Fact-checking the pandemic part two

Amid the flurry of information, Echo answers your questions


Art by Marta Hill. As the pandemic spreads, misinformation seems to spreading more and more. Echo seeks to answer your questions and concerns on the virus.

Gabriel Kaplan and Talia Lissauer

This story is updated as of 3:30 p.m. March 26.

Earlier this month, Echo asked its Instagram followers to submit questions and we did our best to answer your concerns then, and we have reached out again and done our best to answer below. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact Echo via Instagram and Facebook @slpecho, email us at [email protected] or leave a comment on our website slpecho.com.

How bad is the virus?

According to CNBC, the practical death rate of COVID-19 is about 4 percent though it varies greatly from region to region. That is about 40 times higher than the death rate of the seasonal flu. It is also somewhat more contagious than the flu and has spread to 171 countries. So far, about half a million have been infected, over 22,000 have died and just over 100,000 have recovered. Minnesota currently has over 300 cases, according to The New York Times.

What does it mean to social distance? With examples.

Social distancing refers to distancing yourself from others. It is recommended to stay at least 6 feet apart from others when possible. Also, try to limit the number of gatherings you attend, both large and small. Examples of social distancing include staying home from school, work and all non-essential events, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

What does shelter in place mean? What can and can’t you do?

A shelter in place order requires residents to stay home unless they need to leave for essential activities and certain jobs, according to Time. Residents can still go on a bike ride, walk or run, as long as they maintain social distancing requirements. 

How long will school be online?

St. Louis Park Public Schools began distance learning March 17 and will continue the practice until at least May 4, according to Gov. Tim Walz.

Will the school have to go into the summer? 

According to Minnesota Executive order 20-02, Minnesota’s required amount of school days for the 2019-2020 school will be reduced to accommodate the days off. 

What does this mean for activities that happen later in the year?

It is unclear what will happen in the coming months, but state officials and St. Louis Park Public Schools are monitoring the situation, Echo will update as information becomes public. However, it is unlikely that any events scheduled earlier than May 4 will occur considering Gov. Walz has mandated distance learning until then.

What effect will it have on IB/AP testing?

According to a release by the College Board, AP tests will be abbreviated to 45 minutes and only include free-response questions. All IB tests are canceled, according to a statement by international baccalaureate.

Should we be scared?

These are scary times, but there is no reason to panic. Although the worst-case scenario projections can be nerve-racking to read, officials at the local and state level are taking action and the Trump administration has recently begun to accept the severity of the pandemic, according to The New York Times.

Does anyone know how it started?

The virus is believed to have been started at a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China where dozens of people became infected with an unknown illness back in late December and early January, according to The New York Times

How long does the virus last on surfaces?

According to NPR, COVID-19 can survive on a hard surface for 2-3 days but the exact time depends on the material itself. 

How can I tell if I have COVID-19 and not the flu?

Although many symptoms overlap, COVID-19 also can cause shortness of breath and trouble breathing. In addition, while the flu symptoms can develop quickly, COVID-19 symptoms typically develop gradually and worsen over time, according to CNN.

Is anyone working on a vaccine?

According to NBC, a vaccine is in the works. However, due to strict regulations, it could be over a year before the vaccine is made available to the public.

How many states have shelter in place orders?

According to The New York Times, 21 states along with cities in 14 states have some form of shelter in place order in effect.

Is it safe to be around grandparents or people with chronic conditions like cancer?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers and young kids tend to have more mild symptoms, while the elderly and people with underlying conditions can develop to be very severe. If possible, try to trade FaceTime for in-person visits with grandparents, diabetics, asthmatics, and other underlying conditions until this is over. 

How long will this last?

At the moment, it is unclear how long the pandemic will last. Even doctors and other public health experts remain unsure. How long this lasts likely will depend on how efficiently we contain the virus. This means practicing social distancing, isolation when sick and other exercises. 

Are there links between COVID-19 and climate change?

According to the Washington Post, air pollution can make COVID-19 cases worse, as both impact the efficiency of the lungs. In addition, the worldwide closures meant to stop the pandemic have led to short-term declines in pollution, however, this is only temporary. In fact, many experts warn that COVID-19 might be worse for the environment in the long-term by bringing attention away from climate change and by causing an economic downturn, which can end up increasing emissions over time, according to European researchers.

Can I still go outside?

Yes, according to Gov. Walz, the new restrictions still allow Minnesotans to exercise and walk around outside as long as social distancing is practiced.