torwai/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A newly released study from researchers at Harvard University has brought more attention to the impact pollution in the air can have on patients who contract the novel coronavirus

The study connected exposure to high levels of air pollution to higher rates of death from COVID-19, raising concerns for the millions of Americans living in cities that see increased rates of pollution, made up of tiny particles that often come from high levels of traffic and industrial facilities. While the data on the novel coronavirus is still preliminary, scientists are confident that long-term exposure to air pollution contributes to health conditions like asthma or cardiovascular disease.

An estimated 141 million Americans live in counties with at least one bad rating for air quality, according to the American Lung Associations' "State of the Air" report.

Here are some things to know about how air pollution could play a role in the pandemic:

What does the study say?

According to a nationwide study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people with COVID-19 who live in areas with high air pollution levels are more likely to die than those who live in less polluted regions.

The study looked at 3,080 different counties and looked at the levels of fine particulate air pollution -- specifically tiny particles called "particulate matter" -- which is generated by fuel combustion from cars, refineries and power plants -- and compared it to the risk of death from the coronavirus in the U.S.

They found that a small increase -- one microgram per cubic meter -- in long-term exposure to particulate matter leads to a 15% increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

The study's senior author predicted that counties with higher pollution levels "will be the ones that have higher numbers of hospitalizations, higher numbers of deaths and where many of the resources should be concentrated," in The New York Times.

Does this mean you are more likely to die from COVID-19 if you live in a place with high air pollution levels?

Not exactly. This study is preliminary and we're still missing a lot of data on COVID-19, but the connection between air pollution and respiratory and cardiovascular health problems is well established.

"The nation has known for some time that long-term exposure to particle pollution can worsen symptoms of lung disease, increase susceptibility to lung infection, trigger heart attack and stroke, and can even cause lung cancer and premature death. This new research from Harvard now links particle pollution exposure to a dramatically higher death rate from COVID-19," Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

Trish Koman, a public health researcher at the University of Michigan, said it's more accurate to say there's a relationship between increasing air pollution and an increasingly worse effect from the virus.

"There's a causal connection between particulate matter and premature mortality from cardiovascular disease, and respiratory causes so we already know that air pollution can cause populations to be more vulnerable and susceptible to a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular ailments," said Koman, a former project manager in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

"There's a strong connection between air pollution, and a weaker cardiovascular and respiratory health in general. We also know in the United States that communities of color and low wealth communities are more likely to have historic exposures to higher levels of pollution," Koman continued.

Who is most likely to be impacted by this added risk from COVID-19?

The Harvard study shows that people who live in larger cities or areas with more air pollution could face higher risks of more severe illness from COVID-19. Over the years, research and public data have shown that in those areas, communities of color and low income communities are exposed to more air pollution than the general population.

Mustafa Santiago Ali, a former EPA official who helped create the agency's environmental justice office and vice president of environmental justice at the National Wildlife Federation, said he talks about "sacrifice zones" around the country where communities of color, low wealth and indigenous peoples are exposed to higher levels of pollution that contribute to chronic health problems that make people more susceptible to COVID-19.

"We call them sacrifice zones because they're the areas that you know there's been disinvestments, they're in the areas that there's been lack of enforcement in, they're in areas that we will often zone industrial even though homes sometimes are literally right at the fence line. So that's some of the reasons that we call them sacrifice zones along with lack of access to medical care," he told ABC News.

"Truly, one of the main factors on the underneath of it -- unfortunately -- is systemic racism and discrimination. And the reason I say discrimination is because when we talk about systemic racism we're talking about, you know, black and brown people and indigenous people, and in some instances, Asian or Asian Pacific Islanders. I say discrimination because it also impacts low income wealth communities," Ali said.

Why should we pay attention to the connection between air pollution and COVID-19?

Heather McTeer Toney, a former EPA regional administrator and national field director for Mom's Clean Air Force, said it's important to make communities aware of the additional risk from COVID-19 if their community is also exposed to pollution.

"If you have someone who's living right under a cloud of a constant stream of air pollution who's already suffering from things like asthma or other respiratory ailments or heart disease, already dealing with a weakened lung and respiratory system such that sheltering in place for them, because that much more dangerous, and they have to be aware of additional precautions they may need to take," she said.

"People are experiencing it in real-time and so we're seeing data like this study from Harvard, that is really confirming some of the things that we know from being on the ground. And I think we can say that EPA, even in the midst of COVID, right, and even in the middle of this -- this pandemic is continuing to push deregulation and continuing to sort of operate business as usual, to do things that inhibit the wellness of the American public. And creating worsening air pollution is something that we just can't deal with right now," she added.

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vchal/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When will the United States reach the point where the novel coronavirus cannot easily spread? As public health officials battle an ever-expanding crisis, epidemiologists suggest we still have a long way to go.

The threshold for achieving herd immunity -- the fraction of the population that needs to be immune to a disease to make person-to-person transmission extremely unlikely or even impossible -- varies virus by virus. With measles, for example, that threshold is high: 93% to 95%.

For the novel coronavirus, however, that estimate is much lower. That’s the good news.

Based on what experts know about the disease’s contagiousness, "the critical threshold for achieving that herd protection for COVID-19 is between 50% and 66%," according to Dr. Justin Lesser, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.

The bad news? That means that at least half of Americans need to become infected or vaccinated before the population reaches herd immunity -- and even then, concerns over reinfection could alter the math.

According to a study by infectious disease experts at Imperial College in London, even the hardest hit countries remain far below that threshold. In Italy, for example, the Imperial study suggests only 9.8% of the population has been infected. In Spain, the number is 15%.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tweeted this week that his "informal survey of thought leaders in this area puts [the] estimate [of the infected population in the United States] anywhere from 1-5 [percent]," a figure that falls well short of Lesser’s herd immunity threshold.

Even so, some European leaders have suggested that a rapid pursuit of herd immunity could help slow the spread of the virus. In Sweden, for example, the country’s chief epidemiologist proposed "herd immunity or a combination of immunity and vaccine" this week as a means to move quickly past the disease.

But without a vaccine to supercharge immunization, infectious disease experts are quick to point out that any pursuit of herd immunity could come at a tremendous cost. Allowing many people to get sick quickly -- and then, in theory, develop immunity quickly -- could cause a spike in infections that places enormous stress on the healthcare system, leading to a substantial loss of life

"What really matters is how you get to herd immunity," said Dr. William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. "And it will be impossible to get there without a large number of deaths."

It is also unclear whether and how recovered patients develop immunity to future infection, though Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, has said he would be "willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection."

Fauci’s assurance aside, experts say it is still too early to know for sure.

"The thing which is really, really important here -- and which we don’t know the answer to -- is how many people are immune," Hanage said. "We don’t even know how much immunity the disease generates and how long it lasts."

To help answer those questions, U.S. public health officials are setting lofty goals for the rollout of widespread serologic testing that can detect blood antibodies. Dr. Deborah Birx, the chair of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday on ABC News' Good Morning America that the government hoped to be "rolling out and hopefully having soon -- within the next ten or 14 days -- an antibody test so we can really tell how many Americans were infected and asymptomatic."

The data from those tests will enable researchers to identify the percentage of the population who might have already been infected and built up an immunity to the disease. At Stanford, researchers have already begun testing thousands for antibodies as part of an effort to understand how many people in their communities have been infected.

"I think this [study] has very important implications for how we understand the epidemic, for how we move it forward," Stanford’s Dr. Eran Bendavid told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. "From our survey really the most important piece of information is, how many people in our country have been infected?"

Fauci, for his part, isn't waiting for herd immunity to slow the spread in the United States. His strategy is clear.

"Ultimately, the showstopper," Fauci said, "will be obviously a vaccine."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jasmina007/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As Americans shelter in place to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak, their daily routines have been disrupted. But now with most of their time spent home, are Americans able to stay healthy?

Not according to one recent study.

A Gallup report found that social distancing measures are contributing to poor diet and exercise habits. Only 14% of U.S. adults had improved exercise, while 38% of adults said they had worse exercise habits. The report also revealed that only 13% of Americans adopted a better diet while sheltering and 28% of adults report a worsening diet.

Why might this be happening? One reason may be more time spent on digital media. Remaining in our homes is leading to an almost 60% increase in media consumption, according to a Nielsen report.

Unsurprisingly, poor diet and exercise habits while social distancing, can increase the risk for obesity.

Obesity is not just dangerous to the individual, but unsustainable to society, as costs associated with obesity were about $86 billion in 2006 and have increased since.

Social distancing can also be particularly hard for some.

Experts suggest that people with substance abuse issues may face significant risk during this pandemic.

"Those in recovery will face stresses and heightened urges to use substances and will be at greatly increased risk for relapse," stated Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a report.

In fact, national sales of alcohol rose by 55% in the week ending March 21

Obviously from a health standpoint, these trends do not bode well. But excessive drinking can also incur heavy economic costs. One study suggested that the economic cost of excessive drinking was $223.5 billion in 2006.

Dr. Emily Leasure, director of the Department of Medicine Primary Care Clinic at Mayo Clinic, called these, "troubling," yet "hopefully, short-lived trends." However, Leasure cautioned once you develop bad habits, they can be hard to break. As many know, once you gain weight, it can be hard to lose.

On the bright side, "establishing positive health habits establishes a routine and doing so now would make it easier to continue on even after the pandemic subsides," she said.

So how can we make the most of this pandemic?

Dr. Leasure recommends making a commitment to healthy eating choices and identify measurable goals for physical activity. For example, tell yourself, "I will not eat chops more than twice a week," or, "I will do 10 minutes of squats, lunges, yoga, jump roping, stairs, or fast-paced walking every day."

"Shelter-in-place does not mean shelter-on-the-couch," Leasuer advises.

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XiFotos/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has found evidence that the first COVID-19 cases in New York City originated in Europe and occurred as early as February.

The study, published online by medRxiv and led by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, traced the origin of the outbreak in New York City by analyzing complete genomes of the virus across four boroughs and two neighboring towns prior to March 18.

Researchers found that COVID-19 in New York City "predominately arose through untracked transmission between the United States and Europe, with limited evidence supporting direct introductions from China, where the virus originated, or other locations in Asia."

It is important to note that the study has not been peer reviewed.

With over 4,00 fatalities in the metropolitan area, New York City quickly became one of the major epicenters of SARS-CoV-2 -- more commonly known as COVID-19 -- infections in the U.S., according to the study.

Despite early initial screening measures and a series of nationwide travel restrictions from other infected nations like China, Iran and later Europe, the study identified the first case in New York on Feb. 29.

Research teams looked at 90 complete genomes of the virus from 84 of more than 800 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases within the Mount Sinai Health System.

“We sequenced complete genomes from COVID-19 cases identified up to March 18," Dr. Harm van Bakel, associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences at ISMMS, said. “These cases were drawn from 21 New York City neighborhoods across four boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn), as well as two towns in neighboring Westchester County.”

The team then analyzed these sequences together with all 2,363 publicly available SARS-CoV-2 genomes from around the world to determine the most likely origin of the SARS-CoV-2 strains infecting these metro New York City residents who sought care at Mount Sinai.

“Phylogenetic analysis of 84 distinct SARS-CoV2 genomes indicates multiple, independent but isolated introductions mainly from Europe and other parts of the United States," van Bakel said. "In addition, clusters of related viruses found in patients living in different neighborhoods of the city provide strong evidence of community transmission of SARS-CoV2 in the city prior to March 18, 2020."

"Only one of the 78 cases studied was infected with a virus that was a clear candidate for introduction from Asia, and that virus is most closely related to viral isolates from Seattle, Washington," Viviana Simon, a professor of microbiology and infectious diseases at ISMMS, said in a statement.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Thursday that the new research is "probably correct" about how and when COVID-19 presented in New York.

"Europe became the epicenter pretty quickly after China really exploded with their cases. As you know, we cut off the travel from China relatively early and we were seeded with a relatively few number from China, but it quickly switched to Europe, particularly northern Italy," Fauci said.

"And given the travel and the air traffic from anywhere in Italy, particularly northern Italy, it's just not surprising -- unfortunately -- and inadvertently New York was seeded before they knew what was going on and that's why they're in the difficult situation they're in right now," Fauci explained.

The research team responsible for the study was made up of scientists and doctors the Icahn Institute for Data Science and Genomic Technology, the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute, and the Departments of Microbiology, Pathology, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences.

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danchooalex/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Chris Trotman, a social worker in Maryland, lives with sickle cell anemia. But he also struggles with a habit that is affecting his health: vaping.

"I want a stronger vape and I know that's bad because I know I'm supposed to be quitting," the 25-year-old told Good Morning America. "I'll probably hit this thing about, like, 250 times in this hour break."

Trotman and others like him may have new inspiration to quit. The National Institutes of Health recently issued an alert, warning that "people recovering from addiction now face new challenges" when it comes to getting access to medication and social support due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78% of COVID-19 patients being treated in the intensive care unit were living with at least one underlying condition, such as chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease, which can be affected by smoking tobacco.

Given this added threat, author Brad Lamm believes that his moment could be the wake-up call many smokers and vapers need to break the habit.

"I think a lot of people that have struggled with addiction and recovery are finding it difficult to connect with the very things that have helped them stay stopped," Lamm told GMA, noting such things as in-person support groups that likely came to a halt amid social distancing.

Lamm, a former smoker of 20 years, is the author of a new book, titled Quit Vaping, which offers a plan to help smokers and vapers stop, and transition to a healthier lifestyle. Here, he offers steps you or a loved one can start taking to overcome a smoking or vaping addiction, even amid coronavirus.

1. Set and share your quit date

"This is crucial to build up and adopt the winning mindset for the actual day you will stop," Lamm says, noting that his method doesn’t have you actually stopping until day 7.

He adds that during this step, you focus on the detox and nicotine-tapering process, as well as other activities, such as writing, and, importantly, choosing a nicotine replacement and solidifying social support.

Lamm notes that each of these is a major decision and that what works for one person may not be the same for someone else.

"Like any meaningful event in life or work, your quit date should have the same calendar importance," Lamm says. "That gives you some mental and emotional leverage over feelings of hesitation and avoidance, as well as personal accountability."

2. Know that cravings come and cravings pass

Lamm says it’s important to "practice moving through cravings, with the support of medical nicotine, to get through them. That’s a key to your quit."

He notes that his method of quitting also includes a replacement therapy, and he recommends talking with your primary care physician or another source of prescription advice for information about products that help curb cravings.

"There are many replacement products and tools available over the counter in pharmacies," Lamm says. "When we compare how easily we would take medicine for a cold or allergies, it's really no different. Don’t be afraid to try more than one and compare until you find the one that is right for you."

3. Live your quit

"Everything worthwhile takes work," Lamm says. "Practice the new rituals helping you stay stopped," pointing to medical nicotine, breathing exercises and other tools in his book.

Especially important is your support network.

"Think of a support network like a cavalry that can be called in when things get tough," he said. "Social support eliminates feelings of discouragement, isolation or being overwhelmed."

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

"It is essential that you get weight, diabetes and hypertension under control, and participate in your own self-care in active and meaningful ways," Lamm says.

He recommends looking at how you eat, how you move and exercise, and how you breathe -- paying special attention to your lung activity -- as basic measures of your wellness.

"Quitting is not just possible, it's medically necessary," Lamm says. "The pandemic is a real-time example of how fragile our lungs are."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


sonreir es gratis/iStock(NEW YORK) -- New data has revealed that the novel coronavirus kills black Americans at a disproportionately high rate. At a White House briefing Tuesday, President Donald Trump called the disparity "terrible" and a "tremendous challenge."

The insight comes as some states have released mortality data based on race and ethnicity.

"It has been disproportional. They are getting hit very, very hard," President Trump said at Tuesday’s briefing, referring specifically to the disproportionate sickness and deaths from coronavirus in black communities across the country.

In Chicago, black Americans comprised 71% of COVID-19 deaths despite representing only 30% of the population.

Black people account for 71% of the deaths in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, but are only 26% of the city’s population and account for 70.5% of the deaths in Louisiana despite comprising only 32% of the population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, issued a report today which found that for hospitalizations, "black populations might be disproportionately affected."

Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH, instructor at the Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital explained that this disparity has historically always existed in the health care system for minorities and vulnerable populations.

On average, black Americans are less likely than other groups to have health insurance, and because of other historic barriers accessing health care, may be more likely to have an underlying chronic health conditions that could put them at a higher risk for COVID-19.

Oliver T. Brooks, MD, president of the National Medical Association said in a press release, "we are underinsured or uninsured during a health crisis … the African American population is at the epicenter of this current health crisis."

"We have a difficult problem of exacerbation of a health disparity. We have known literally forever that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African American," NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the same White House briefing, adding that those are the same conditions that "lead to a bad outcome with the coronavirus."

Now, doctors and advocates say that one of the best ways to fix those health disparities is to publish race-ethnicity data nationally to reveal the gravity of the problem, then provide more accessible COVID-19 testing and free treatment for Americans who lack insurance, or do not have adequate insurance.

"Everywhere we look, the coronavirus is devastating our communities," said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP in a statement to the press. "We urgently call on our elected leaders to ensure we are tested, treated and protected to prevent further spread of this horrible disease and more loss of life in our communities."

On March 18, President Trump signed into law a stimulus package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides funding for free COVID-19 testing. However, experts say its impact is not being felt in communities of color. Testing is still reserved for patients showing severe symptoms -- unless those tests are privately purchased. A cough or sneeze takes someone out of work for 14 days unless they have access to a test. Staying home for some may mean getting fired and losing health insurance coverage.

This pandemic has revealed obvious racial and socioeconomic gaps. The barriers are systemic, it is harder to avoid exposure, "like taking public transportation to get to jobs as essential workers because they can't afford to not work, living in food deserts and having to travel to get groceries, and other issues that have been reported on," said Dr. Fauci.

The stimulus package doesn’t cover these problems.

"There are demonstrable socioeconomic outcome disparities across so many diseases, we won’t be surprised to find the same with COVID-19," says Edward E. Cornwell III, MD, professor of Surgery at Howard University Hospital and director of the Howard-Harvard Health Sciences Outcomes Research Center.

For now, the stimulus package doesn’t cover all the related expenses of hospitalization for coronavirus. So for those needing hospitalizations, underinsured Americans are left vulnerable to sky-high medical bills.

Insurance status is a "strong predictor" of how likely it is that a person will get sick and die, according to Cornwell.

Stay-at-home orders and closing nonessential businesses have led to record-breaking unemployment rates. By the end of March, the Department of Labor reported an estimated 6,648,000 claims. For nearly half of Americans, unemployment also means the loss of their health insurance.

For now, "the best way to prevent this pandemic from disproportionately affecting people of color is to remove financial, language access, and other long-standing barriers to testing and treatment," said Connor Maxwell, senior policy analyst, Race and Ethnicity, Center for American Progress.

Even as doctors and advocates urge federal and state governments to make COVID-19 testing and treatment easily available and free -- particularly in communities of color -- they argue that these short-term fixes won’t be enough to fix deep disparities in the health care system.

"In the long-term, lawmakers must address the underlying system of inequality that put people of color at such great risk in the first place, including exposure to toxic pollution and environmental hazards, housing segregation, and outright discrimination," said Maxwell.

"The underlying factors that put communities of color at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic will not disappear on their own," Maxwell said. "When the nation emerges from this crisis, lawmakers must turn towards ensuring a robust and equitable recovery that centers on those who have long endured inequalities across American economic, social and civic systems."

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Rike_/iStock(NEW YORK) -- What makes a better face covering to guard against COVID-19 transmission, a T-shirt or a scarf? Is it safe to use a vacuum cleaner bag? What about a coffee filter?

With U.S. government and health officials calling for the public to wear face coverings to help combat the coronavirus, the internet is abuzz with advice -- and debates -- on which approach is best.

Along with the new directives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website now features instructions for making several different homemade masks from materials including T-shirts, bandanas and coffee filters. But search online and you'll find many who say that masks made from cut-up HEPA filters -- high-efficiency particulate air filters used in vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and HVAC systems -- are even more effective.

The claim is understandable. While N95 masks used by medical professionals block 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size, HEPA filters capture 99.97% of particles that size, according to U.S. Department of Energy standards.

But not so fast: Manufacturers of HEPA vacuum bags warn against repurposing their products for use in coronavirus masks.

Shop-Vac, a leading wet/dry vacuum maker, has posted a statement on its website saying its HEPA vacuum bags "are in no way designed or intended to protect humans from bacteria, viruses or other pathogens," and cautioning that "direct contact or coverage of the human mouth or nose with the filter materials are strictly forbidden for any purpose."

Part of the reason is that most HEPA filters are composed of microscopic glass fibers, which can be harmful to the lungs if inhaled. There are vacuum bags made without glass fibers, but these are "micro-filters," not HEPA filters, which only block particles 2 microns in size.

Another type of HEPA filter made without glass fibers is the Filtrete brand filter manufactured by 3M for use in air purifiers and HVAC systems. But 3M has posted a similar warning on its website saying that Filtrete filters "are designed to be used in HVAC systems, and the filter media has not been tested to be used as a face mask for respiratory protection. Altering any of our 3M Filtrete Air Filters is not recommended."

So if HEPA filters are unsuitable for homemade masks, what materials are best?

A 2013 study by Public Health England compared nine materials for making homemade masks, including a T-shirt, a scarf, a pillowcase and a tea towel, equivalent to a dish towel in the U.S. The study considered both filtration efficiency and breathability, which is important for user comfort and safety.

The tea towel, made of strong fabric with a thick weave, had the best filtration efficiency but poor breathability. The study concluded that either a pillowcase or a 100% cotton T-shirt provided the best balance of filtration efficiency and breathability -- with the T-shirt getting higher marks because its stretchy fabric allowed a better fit.

The study also examined the effectiveness of additional layers of fabric and found that for most materials, a double layer significantly reduced breathability but was only 1-2% more effective at filtration than a single layer. More than two layers, although not tested in this study, might increase filtration efficiency but could further restrict breathing.

But before you grab that old T-shirt out of the closet, is a homemade fabric mask really that effective at blocking airborne particles? A 2008 study funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sports found that a homemade mask, in this case made from a tea towel, was about half as effective as a surgical mask in protecting the wearer from particles in the outside environment.

"Home-made masks ... may still confer a significant degree of protection, albeit less strong than surgical masks," the authors concluded.

While studies like these shed light on the different options for homemade masks, medical experts say that there's no one definitive answer.

"These do-it-yourself face masks are an inexact science," said Dr. Tiffany Kung, a resident physician at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital in Denver.

One definitive benefit of making your own mask is that it keeps surgical and N95 masks in the hands of frontline health care workers who have the greatest need for protection. For everyone else, health officials say homemade masks are an important tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

And whichever material you choose for your mask, it's important to remember that homemade masks are more about protecting others from you than you from others.

"A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others," says the CDC. "This would be especially important if someone is infected but does not have symptoms."

Officials caution against a false sense of security, however, and remind people that wearing a mask is no substitute for essential preventive measures such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.

"We should still use them to help reduce transmission," said Dr. Kung. "But don't let the many different styles and compositions of face coverings distract us from what's even more important: We need to continue social distancing and hand hygiene. Also, don't touch your face more just because you're wearing a mask."

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NASA(NEW YORK) -- As much of the nation has been asked to stay at home to help stop the devastating spread of the novel coronavirus, a former astronaut and his team of researchers released self-help tools for how to battle emotional stress and stay sane while in confinement.

"Outer space and your own living room might be drastically different physically, but emotionally the stressors can be the same," Dr. Jay Buckey, a professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine, said in a statement. "There is no reason why people who suddenly find themselves stuck at home for long periods of time -- alone or with others -- shouldn’t find this research to be helpful."

Buckey spent 16 days orbiting Earth confined to the small habitable quarters on the space shuttle Columbia in 1998. He told ABC News that after his mission in space, he became very interested in "barriers to long-duration space flight."

"One of those barriers is the psycho-social challenges of being in an isolated environment for a long period of time with a small group of people," Buckey said.

"We were looking at ways to offer people in that environment tools that they could use," he added. "Over time, we realized that these are materials that are good for a lot of things, not just being in space."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Buckey and his team made the tools they developed free and available to the public as millions of Americans are being asked to self-isolate and government-mandated stay-at-home orders take effect.

Buckey told ABC News that the tools are web-based and "available for anyone to use and try."

"They are self-directed tools, they are anonymous, people can use them to learn at their own pace," he added.

The videos and online lessons, dubbed the Dartmouth PATH Program, are part of a research study with the college, so you would have to sign a consent form, but otherwise they are free and accessible to all who wish to use them.

The former astronaut said the three main areas they deal with to help people in confinement are conflict resolution, stress management and improving mood.

"With conflict, the idea is to give people some instruction about how, sometimes, conflicts develop," he said, "which is sometimes based on the idea that people assign meanings to what people are saying, which may not be an accurate reflection of what they are saying."

The stress aspect is "based on the idea that we all have stress triggers, and those triggers lead us to do certain things, to take certain actions, and also they give us strong feelings, like anxiety."

The mood program helps identify "problem-solving treatments," he said, such as finding things you have some control over.

How to deal with stress and conflict while 'maintaining our relationships'

The tools are especially helpful for those living in confinement with a small group of people, such as roommates, family members or significant others.

"Living in isolation and confinement is challenging and it's challenging for everyone," Buckey said. "Long-term relationships matter, it's important for us to be able to deal with conflict, to deal with stress, to maintain our mood, and also doing it in a way that we are maintaining our relationships that we value."

The tools they developed for space are also already being tested in research stations in Antarctica.

"In the space program or in the Antarctic station, you are depending on your crew mates and the people you are with for your existence," Buckey said. "We can certainly see that in a space environment or in Antarctica, but in our daily lives it's true, too."

"Our spouse, the people that are really important to us, those are the people who are going to be there when we’re sick, who are going to be there in times of crisis," he said.

These people we see every day, however, are also most likely "the people we are going to have the most kinds of conflicts with," Buckey added.

Still, the former astronaut said his No. 1 tip for staying sane while you are confined is to value your relationships, and "maintain them if you can."

"By and large it's important to be able to work through things while keeping those relationships intact," he said. "We’re all in it together really."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Buffy Smith(NEW YORK) -- In basements and garages across America, a cottage industry of 3D printing is gaining steam to fight the novel coronavirus.

Entire families, from Louisiana to Montana, are forming in-home production lines for personal protective equipment for hospital workers and public safety officers that’s been in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I thought, 'how can I help?' Other people are doing their part and it's time to do mine," said 13-year-old Henry Robin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who’s making face mask extenders for medical workers with a 3D printer he got for his birthday.

ABC News got an inside look at homegrown operations in six states, where teachers, students, designers, artists and retired engineers are banding together to manufacture and distribute plastic masks and face shields to those who are on the front lines of the pandemic.

Colorado seventh grader Amelia Brown and her father Matt, a STEM teacher at Warren Tech/Lakewood High School, have printed more than 300 headbands for face shields in the family garage, one per hour from each printer, around the clock.

In Maryland, Todd Blatt, who owns Custom 3D Stuff, a small art business, has converted his Baltimore studio into a face shield factory that's churned out more than 1,200 so far.

Blatt said his team is even fielding orders for 3D-printed shields from the Navajo Nation.

"We’re shipping out five hundred face shields today to Arizona," he said.

The printers, which are fixtures in many American classrooms, science labs, art studios and libraries, melt filament to create a pre-programmed design on a heated surface. Many makers are using donated raw materials and giving away the prints free of charge. Others, like Blatt, are selling at cost, about $1 a piece.

Retired Air Force engineer John Grant, who’s working with Blatt at the Baltimore Node workspace, designed his own version of the face shield, attaching overhead projector sheets from school classrooms to 3D-printed headbands.

"Just remember, the experiment can always be solved with the materials in the room," Grant said, recalling advice from a college professor on problem solving. "And anytime I’ve come up with a problem that seems unsolvable, I’ll say that to myself and somehow find a way to get it done."

The movement highlights an unflinching American spirit of ingenuity and generosity, even in the face of a pandemic.

Minnesota science teacher Mark Westlake has collected more than 700 face shields so far from dozens of volunteer 3D printers across the Twin Cities.

His innovation center at St. Thomas Academy, a private Catholic high school near St. Paul, is now a community distribution hub for local law enforcement agencies and hospitals.

"Over and over and over again we hear (from doctors and nurses), 'we’ve had to use the same 3D printed shield or the same visor for days, and they’re cracked, and they get foggy, and they can’t be cleaned anymore,'" Westlake said. "That's the way the PPE situation is right now, and it's a little scary."

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical equipment, has acknowledged that 3D printing may be useful to address shortages in emergency situations, but warns in recently released guidance that homemade protective gear is "unlikely to provide the same fluid barrier and air filtration protection" as certified equipment.

"Eventually, companies that make this professionally in batches of 10,000 at a time are going to fill that gap," noted Westlake. "We're just trying to fill a small gap."

The shortages of protective equipment are even felt in rural America. Montana high school science teachers Buffy Smith and Jake Spearson have been getting orders for their 3D-printed face masks nonstop in Helena.

"Montana Department of Corrections ordered 200 of them. Montana Eye Care ordered 100 of them. And then, interestingly enough, we made some that were going to West Virginia to a doctor there," Smith said. "That's kind of how Montana works, you know. Somebody who knows somebody."

Smith has half a dozen printers stacked on top of each other, running 24/7 beside the drum set and sofa in her son’s music room.

In Colorado, more than 1,500 community volunteers have launched a coordinated "Make4Covid" initiative that has even begun air delivery of 3D-printed PPE to rural hospitals.

"We have makers, designers, policy experts, health care workers collaborating in a succinct way to get PPE into the hands of frontline health care workers in Colorado," said Merhia Wiese, who’s helping to organize the flights.

Volunteer pilot Erick Ecklund, on leave from United Airlines, last week captained a donated plane from nonprofit Angel Flights West loaded with 50 pounds of homemade face masks and face shields for a hospital in remote Holyoke, Colorado, that just got its first COVID-19 patient.

"We really started to realize that those full face shields were very, very important, and in fact I was pretty worried because we were counting on them to say, ‘do we have enough to get through a shift or two?’" said Cathy Harshbarger, CEO of Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke.

"Boy were we blessed when somebody said, 'hey, we've got the solution for you, we'll bring them to you,'" she said of the delivery.

"There's always something that everybody can do. Even if you don't have a 3D printer, you can you can help somehow," said Matt Brown, whose 3D-printed face shield headbands are part of that effort.

As the surge of novel coronavirus cases continues, and many families stay hunkered down at home, so many are determined to help fill the gap for PPE, one 3D printer at a time.

"I'm also going to send these to Indiana and Texas. Just all over the country, and just get them out there to where everybody can be comfortable," Henry Robin told ABC affiliate WBRZ-TV in Louisiana.

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Rush University Medical Center(NEW YORK) -- With hospitals fighting over limited supplies of equipment to combat the coronavirus pandemic, some doctors and nurses working in the most sensitive settings are getting creative to protect themselves and their teams from the deadly disease, and finding help from an idea hatched half a world away.

ABC News previously reported on some hospitals using baby monitors to check in on their patients while limiting their exposure, and now some critical care workers said they are innovating again to solve a particularly tricky problem: how to intubate and extubate coronavirus patients -- meaning inserting a tube down a sedated patient's throat to give them oxygen and later removing it -- while still shielding themselves from exposure to the virus.

"During intubation and especially extubation, COVID-19 virus particles can become aerosolized and easily inhaled by the anesthesiologist, respiratory therapist, or nurse who are very close to the airway," Dr. Bryce Austell, the chief resident in anesthesiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told ABC News.

As hospital workers searched for a solution, one came to them over social media, shared from an ocean away in Taiwan: so-called "aerosol boxes."

The boxes are essentially clear, hollow, plastic or glass cubes about a foot and a half wide that have the bottom and one side open, two arm holes cut in another side. Placed over a patient's head as they're sedated and lying down, the boxes ideally allow healthcare workers to see and work with the intubation tube at the patient's mouth while only exposing their gloved hands and arms inside the cube.

"The aerosol box provides an extra barrier to the COVID-19 virus in addition to our standard PPE [personal protective equipment]," Austell said.

The boxes are not proven science and it's not clear how rigorously they have been tested. But a group of doctors who simulated an intubation using a box found that the “ad-hoc barrier [...] provided a modicum of additional protection and could be considered to be an adjunct to standard PPE,” according to a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The design, which has spread across the world on social media, spurned medical professionals and manufacturers into quickly replicating the overseas efforts in the U.S.

Some hospitals, like Rush, are constructing the devices in-house. Dr. Parag Patel said he came across a design for an aerosolized box from a Dr. Hsien Yung Lai in Taiwan, who reportedly posted his design online for doctors and manufacturers around the world to replicate. Patel enlisted Austell, who has a mechanical engineering background, and they set to work making prototypes with materials from Home Depot.

Patel and Austell also worked with engineers led by Hudson Vantrease at Wilson Sporting Goods to create a 3-D printed final product.

Austell said the boxes are now being used in the operating room, as well as the intensive care unit, and they have provided some to other local hospitals for use there as well.

Roy Kirschner, the founder and president of Ultimate 3D Printing Store in the Tampa, Florida area, had a similar idea and said he has quickly reoriented his businesses to produce the boxes using high-quality protective glass, after learning about the design of the Taiwanese doctor's innovation from a California doctor’s Facebook post.

“I just immediately saw him like, wow, this is something like I can immediately change from manufacturing lids for 3-D printers,” he told ABC News. “I started calling a couple of my fabricators and figured out we could make 50 to 60 a day.”

Kirschner is currently making and distributing the boxes to local Florida hospitals who have requested them, and is seeking to raise more money to purchase more high-quality plastic and distribute them across the country.

Larry Shore, the founder of Shore Plastics, a custom plastics manufacturer in the Baltimore area, has also started manufacturing the devices using Dr. Hsien Yung Lai’s design together with Maryland Thermoform Corporation, a plastics manufacturer that is also producing face shields along with the boxes, for hospitals from Baltimore to Calfornia.

Shore said he wanted to help protect frontline medical workers like anesthesiologists, who handle intubations and extubations at many hospitals.

"For them it's like standing next to a nuclear reactor. It's very scary," he told ABC News. "I'm getting calls from parents of doctors, where their sons or daughters are in the ER working, and they saw this online, and they want to get one and gift it to the hospital."

Given shortages of personal protective equipment, and the struggle some rural hospitals have in securing what they need in the midst of an outbreak concentrated in major cities, smaller facilities are becoming increasingly resourceful as well.

At the Adirondack Medical Center in upstate New York, which hasn’t been able to acquire aerosol boxes, respiratory therapists and doctors have practiced intubating patients under clear rain ponchos and drop cloths, which can be cheaply bought at local hardware stores and more readily accessible than the manufactured plastic boxes.

“Ultimately, we want proper airflow, ideally in a negative pressure room with proper PPE, but we also realized that might not be an option, as we get this influx of patients,” Rebecca Albright, a respiratory therapist at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, New York, told ABC News.

And aerosol boxes are not a perfect solution. Doctors from two Boston hospitals, Boston Medical Center and Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, said in their letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine that the box “restricted hand movement” and required training before their use on patients, given some of the difficulties that can arise when patients are intubated and extubated.

"The aerosol box is not a replacement for proper PPE, but rather an added layer of protection to keep healthcare providers safe while they perform procedures that increase their risk of becoming infected by COVID," Patel said. "We are just trying to do our best to stay healthy for our patients and our families."

Albright said there's a "lot of controversy around whether it's effective or not."

But, she said, "At this point, when we’re dealing with a novel virus, most of it is novel ideas that come with it as far as the treatment path.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lauren Mochizuki, far right, and her colleagues stand by food donated to their Orange County, California, hospital. (Courtesy Lauren Mochizuki)(NEW YORK) -- While so much is changing in the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, one positive note has been the outpouring of support to health care workers on the front lines, from hospital food deliveries to the cheering that happens daily at 7 p.m. in New York City.

Lauren Mochizuki, an emergency room nurse in Orange County, California, said she has never seen anything like it in her 11-year career.

"I have never seen this kind of generosity and humanity," Mochizuki told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Every shift I go in, it feels like some organization or some person or some other department is thinking about us and showing us that with these different things."

"It's really touching," she said.

Emergency department staffers in the hospital where Mochizuki works have received donated lunches and dinners as well as handmade cards from children, which they've used to decorate their break room.

People and organizations have also donated everything from the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is critical to protecting health care workers to protein bars to help keep them fueled, according to Mochizuki.

"Yesterday we ran out of hair coverings and someone saw that on Instagram and donated some," she said. "Another woman made care packages that had things like a protein bar and lotion and a handwritten note."

One day, Mochizuki walked out to the area where ambulances arrive and flying above was a plane that wrote the words "Thank you first responders" in the sky above.

"More than anything, it’s so encouraging," said Mochizuki. "When we go in to work, in the back of all of our minds we’re wondering how does this potentially affect our home life and our ourselves, so when we see all these notes and food, it’s a morale booster because we get excited."

"It takes a little bit off that pressure and worry and stress and replaces it with joy," she said.

Mochizuki said she and her emergency department coworkers have even received donations from other units in the hospital. They are now paying it forward and plan to send something to the hospital's environmental services team that cleans the hospital and prepares the emergency room for patients.

"[People donating to us] sparks a spiral of gratitude," she said. "It inspires us to want to help others and remember to be happy and that we should be really thankful for these jobs that we have."

Mochizuki is the mother of a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter and her husband is a firefighter. She said people who are following orders to stay home also deserve a big thank you from nurses like herself.

"Remember that what you’re doing makes a difference," she said. "It’s not just about you but about your parents and your grandparents and all health care workers."

"Right now everyone can make a difference, health care worker or not," said Mochizuki.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(ATLANTA) -- The White House coronavirus task force is seeking to get ahead of the growing debate over how it's responding to racial disparities in coronavirus deaths -- particularly the much higher numbers and percentages in black communities compared to states as a whole.

The disturbing development in the crisis has become more apparent -- and controversial -- as states and cities begin to release data showing deaths by race -- data that has continuously been requested on a national scale from members of Congress, leaders in the black community and members of the press.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided some limited data, as political pressure to do so increased.

But while the portion of data released by the CDC did reveal racial disparities on a national scale, there were caveats. The data was pulled from a small sample size during a limited time frame -- 14 states during the month of March -- and race and ethnicity data was only available from 580 patients hospitalized for coronavirus, out of a total of 1,482 patients in the report.

Still, it's the largest amount of national data to have been provided so far -- and it sheds new light on racial disparities seen in cities and states across the country that have collected such data.

According to the CDC, even though the racial breakdown from the population in the report was 59% white, 14% Latino and 18% black, 45% of hospitalized coronavirus patients were white and 8% were Latino, while 33% were black, "suggesting that black populations might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19."

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert in infectious diseases, explained the disproportionate effects on the black community as an “exacerbation of a health disparity.” The same conditions that are far too prevalent in black communities also “lead to a bad outcome with the coronavirus," Fauci said.

“We have known literally forever that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African-Americans,” Fauci said at the daily White House briefing Tuesday evening.

“So we are very concerned about that. It is very sad. It’s nothing we can do about it right now, except to try and give them the best possible care to avoid those complications,” Fauci said — undoubtedly a disappointing reality for black Americans who are suffering at higher rates than white Americans living in the very same town, city or state.

Fauci noted that crises, like the coronavirus, can often “shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society.”

“When all of this is over -- and as we said, it will end, we will get over coronavirus -- but there will still be health disparities which we really need to address in the African American community," Fauci said.

Experts like Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a professor at George Washington University Law School, say providing racial data on coronavirus is the first step to stopping the spread in communities that are most overwhelmed by cases — and beyond.

“Collecting and publishing such demographic data about the entire country are essential. This would allow communities affected the most to receive the support they need, slowing the virus’s spread and saving lives,” Overton wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“The disproportionate impact appears to be attributable to preexisting conditions — high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and inadequate access to health care — that make African Americans more vulnerable to the disease. But the handful of examples above raises an urgent question: Does the effect hold true for African Americans throughout the country? Unfortunately, there’s no way for the public to know,” Overton wrote.

Overton noted the data released from Milwaukee, Chicago and Louisiana has focused national attention on the issue.

Seventy percent of coronavirus deaths in Milwaukee have been African Americans, even though African Americans are less than a third of the county’s population. Similarly, in Chicago, African Americans are 30 percent of the population but 69 percent of coronavirus deaths; and in Louisiana, African Americans are 32 percent of the population but 70 percent of coronavirus deaths.

And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that new preliminary data showed the largest percentage of coronavirus deaths in New York City was among Hispanics. He, too, emphasized the need for more research to address the disparities across the board. Cuomo called for more testing in minority communities and more data research immediately.

"Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price?" Cuomo said. "Are more public workers Latino and African American? Who don't have a choice, frankly, but to go out there every day and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to, in this case, the virus?

"Let's do the research," he said.

Cuomo highlighted another reason to collect data, which Overton wrote about as well: To help understand the social determinants that make it harder to avoid contracting coronavirus in poorer, often black communities, even though there is no medical research showing black communities are more susceptible to the virus, as White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has repeatedly said.

“We don't want to give the impression that the African-American community is more susceptible to the virus. We don't have any data that suggests that,” Birx said on Tuesday. “What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease, and poorer outcomes.”

"We really need to make sure that every household is aware of what it's going to take to protect the individuals in the household that have pre-existing conditions," she added.

Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, both of Massachussetts, as well as Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, pointed out those socioeconomic factors in a letter to Human and Health Services Secretaty Alex Azar, who oversees the CDC, asking for public data on race and coronavirus.

“People of color are more likely to work in low-wage jobs that cannot be done remotely and to have fewer financial resources to draw on in the event of health problems or economic disruption,” they wrote. Working from home is one of the guidelines the White House has recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus, but many low-income jobs like grocery store employee or delivery driver still require leaving the house, and are important roles in keeping communities fed.

“Moreover, unemployment, food insecurity and unstable or substandard housing conditions may further perpetuate disparities in health outcomes for people infected by the coronavirus, most specifically among low-income communities of color. These factors may all combine to accelerate the effects of the outbreak in the most vulnerable communities,” the members of Congress wrote.

A number of nonprofits, including the NAACP and the African American Mayors Association, also wrote a letter directly to the head of the CDC, Robert Redfield, and the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams.

Asked about a possible solution on ABC’s “The View” on Wednesday, Harris, the senator from California, said FEMA, which is handling federal response, could direct more resources to communities that are already at a disadvantage as they fight coronavirus, both because of diabetes, asthma or other conditions that are more prevalent, and because now, testing and adequately prepared hospitals are harder to come by.

“Those who had pre-existing health conditions based on racial disparities, based on socioeconomic disparities, are doing even worse in the midst of this pandemic. And so it requires us to to address it in a way that also recognizes the historical nature of it,” Harris said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(TELLURIDE, Colorado) -- The effort to test every resident of San Miguel County, Colorado, for coronavirus antibodies -- including the mountain community of Telluride -- hit a snag after health officials said the private company conducting the tests couldn't handle the workload.

Last month, biotech company United Biomedical Inc. offered to pay to test every resident of San Miguel County for COVID-19 antibodies. Company founders Mei Mei Hu and her husband, Lou Reese, are part-time residents of Telluride. About 6,000 people were tested during the first round, according to the county.

Officials said the goal with widespread testing was to learn whether a person's blood showed signs of COVID-19 exposure. That information might help officials decide if widespread quarantines and stay-at-home orders should stay in place, or could be strategically lifted.

A second round of tests, however, has now been "delayed indefinitely" because the county says the coronavirus crisis has reduced staffing at United Biomedical by 40%. Only 1,600 of the nearly 6,000 tests taken during the first round of testing have been processed so far, county officials said.

"We will continue to evaluate whether or not it makes sense to pursue the second round of testing given the unexpected obstacles UBI's lab is facing," San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin said in a statement.

United Biomedical disputed the county's assessment, however, and said it is working to complete the remaining tests quickly.

"We are in continued communication with San Miguel County Commissioners regarding testing in San Miguel County and our partnership remains intact. Our lab was not compromised, and we're constantly working around the clock to process results from our friends and neighbors in San Miguel County," the company said in a statement to ABC News.

"Like all labs," the statement continued, "ours has experienced increased demand in the midst of an unprecedented global public health crisis. We have delivered almost 2,000 initial results from San Miguel County, and anticipate continuing to deliver expanded results as samples are continuing to arrive at our lab."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


OlenaKlymenok/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Your tabby cat may be in a different category than a tiger, but after one big cat at the Bronx Zoo was infected with novel coronavirus, pet owners have wondered if their furry friends at home could be at risk.

Here's what we know about pets and COVID-19

Can people get sick from pets?

Although there have been very few reports of cats and dogs testing positive for coronavirus overseas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said no pets in the U.S. have been sickened and there is currently no evidence that pets can pass coronavirus back to their owners.

"We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States," the agency said.

While there is "very limited data published in the medical and veterinary medical literature thus far, we have to remember coronaviruses in general are known to infect animals," ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton said.

Dr. Evan Antin, an exotic, small animal and wildlife veterinarian, told ABC News, "If your pet has COVID-19 it's far more likely that you gave it to them or somebody else in your household and you've already been exposed to that person as well."

Here's an important reminder from one of our FAQ images - Can pets spread #COVID19 to people?

— AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) (@AVMAvets) April 6, 2020

How to recognize if an animal is sick?

"All of the tigers and lions that got sick had a cough, it was a dry cough, not a productive cough," Dr. Paul Callie, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told ABC News. "There's no treatment that is known to work, so we've treated just symptomatically."

Can coronavirus live on fur?

Simply put, "we don't know," Ashton said. "It has not been officially and formally researched yet."

Research has shown that the virus can live on hard surfaces, but it is unknown whether it can live on animal fur.

What precautions can people take around animals?

The CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggest if a human is sick and it's implied or assumed they have COVID-19, they should keep a distance from pets just as they would from others.

"If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them," the CDC said.

"Obviously you can't use a bleach wipe on your pet -- maybe wiping them off with water once in a while if that's possible," Ashton suggested, reiterating that the most important preventative tactic is to treat the animal how you would a person and keep your distance if not feeling well.

What to do if your pet becomes ill or symptomatic?

"Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health," the CDC recommends.

According to the AVMA, "There is no reason to remove pets from homes even if COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately."

How are animals tested?

Nadia, the 4-year-old zoo tiger, was the first animal case of COVID-19 in the U.S. Her test was done at a USDA veterinary lab and is entirely different than the tests given to humans. It provides essential information about the virus and how it is transmitted in order to help keep people and animals safe.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FrozenShutter/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Disney parks around the globe are honoring medical workers for World Health Day in light on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

World Health Day is celebrated annually on April 7 to commemorate all the nurses, doctors and health care staff working around the clock to keep people healthy. This year the day seemed to take on a particularly special meaning due to the fight against COVID-19.

“We are uniting across the globe with a message of thanks and appreciation to celebrate the brave healthcare providers who are helping so many,” Disney Parks editorial content director Thomas Smith said in a statement.

Although all Disney Resorts remain closed, the celebration kicked off at Shanghai Disney Resort, where the Enchanted Storybook Castle at the park’s center lit up with the words "thank you" written in several languages.

At Disneyland Paris, a floral arrangement spelling out “Merci” was put on display in front of the park’s castle.

Walt Disney World lit up its emblematic Cinderella Castle in bright blue in an effort to convey a sense of hope and gratitude. Cast members even created their own moment of thanks, holding up signs in front of the castle on Main Street U.S.A.

The original Disneyland Resort got creative, with cast members writing out “thank you” in flower petals next to the "Storytellers” statue in Disney California Adventure.

Cast members at Aulani, a Disney resort in Hawaii, also shared a heartfelt “mahalo” message.

We are uniting around the globe in a message of thanks and appreciation to celebrate the health heroes who are helping so many. 💙 As an expression of gratitude, our ohana shared a heartfelt “mahalo” message.

— DisneyAulani (@DisneyAulani) April 7, 2020

All Disney Resorts remain closed until further noticed.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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