You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers: CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

Learn more about COVID-19 in Nebraska with answers to frequently asked questions, researched by NET News reporters along with our partners at America Amplified, a community engagement journalism initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

If you have questions about COVID-19, let us know and we'll work to find an answer: news@netnebraska.org

Resources for further information: 


The Basics

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

SARS-cov-19 is a new respiratory virus, and scientists are learning more about it every day.  Symptoms can vary, but the most common indicators of infection are fever, cough, headaches, fatigue, musle or body aches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nausea, and diarrhea. Updated: 1/4/2021,​ source: CDC

How can we slow the spread of COVID-19?

Health officials and infectious disease experts agree on three important ways to slow the spread of the virus: 

  • Wear a mask
  • Stay at least six feet from others who don't live with you
  • Avoid crowds

Updated: 1/4/2021, source: CDC

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

Free COVID-19 tests are available to all Nebraskans through the Test Nebraska program: 

Where can I check the case count in Nebraska, and counties with confirmed cases? 

The Department of Health and Human Services has created a dashboard of statewide cases that updates every evening. You can see it here.

Most regional health departments also have information about local cases on their websites. Updated: 1/4/2021

 

COVID-19 and Everyday Life

Should I wear a mask when I'm in public, and how do I use it safely?

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends has fallen in line with the CDC recommendations to wear a cloth covering. Do not purchase N95 masks or anything that would be considered medical grade, as health professionals and first responders need that equipment to deal with the public.

But there are plenty of tutorials online for making your own: a mask should fit nice and snug along your face, secured by ties or ear loops, and ideally include a few layers of fabric. It also should be machine washable.

But it's important to don and doff it the right way, otherwise you could accidently infect yourself.

Dr. Beth Beam at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing explains how to make a simple mask at home and use it properly in this video. Updated: 4/16/20

Are there any travel bans in the state of Nebraska right now?
Nope. And according to Vicky Kramer at Nebraska's Department of Transportation, there aren't any conversations happening at this time about blocking off certain communities or closing highways. Updated: 4/1/20

What can I do to help others in my community?

There are plenty of ways to help your community right now, like supporting a food bank, or donating gloves and supplies to health care workers.

But Leia Noel, who runs the FoodNet Inc food bank, recommends checking in with your elderly neighbors by phone. She said older people are not only at risk for serious illness during this time, but also increased isolation and food insecurity. “I just hope it's an opportunity for people to get to know your neighbor a little bit, and to care for them,” she said. Times are tough right now, but she thinks one conversation could go a long way--for both of you. Updated: 3/23/20

I want to donate blood, but I recently had COVID-19. Can I still do that?
You sure can, but you'll need to wait until you've been symptom free for at least 14 days, per FDA recommendations. 

But some banks might ask you to wait longer, like 28. You’ll be screened over the phone for COVID-19 when you make your appointment. Let them know about your history, and staff will decide if it's safe for you to come in. Updated: 4/1/20

Should people with office jobs be worried about getting COVID-19 through their building's ventilation system?
We can't fully answer this one for you, as different buildings have different HVAC systems. But we can confirm closed-air systems can spread viruses by recycling airborne particles throughout a building. That’s according to Dr. Joseph G. Allen at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. If you’re concerned about it, one thing you can do to decrease risk is open the windows. A little fresh air goes a long way. Updated: 4/2/20

My neighbors are clearly violating our county's Directed Health Measure that bans parties of over ten people. Can I report that?

We called several police stations across the state; most said you can call your local station's non-emergency phone number to make a complaint, but don't call 911. Depending on where you live, they may direct you to the Department of Health or your local health department first. If you live in Lincoln, the Department of Health and Human Services has asked you contact them first. Updated: 04/02/20

 

COVID-19 Vaccines

Nebraska is administering COVID-19 vaccines in a series of phases, starting with healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. Information about vaccine distribution is available on a public dashboard.

As the national vaccination process begins, America Amplified is gathering and curating answers from experts to questions on the minds of public radio listeners across the country. These questions come from partner stations WITF in Pennsylvania, Side Effects Public Media in Indiana, St. Louis Public Radio and WUSF in Florida.

Read the full FAQ online here. A few questions and answers are included below. 

Q: Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

From Side Effects Public Media

A: No. Vaccine providers will be able to bill insurance for a fee to administer the vaccine, but will not be able to charge you. They can seek reimbursement for uninsured patients from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Q:   The vaccines show 94-95% effectiveness. What were the outcomes for the 5-6% of people for whom the vaccines were ineffective?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

A: In these large clinical trials, half the people got the vaccine, the other half got a placebo. Let's say in the placebo group,100 people got sick. But in the vaccine group, only 5 got sick.  That’s how we calculate the effectiveness. The 5-6% of people for whom the vaccine was ineffective contracted COVID to some degree or another.  

Q:  Does a person who has had a positive COVID-19 test need to receive the vaccine? plus does a person who has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies need to receive the vaccine?

From Meedan's Digital Health Lab's learnaboutcovid19.org 

A: Positive COVID-19 antibody tests and a prior COVID-19 infections do not guarantee immunity to the virus, making the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for individuals who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and/or for COVID-19 antibodies. Read more here.

Q: There are different companies producing coronavirus vaccines. Will all of them require people to get two doses? And do they need two doses of the same vaccine? How will people avoid getting two different vaccines?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

A The two current vaccines each require 2 doses. Other vaccines are being studied; one of them is a single dose vaccine. You do need to have two doses of the same vaccine.  Ideally you should visit the same health practitioner who will be keeping a record of who is vaccinated with which vaccine.

Q:  [What are the] side effects [from the vaccines] for people with underlying health issues. Do they even know?

From Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center.

A: Both [Pfizer and Moderna vaccines] use messenger RNA technology, a really novel vaccine platform. ...There still remain many questions to be answered as we go forward. At this juncture, we're only going to know about short-term side effects, but we need to know whether there are any potential rare, long-term side effects. Short-term side effects that we know of now appear in about 5% to 15% of participants. They include inflammation, soreness at the injection site, a low-grade fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. These can last from 12 to 36 hours after vaccination.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

From Side Effects Public Media

A: No. The COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna ... have been in development for about three decades, but are only now being used for COVID-19. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects you from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

Q: Do I still have to wear a mask once I have the vaccine?

From Side Effects Public Media

A: Yes. According to NPR’s Shots, studies of the new vaccines only measured whether vaccinated people developed symptoms, not whether they got infected. It's possible that they got mild infections — not enough to make them ill, but enough to pass the virus on to others. The CDC is calling for those who are immunized to continue wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing until more is learned.

Read the full FAQ online here.

Additional Resources

As the national vaccination process begins, America Amplified is gathering and curating answers from experts to questions on the minds of public radio listeners across the country.