Allison Aubrey | New Hampshire Public Radio

Allison Aubrey

Updated March 31, 8:25 p.m. ET

A few months ago, it may have seemed silly to wear a face mask during a trip to the grocery store. And in fact, the mainline public health message in the U.S. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been that most people don't need to wear masks.

But as cases of the coronavirus have skyrocketed, there's new thinking about the benefits that masks could offer in slowing the spread. The CDC says it is now reviewing its policy and may be considering a recommendation to encourage broader use.

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Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Three weeks ago, Washington, D.C., resident Rebecca Read Medrano started feeling unwell. She had a dry cough, fatigue, nausea and terrible stomach pains that had her bending over.

There was one more symptom, and it was a bit odd. Medrano had largely lost her sense of taste. "My cousin was cooking, and everything he made tasted weird," she recalls.

Ford has teamed up with 3M and GE Healthcare to speed up the production of personal protective gear for health care workers and of ventilators for people in acute respiratory distress amid the coronavirus epidemic.

"We see the need and we want to jump in and help," Jim Baumbick, vice president for enterprise product line management at Ford Motor Co., told reporters during a teleconference Tuesday morning announcing the new efforts.

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New preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping create a picture of the spectrum of illness caused by COVID-19 in the U.S.

The findings echo what's been documented in China: The risk of serious disease and death is higher in older age groups. But they aren't the only age groups at risk.

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The importance of the advice that we've been given by the White House coronavirus task force - advice which includes avoiding touching surfaces outside our homes - it's bolstered by new research just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports researchers have found the virus can live on some surfaces for up to two or three days.

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By now, you've heard the advice that to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., we need to practice social distancing. But if you're confused as to what that looks like in practice, we've got some answers.

On Monday, the White House announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; and not to go out to restaurants or bars.

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The way the world says hello is changing. Quickly.

In lieu of the germ-rich exchange of the handshake, alternative salutations are taking hold.

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli introduced a low-touch greeting when he met with the opposition leader from Zanzibar Seif Sharif Hamad, reports Eyder Peralta, NPR's correspondent in east Africa. It takes the form of a catchy, two-part salute, using both hands and feet.

How long can the new coronavirus live on a surface, like say, a door handle, after someone infected touches it with dirty fingers? A study out this week finds that the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

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There's new evidence that the coronavirus can live on some surfaces for up to two to three days. Which surfaces? Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey.

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The director-general of the World Health Organization says the number of coronavirus cases worldwide is nearing 100,000.

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Anxiety thrives on uncertainty.

And, as the coronavirus spreads, our unanswered questions can make us feel vulnerable or fearful. "Will it come to my community" or "Am I at risk?'

"We've got national anxiety at the moment, a kind of shared stress, and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty," says Catherine Belling, an associate professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, who studies the role of fear and anxiety in health care.

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Many Americans are probably doing a lot more of this these days.

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This evening, President Trump held a news conference to talk about the coronavirus and the illness it causes - COVID-19.

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As the case count of coronavirus infections continues to rise in China, the number of reported infections among children is remarkably low.

"We're seeing [about] 75,000 total cases at this point, but the literature is only reporting about 100 or so pediatric cases," says Terri Lynn Stillwell, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan.

Efforts to stem the tide of teen vaping seem to be a step behind the market. By the time Juul pulled most of its flavored pods from the market in October of 2019, many teens had already moved on to an array of newer, disposable vape products.

There's a seasonality to many viruses. Flu and cold viruses tend to peak in winter months, then die down with warmer weather.

Will the newly identified coronavirus and the disease it causes — COVID-19 — follow a similar pattern?

Before that question can be answer, let's consider how seasons and temperature influence the spread of viruses.

The common cold is a top reason for missed work and school days. Most of us have two or three colds per year, each lasting at least a week.

There's no real cure, but studies from the last several years show that some supplement containing zinc can help shorten the duration of cold symptoms by up to 40% — depending on the amount of the mineral in each dose and what it's combined with.

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Two-thirds of Americans say the novel coronavirus poses a "real threat" and has not been "blown out of proportion."

And, though the majority of Americans are concerned about the potential spread of the virus within the U.S., 61% also say U.S. government officials are doing enough to prevent it.

In an era of online shopping and global shipping, some NPR listeners have written to us with this question: Am I at risk of catching the new coronavirus from a package I receive from China?

Almost certainly no, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures," the CDC concludes in its Q&A.

Updated 7:55 p.m. ET

The Trump administration declared a public health emergency in the U.S. Friday in response to the global coronavirus outbreak.

"Today President Trump took decisive action to minimize the risk of novel coronavirus in the United States," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House press conference.

The risk of contracting the coronavirus is the U.S. is low — something that federal health administration officials emphasized repeatedly. "We are working to keep the risk low," Azar said.

If you live in the U.S., your risk of contracting the new strain of coronavirus identified in China is exceedingly low.

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