older, live in a long-term care facility or have an underlying condition like lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, compromised immune system, severe obesity or a serious underlying medical condition like diabetes, renal failure or liver disease -- stay home unless your symptoms warrant further treatment.

People are asked to stay home to stop the spread of the virus. With the chance of survival so high for most groups, getting tested would only spread the virus more. A trip to the hospital could risk spreading coronavirus to other patients or the medical professionals who test you. If you don’t actually have it, a trip to get tested could expose you to others who do have it.

If you have the symptoms of coronavirus -- fever, cough, shortness of breath -- call your doctor to get their recommendation. If your symptoms get worse, like difficulty breathing, blue lips or other signs of oxygen shortage, then call 911, health officials recommend.

After you call your doctor, isolate yourself at home and rest until you feel better. You’re only safe after at least seven days since you first had symptoms, being fever-free for at least 72 hours without medication and a reduction in other symptoms associated with the illness, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

If you get sick, anyone in your home or who has had close contact should isolate as much as possible for two weeks, as well.

CDC.gov has resources to help you decide whether to seek medical care, including a coronavirus self-checker.

Are COVID-19 tests accurate?

COVID-19 tests are accurate if you get a positive result, but a negative result doesn’t always mean you’re in the clear.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a negative result can appear in the early stages of infection before symptoms appear.

If someone is experiencing symptoms like fever and a cough and gets a negative test result for coronavirus, COVID-19 is not causing the illness, according to the CDC.

Are doctors refusing people COVID-19 tests?

In some cases, yes.

Testing supplies are running low statewide and nationally. That’s why NCDHHS is asking local health departments and health care providers to conserve materials, which means denying tests in some cases.

Testing materials running low include swabs used to take samples, the liquid used to transport the swabs, the protective equipment used during test-taking and the materials used in labs to test for COVID-19, Catawba County Public Health Community Engagement Specialist Emily Killian said.

Because of that, the state is recommending prioritizing testing for people who fall in the at-risk category and those who are severely ill.

Not to fret. As Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said, knowing whether or not you have COVID-19 doesn’t change much in the way of treatment. There’s no specific cure for coronavirus, and if you have mild symptoms, you’ll be asked to stay home anyway. That brings us the next question.

Is there a cure?

There’s no known cure for COVID-19. Researchers are experimenting with several potential cures but none are approved by the Federal Drug Administration for general use yet. Some cures being tested use blood plasma from someone who recovered from COVID-19. Other research surrounds the use of a malaria drug to attempt to cure this coronavirus. None have been proven to work yet, but doctors and researchers are working quickly to find what does work.

The FDA is also working with dozens of researchers who are working on a vaccine. There is no vaccine yet. Several are in trial stages but could take months to produce.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?

No. There was one reported case of the new coronavirus in a dog in China, but the WHO says there is no evidence a pet can transmit the disease.

Should I be wearing a mask and gloves?

Not unless you have COVID-19, according to the WHO. With a national shortage of personal protective equipment for medical personnel, don’t buy and waste masks and gloves that could go to those more in need.

Instead, you’re just as safe washing your hands regularly, cleaning surfaces before touching them, coughing into your elbow and standing more than six feet from everyone. Or, just stay home.

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