More Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 16      Cats and Pets – COVID-19

Q: Can cats and pets be infected with coronavirus-19; if so, can they give it to humans?

          A: To create an infection, virus particles must first multiply in great numbers within cells of the host.  Each virion does this in cells specific to a species.  Thus, birds that inhale polio virus do not get polio; cows do not get mumps.  Distemper virus does not infect humans.  Coronavirus-19 is genetically programmed to enter human cells.  Distemper virus is genetically limited to cats and dogs.  However, viruses are known to mutate.  It is generally assumed that coronavirus-19 originated in bats.  The current pandemic probably began in China as a mutation from the virus that specifically attacks bats into one that is specific to humans.  That mutated virion in a human multiplied and infected one or more additional people and our current pandemic was born.

The CDC on April 22, 2020 provided guidance on managing pets that may have COVID-19.  Two cats with this disease had just been confirmed!  They are the first pets in the United States to test positive for coronavirus-19.  Both cases, in different locations in New York state, had mild cases and are recovering.  One had no contact in the household with any human testing positive for coronavirus-19.  The other showed symptoms after a person developed COVID-19.  Two questions remain under investigation by CDC: were the cats infected by humans?  And can an infected cat give the disease to humans?  Could it be that a mutation of the coronavirus-19 may have occurred and infected a cat?  Might this contagion be spreading unnoticed among cats that are allowed outside to freely roam about?

Given the very rare occurrence of pets being infected, the CDC concluded, “…there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States.  Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.”

The CDC recommends that  “until more is known,

  • Do not let pets interact with pets and animals of other people outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • If you are sick with COVID-19, either suspected or confirmed by a test, restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.”


17. How long before we get back to normal? 

Q: Given the importance of testing and other guidelines issued by the president of the United States, how long must we remain in “stay-at-home” and “keep-your-distance” status?

The US initially ignored the WHO’s fully developed diagnostic testing for the presence of the virus, and instead used the CDC to develop its own testing system.  After weeks of delay, this test was introduced and found to not provide valid results.  It was removed from use.  The decision was then made to ask the private sector to develop alternative diagnostic tests.  By late April, 115 laboratories had submitted proposals for FDA review.  Each has been allowed to offer their tests having “self-verified” the validity of results.  Of these, 11 labs have now been authorized after the FDA verified the test validity.  111 labs are still pending this FDA authorization.

At the end of April, the FDA reports there are no authorized tests for the presence of antibodies.  Many of the tests being used have shown false positive and false negative results.  These cannot accurately identify a person’s existence of antibodies.   Science dictates that valid testing is a preliminary requirement before any jurisdiction should begin to open up.  The FDA has published a list of all the laboratories in each state that governors can turn to for testing.  But governor Cuomo of New York articulated the problem to national authorities:  Many separate labs use different manufacturers’ products.  Each propriety system has its unique testing supplies and reagents.  To ramp up for the millions of tests required, no manufacturer has the ability to provide supplies in that quantity.  Thus, expectations for testing are limited by the supply chains required.   Delays in testing further extend the time to when ending of the existing program of isolation can be predicted.

Recently, a new and conflicting strategy has been imposed: “Liberate (name a state)!”  This economic “Open up early” strategy serves the objective of limiting the damage to the economy by quickly getting people back to work.  Science predicts that opening up too early will only create a new wave of infected people, requiring a longer future period of staying at home.  But a public momentum of expectation to return to normal has now been created.

Add to all this the latest discovery about COVID-19 as a factor that must be investigated.  The World Health Organization is now reporting that “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”   More study is needed.  Does the severity of the disease indicate the point where immunity is provided?  How does this finding affect the eventual development of a vaccine that encourages antibody development in healthy individuals granting them immunity?  The third phase of testing of a vaccine leading to its approval is a clinical trial showing it creates immunity.

Conflicting expectations leads to unpredictability.  Perhaps the wiser choice is to not get hopes up too high, but to follow the science as it develops answers to the problems at hand.

Again, “Being patient is better than being a patient!”

Today, there are two conflicting strategies at play. Protecting the public health and recovering the economy.  In public health, one tracks contacts of an infected person and orders those contacts into quarantine to stop the spread of the disease.  Without testing to identify individuals that are infected, the strategy was initially taken to “quarantine” the entire populace – “stay at home, and social distancing.”


18. Reading a graph.

Q: When reading a graph that shows we are “flattening the curve, how come the line stays steady even though the number of cases is declining?

A: There are two types of graphs used to report COVID-19 data.  The combined or total information and the daily statistics.  In the combined graph, the vertical height of each entry includes all the previous data with the new data added from the previous entry.  Thus, a point showing 100 cases the day before with 10 new cases would be shown as 110.  Over the next several days with no new cases, the points would remain at 110 showing a level or flat line.  Future entries will always include past cases.  This graph is often used to illustrate the acceleration as the case load increases exponentially over time.

The other daily graph is the vertical point showing the reported cases for each day in progression.  In this graph, one can visualize the daily increase and decrease in cases over time, at the point of highest volume, the apex is shown with daily totals then displaying a future decline in cases.  This is the graph often used to predict and display when hospital resources are being stretched and later relieved.

In conversation, people tend to use a general “The graph show…”  It helps to better understand the data by knowing what type of graph it is.

19. Herd immunity

Q: What is herd immunity?

A: Herd immunity is the point where enough people in a population have developed immunity to significantly reduce the spread of the disease by contagion.  This immunity is achieved by those surviving the disease generating antibodies.  It can also be achieved by receiving a vaccination, when one is available.  Estimates for herd immunity from COVID-19 range between 60% and 80% of a population.  One social experiment is now underway in Sweden.  The policy has been adopted that there will not be a shut down of the economy by issuing universal stay at home orders.  Sweden has a current population of 10,086,000.  In this pandemic, there have been 18,640 reported cases of COVID-19 with 2,200 reported deaths, a 12% case fatality rate.  Contrast this with neighboring Norway: population of 5,413,800 with a reported 7,600 cases and a reported 201 deaths, a case fatality rate of 2.7%.

Even though schools, stores, restaurants, bars, and retail establishments remain open, and cloth face coverings are not required, recent visitors have reported that many people are observing social-distancing and taking many of the personal protective actions.  Protective measures have been implemented to protect the elderly and the sick.

The actual number of those having recovering from the disease may be far greater than that reported.  A conservative 60% of the population needed to gain herd immunity by being vaccinated or contracting the disease would be 6 million people.  At the current case fatality rate, without a vaccine being available, would result in over 720,000 additional deaths.  Time will tell, but this appears too great a price to pay for not locking down as the rest of the world is doing.

20. Symptoms of COVID-19

Q: What are the currently defined signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Originally, CDC defined three symptoms defining that a person might have COVID-19:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

Late in April, the CDC added 6 additional symptoms to the list making 9 indicators that a person might have COVI-19:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing (or shortness of breath)

Or at least two of the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

CDC guidance continued with a list of emergency warning signs indicating a person should call 911:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

When calling 911, notify the operator that you have or think you may have COVID-19, and put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.