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An opioid epidemic. High smoking rates. Health care provider shortages. Indiana faces serious public health challenges. Side Effects Public Media provides in-depth coverage of these issues and more.

You Asked: How Do I Stay Safe From COVID As States Reopen?

Justin Hicks/Indiana Public Broadcasting

We’re continuing to answer questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19, and lately there have been a lot about states reopening. As that happens, how can you stay safe? And do the rules about masks, hand-washing and social distancing still apply?

These questions came from Indiana Public Broadcasting listeners. A note of caution: As the COVID-19 case count increases, information about the disease is changing quickly. We recommend checking theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest info on staying safe. 

How do I stay healthy as we open back up?

As businesses start to reopen, it is important to remember that virus hasn’t gone away. Indiana Health Commissioner Kris Box says people should conduct themselves as if they have been infected with the virus. People should continue to wash their hands, wear masks and have large gatherings outside if possible.

Am I required to wear a mask? Do I need to wear a mask while exercising?

Masks are recommended when in public, and some jurisdictions require some sort of face covering to be worn. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others. A mask should cover both your mouth and nose—remember not to touch your mask or face when in public. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

Indiana’s Health Commissioner says it’s hard to exercise with a mask on. But if you are exercising in a public place, you should be stay six feet away from others.   

I have a co-worker who had a case of flu in January, with a fever and a bad cough that lingered. She believes she had COVID-19 at that time and is now immune. Is that possible?

According to the World Health Organization, no. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO says.

Remember, this is a new coronavirus—very little is known about it, especially about immunity. And while there a few antibody tests on the market, health experts are worried about their consistency and accuracy.


How quickly, after picking up the virus, can you test positive? For instance, if I am virus free, and I stop by the gas station, and unknowingly pick up Covid-19, rub my eyes, etc., on my way to go get tested for the virus, will that test show a positive result? How long do you have to have the virus before it shows up on a test?

Thomas Duszynski, an epidemiologist at Indiana University, says the virus needs time to replicate in the body before it shows up on a test.

“So, if someone was on their way to get tested and is virus free and were to get infected at the gas station, they would likely test negative at the time of testing,” he says.  “Now everyone is different, and the incubation period is long, 2-14 days.  So, you need to have enough virus in your system for the test to detect and there are so many different tests on the market, that threshold of detection can vary from test to test.” 

He also notes that people can can have asymptomatic infections. Someone can be infected and able to spread the disease, but have no clinical signs or symptoms of illness. 

My wife is pregnant. I am afraid of going to work and contracting COVID-19. Am I able to take a leave and draw unemployment benefits?

It likely will depend on whether you have a directive from your employer or medical professional.

For example, here's some guidance from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development:

Q8. If I am in quarantine based on a directive from my medical professional or my employer due to COVID-19, will I be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits?

A8. Yes, if you are not receiving sick pay or other leave pay from your employer, meet the minimum amount of wages, and the reason you are out-of-work is because of the medical quarantine, you will be eligible under Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order during this public health emergency.

Q12: If I decide to remain at home because of COVID-19 with no directive from a medical professional or from my employer to do so, will I be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits?

A12: In most cases, no. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. You can file and DWD will evaluate your claim.

For more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, check out this Q&A.

What does it do to a baby's cognitive and psychological development to see only people in masks, aside from their parents, when they are out at the grocery store?

 Psychologists don't have concrete data on this yet, but Butler University Psychology professor Robert Padgett says facial cues of emotion are important in a child's development. That's harder to learn when the mouth is covered, but eyes and eyebrow movements are expressive and are still visible when someone is wearing a mask. Psychologists will continue to research this topic as the pandemic continues. 

Side Effects, WFYI and Indiana Public Broadcasting are asking Americans about health issues, as part of America Amplified: Election 2020. The public media initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, uses community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. Follow on Twitter at @amplified2020.