Information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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Health Information Resources

The Lexington Board of Health and Public Health Office are in frequent contact with both the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the local public health authority required by state laws to prevent and respond to infectious disease, the Lexington Board of Health guides the Town response to COVID-19, implementing the recommendations of both the MDPH and the CDC as appropriate, as well as working with the Public Schools.  

Frequently Asked Questions

►Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?
There is insufficient evidence to know if pets can be infected or carry COVID-19. For now, we’re asking residents to follow CDC precautions and limit pets' interactions with humans and others' pets.

►Coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 – why all these different names?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. Many coronaviruses are relatively harmless – nearly all of us have probably had a cold caused by a coronavirus. Some coronaviruses are more dangerous, like those that cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome).

SARS-CoV-2 is a specific, newly-discovered coronavirus. It is unusually contagious, with a marked potential to cause serious disease. The genome of SARS-CoV-2 shows that it is closely related to coronaviruses found in bats and in an animal called a pangolin. It first crossed over from animals into humans in China in late 2019.

COVID-19, or Coronavirus Disease 2019, is the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2. Key symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Approximately 80% of people with COVID-19 will have mild illnesses, but others will experience serious complications like pneumonia and will require hospitalization, and some will die. Many of those with mild or moderate disease will still feel quite sick, like a bad case of flu. Severe, potentially fatal illness is most common among people over age 60, people with compromised immune systems, and people with pre-existing health vulnerabilities. However, healthy adults under the age of 40 now require admission to an ICU with increasing frequency. There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 – only supportive care.

►I've returning from another country. What do I need to do?
Returning travelers from high-risk countries must self-quarantine at home and not have contact with others outside of the home for at least 14 days while monitoring for symptoms and checking temperature daily. See the latest CDC information for returning travelers. If you get a fever or have other symptoms, call your healthcare provider.

►Why are so many schools and businesses closing and events being cancelled?
COVID-19 is increasing exponentially. Transmission typically happens between people in face-to-face contact with one another. Actions to reduce transmission now will have a big impact later on.

►What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?
Isolation means separating a person or group known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease (in this case, COVID-19) from those not infected, preventing further spread of the disease.

Quarantine means the separation of a person or group who are believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease from others who have not been exposed in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Isolation and quarantine are important tools that can be used protect the public’s health during a disease outbreak. Because people can be unknowingly infected by SARS-CoV-2 and spread it to others, another important prevention tool is social distancing.

►What is social distancing?
Social distancing refers to keeping a “safe” distance between people. The disease is transmitted via respiratory droplets from one individual to another directly, or through droplets left on an exposed surface. Droplets can travel about 6 feet in a sneeze or cough, but infected people can also produce droplets while breathing normally or talking.

Maintaining a distance of ~6 feet between people reduces the potential for exposure to the virus. Limiting the density of people in a space is much more important than limiting the absolute number of people. One hundred people could safely be seated around Fenway Park, but it’s not safe for ten people to gather in a small office.

►What other steps can we take to prevent COVID-19?
Even after making our best efforts to avoid exposure to SARS-CoV-2, some of us will still come into contact with the virus. Frequent handwashing with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer, decreases the potential for infection if we’ve come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 and we touch our faces – and we should all avoid touching our faces.

Because the virus can remain infectious on surfaces outside the body, it’s also important to disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, phones, and counters.

►Is COVID-19 in my community? Should I be concerned?
There are multiple cases of COVID-19 in the Town of Lexington. Currently, testing is limited, so it is not possible to get an accurate count of the number of people affected. We urge everyone to take the situation seriously and maintain measures to slow the spread of the virus. This means staying home when possible, avoiding contact with others and washing your hands frequently.

►What does Governor Baker’s Stay-At-Home Advisory mean? Can I leave my house?
The state advises all people to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel. You can still do essential errands like buy food or medicine, go to a job deemed essential and, in unavoidable circumstances, travel to care for relatives.

You can go outside, but maintain a safe distance (at least 6 feet) from others. It’s important not to congregate and to avoid personal contact. Wash your hands after contacting frequently touched surfaces.

►I feel fine, and I don’t think I’ve been exposed. Why do I need to stay at home?
After someone is infected, it may take several days for symptoms to appear. For some individuals, symptoms might be mild and it could be easy to dismiss them as a common cold. However, an infected person can spread the virus even when they are asymptomatic. Assume that everyone you interact with can infect you, or that you can infect anyone with whom you are in contact. Avoid person-to-person contact with people outside your immediate household, especially with the elderly or vulnerable populations.

►I'm over 70. Am I safer having my groceries delivered, or going to the grocery store?
You are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 by having your groceries delivered.

►Can I still get together with my friends as long as we’re careful?
For now, please don’t. Any of us could have been exposed at some point in the last couple of weeks without knowing it. Staying home is the best thing you can do to protect yourself, each other, and our community - especially healthcare workers and other people who don’t have a choice about interacting with others.

►What should I tell my children?
Many children might be feeling afraid or lonely right now. School closures and time away from friends can be challenging. It’s important to emphasize that they are protecting themselves and others by staying home and skipping playdates and other in-person gatherings. It’s also important to establish some routines to encourage frequent handwashing, as well as setting a good example yourself.

►Is it true that COVID-19 only spreads through respiratory droplets?
The virus that causes COVID-19 can also live on surfaces outside the body. If you touch something the virus is living on, it can transfer to your hands and then you can become infected. This is why handwashing is so critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There’s evidence that COVID-19 might also spread through other routes. We don’t know at this point. Until these routes are better understood, social distancing and taking precautions, like hand washing and disinfecting surfaces, to limit the spread of the virus are that much more important. 

►If I’m young and healthy, will COVID-19 affect me?
It is already affecting you. Even if you don’t have COVID-19, you will find services and businesses suspended and if you have to go to your doctor or the emergency room, say for an injury or an asthma attack, you will find them unable to help you if they are overwhelmed. While the greatest risk is to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, there is growing evidence that younger healthy people can develop serious complications. 

►How can I fight cabin fever while I’m stuck inside?
It’s fine to go for a walk or a run by yourself. Apps like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype make it easier than ever to keep in touch with friends. Go to a park and video-call a friend to get some fresh air with some social contact. It’s hard not being able to hug our friends or talk to them face-to-face, but it’s much better than not being able to visit each other in the hospital. Keeping apart for a little while is the only way to keep COVID-19 under control.

Here are some suggestions on things you and your family can do while you're home.

►Why are more people being diagnosed with COVID-19?
The definition of who should be tested has changed as knowledge about the disease and the copacity for testing has increased.  The MDPH State Laboratory is now able to conduct testing in-state, as well as commercial laboratories, leading to more rapid diagnoses.

►How can I get tested for COVID-19?
Call your health care provider if you think you might have been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath or recent travel history to an area with sustained or widespread community transmission to COVID-19.  Your provider will ask screening questions to assess your potential exposure and whether symptoms are consistent COVID-19. 

Should your health care provider determine you are a candidate for testing, you will be provided with further directions and details, such as test location and time and how specimens will be collected.  Some healthcare clinics and hospitals are implementing drive-by testing to increase the number of people they can test while maintaining social distancing to prevent exposure.

►Does the Town of Lexington provide testing?
No. Testing, which consists of swabs inserted into nasal passages to collect specimens, is conducted by health care providers at healthcare clinics and hospitals.  Your healthcare provider will send specimens to an authorized laboratory for analysis, such as the state lab or a commercial lab if they do not have an authorized lab on site.

►I have seen advertisements on-line for COVID-19 testkits. Are these legitimate?
No. Only CDC or MDPH certified laboratories can accurately conduct testing for COVID-19.

►A member of my household is self-quarantined. What do we need to do or not do?
Follow these CDC recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in households

►I'm ill with symptoms that might be COVID-19. What should I do?
If you are sick, seek health care (call ahead to your provider first), and avoid contact with others, including social gatherings, meetings, and events.

►Will public events in town be cancelled as a result of COVID-19?
Effective March 12 through at least April 6, 2020, all public buildings, including public schools, will be suspending organized programs and activities including public meetings and scheduled room reservations.  We will continue to monitor this situation as it evolves and will re-evaluate it upon guidance from the Mass Department Public Health and Lexington Board of Health.

Some official Town Public Meetings will be held via TV, phone and Internet. See the Public Meeting Calendar for information on what meetings are being held and see individual meeting posting to see what technology is being used.

►Can I still go outside to get some fresh air and exercise?
Yes. Go outside, take a walk or a bike ride, but please practice safe social distancing (6 feet apart). Use parks, open space, and our trail network, but please don't engage in group activities. 

 

►Off-leash dogs come up to me while I'm out walking, and then their owners, which breaks social distancing guidelines. Aren't dogs always supposed to be on-leash?

The owner must be in control of the dog "by means of a leash or by effective command", per Town bylaw. We suggest telling the owner to call their dog back in they event they get too close if they are off-leash, as they are otherwise required to control the dog by effective command.

Read the bylaw on restraint of dogs.

 

►What can I use to disinfect surfaces?
Please see these guidelines from CDC on how to clean and disinfect surfaces and other household items.  

►How do I keep from getting exposed to COVID-19?
The following actions will help prevent exposure to any respiratory viruses, including both flu and COVID-19:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (20 seconds of scrubbing) or use alcohol-based hand cleaners (cover all surfaces and rub until dry).
  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which accelerates the spread of infections.
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick. Because the virus can survive on surfaces outside the body, it’s also important to disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, phones, and counters. See CDC advice on household disinfection.

Thanks to the Boston University School of Public Health for their work on this FAQ