Coronavirus: The Fact Checked Guide to What We Know So Far

Coronavirus: The Fact Checked Guide to What We Know So Far

In the spirit of coming together in the battle against coronavirus, we’re gathering answers for you.

Coronavirus: The Fact Checked Guide to What We Know So Far

    All of humankind must work together to beat an enemy too tiny to see. To get back our “normalcy,” requires resolve, patience and consideration for each other.

    No adult alive today has been in a situation with so much at stake. Because the last time the world faced a similar situation was spring of 1918, when millions of people around the world sheltered in place during the Spanish flu pandemic. An estimated one-third of the world’s population became infected and estimated deaths topped 50 million. CBS News has a photo essay with details.  

    This time, our hospitals are bigger and better, yet we aren’t geared for tens of thousands of people to show up at emergency departments within days and weeks of each other, sick with the same devastating symptoms.

    Hospitals in New York City, New Orleans and other hot spot cities are near capacity and anticipating being overwhelmed within days. Most cities where COVID-19 cases haven’t reached extreme levels are concerned their hospitals will soon hit capacity as well. And the survival rate for people who end up hospitalized isn’t great.

    Which is why controlling the spread and preventing needless deaths is so important. It requires all of us to work from a clear-eyed, truth-based perspective. We here at Think Save Retire want to do our part with answers to many frequently asked questions.

    FAQ Protecting yourself from getting COVID-19 (aka catching coronavirus)?

    Should I actually wear a mask or other cover on my face when I go grocery shopping?

    When you are in public, you absolutely should cover your face. This is because the CDC announced April 4 that covering your face with a cloth or a mask will reduce the spread of coronavirus. Keep in mind, wearing a mask won’t do a great job of blocking germs from other people so you still need to stay six feet away from others and avoid all gatherings.

    CDC stresses that medical masks are to be avoided by the general public and prioritized for health care workers.

    Does social distancing really matter?

    Until a vaccine is available, or we get coronavirus under control worldwide, social distancing is the best way to protect yourself. That’s the cold, hard truth. So yes, social distancing really matters. The CDC does a good job of exploring how to practice social distancing. Ultimately, practicing social distancing to the gold standard means staying home unless you absolutely must get groceries, see a doctor or go to work.

    People performing essential job functions -- our hospital workers, grocery store employees, package carriers and others -- must follow all the practices to avoid spreading the virus.

    Is coronavirus spread by getting carryout food from restaurants?

    Being able to get carryout food during the pandemic is a bright spot for many people. In no small part because ordering take-out is one way to help businesses that are struggling due to mandated shut-downs. And, based on information from many sources -- including the FDA -- it seems that coronavirus is not transmitted via food. FDA also says that the virus largely is not spread by touching a contaminated surface but rather by airborne droplets.

    Is there evidence you can get coronavirus just by talking to or standing near someone, even if they don’t sneeze or cough?

    Experts are starting to think that the virus is spread simply through someone’s breath when they are talking to you. The CDC mentions this, as do other credible sources.

    FAQs about stopping the coronavirus pandemic

    Is there anything promising as far as a vaccine for coronavirus? And how long will a vaccine take?

    You’ll be relieved to know that more than one trial for a vaccine is underway. Yet finding an effective formula that’s safe is more than a year away. Getting it produced at levels needed around the world will take even longer. This article goes into detail and has links for related stories at the bottom.

    Are we going to have to wait for a vaccine to end social distancing?

    According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and our leading doc on coronavirus, said we could start seeing a return to more normal function prior to a vaccine.

    This is based on the possibility of a test sooner that indicates whether a person has developed antibodies to coronavirus, which would occur in people who were exposed to the virus and fought it off.

    "I don't think that you're going to have to say that the country cannot get back to a real degree of normalcy until you absolutely have a safe and effective vaccine," he said during one of the daily briefings by the White House task force on coronavirus.

    Yet for the world to be largely safe from COVID-19, a vaccine is key.

    How long is this supposed to last?

    This is hard to give a clear cut answer to. One of the challenges is that cities and states are at different points in the progression of coronavirus spreading. Some states, such as Washington State, where the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. originated, enacted a stay-at-home order on March 23. Other states where official numbers of coronavirus have been slower to emerge, such as Florida where the governor did not take action to eliminate unnecessary travel until the last day of March.

    We won’t begin to know whether the virus is under control until every state starts seeing a decline in new cases and COVID-19-related deaths. (Refer to our question about the need for a vaccine for additional perspective on this.)

    This story from NPR responds to the question about when we might get back some normalcy. This story from a San Francisco newspaper takes a big picture look at the normalcy question.

    FAQ about financial resources for Americans during the coronavirus crisis

    What has Congress done to try to help people who’ve lost their jobs or some of their income?

    The U.S. Congress approved, and the President signed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This new law, also referred to as a stimulus package, provides $2 trillion for small businesses to keep people employed, payments most Americans, bigger unemployment benefits available for more people. The bill also provides funding for hospitals, big corporations, including airlines, and state and local governments. Learn more.

    How can I get paid from the stimulus package?

    The latest information regarding payments to all Americans is that money will be sent via the IRS. People who’ve filed their taxes in previous years via the internet by providing their bank account info will receive their payments first.

    Anyone who has not made a tax filing in the past two years (the deadline for 2019 tax filings has been extended until July), should submit filings as soon as possible for those years.

    This article has a calculator that shows how much you’ll receive depending on your marital status, income and whether you have dependents.

    How much money will I get?

    The full amount per taxpayer is $1,200 whose income falls within the range laid out by lawmakers. The bill provides $500 per dependent child whose parent(s) are eligible.

    Single people making up to $75,000 will receive the full amount. Single people making more than that will receive a reduced amount. Single people making $99,000 or more with no children will not receive a stimulus payment.

    Couples with adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 should receive $2,400, according to the Washington Post. Adjusted gross income is the amount, after tax deductions, used for tax purposes.

    Who is eligible for a payment?

    The main categories of people who are ineligible to receive a payment, regardless of income, are “the wealthy, ‘nonresident aliens’ and ‘dependents’ who can be claimed on someone else’s tax return, according to WaPo. People receiving Social Security are eligible for the payment.

    Will I owe taxes on the money?

    The IRS is planning to allow a credit on your 2020 tax return that will allow you to deduct your stimulus payment from your income so that you will not pay federal income tax on it. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

    How do I find out whether I’m eligible for unemployment?

    The CARES Act, according to Fox Business, expands eligibility to include self-employed people, those seeking part-time employment and independent contractors. Americans who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or who are unable to go to work because of quarantine, also would be eligible.

    “Benefits vary by state, but the stimulus package increases unemployment assistance in every state by $600 a week for up to four months. For instance, the maximum weekly benefit check in New York is $504. That would increase the weekly limit to $1,100. The maximum weekly benefit check in Massachusetts is $823, while the maximum in Mississippi is just $235,” Fox Business states.

    What should I do if I can’t pay rent or my mortgage?

    State and local governments are protecting renters and homeowners who can’t pay their rent or mortgage because of the coronavirus crisis. Here’s an article that provides some detail about this.

    If you have a home mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, any eviction or foreclosure on your home likely has been suspended, albeit temporarily. Your mortgagor also likely must allow you to put off your payment temporarily if you have been impacted by the virus.

    Use caution, however, as you’ll likely be required to pay off in one lump sum whatever balance you suspended. The period in which a mortgage is suspended is called a “forbearance,” and it’s not a scenario where you merely pick up payments later, thus extending the term of your loan. This page provides an example of how one mortgagor will offer a forbearance plan for people impacted by coronavirus.

    Is it true that the deadline for filing 2019 taxes has been extended?

    Yep -- the IRS extended the deadline to July 15. Find details and an FAQ here.

    Additional tax filing resources:

    Tax Filing Cheat Sheet: 18 Side Hustle Business Expenses You Can Deduct

    Freelancers: 7 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Filing 2019 Self-Employment Tax

    How Can You Plan Now to Pay Less Taxes in Retirement

    General financial and economic questions during the coronavirus pandemic

    Are we headed for another recession? What are predictions for our economy after coronavirus?

    Financial observers said last year they were seeing signals of an economic downtown. Last summer, The New York Times wrote about the leading signs of a recession.

    Combined with our new reality, predicting what type of ride we’re in for economically is impossible. Whether we’re headed for another protracted, deep recession is anybody’s guess right now. In a few months, we’ll likely have a little more stability in where things might be at the end of the year or further out.

    With unemployment claims surging more than 3,000 percent since early March, and wild swings in stock markets, economic uncertainty weighs heavily for most people.

    Lots of experts are weighing in with their take on the economy but following the commentary might not be the best use of time because, at this stage, extrapolating effects of the pandemic is anyone’s guess.

    What about my investments -- is there anything I can do at this point to avoid big losses?

    In the past, waiting out the downturns have proven profitable for market investors. We’ve got analysis about past recessions and the recoveries that followed.

    At this point suggestions for staying the course might be your best option. Forbes offers a guide. And Investopedia explores sectors that might weather current turbulence decently.  

    From Tim Denning, a writer for CNBC and Business Insider: Managing your money during a global recession

    FAQ general questions for our country and the world

    Is social distancing worth ruining the economy?

    The thing to remember is that, without public health (or a functioning health care system), there is no basis for a healthy economy. If Americans (and our neighbors around the world) aren’t healthy, the economy doesn’t have a chance to be nearly as healthy as it was. This Forbes article explores how long social distancing should last, with a nod to arguments about saving the economy.

    A study released this month by an MIT researcher and an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank indicates that early social distancing may have been the reason why the economies in some cities bounced back better after the Spanish flu.

    With that history in mind, health care leaders are arguing that social distancing is both a public health strategy and an economic strategy.

    Is our supply chain breaking down -- are we starting to see a shortage of food and other important items?

    Our food supply chain is complex, not the least of which is a reliance on foreign countries and foreieng workers. Food industry experts are anticipating that the supply chain will be impacted, although no one knows to what extent. This article warns a food crisis is looming and that shortages will appear this month and into May unless specific action is taken immediately.

    A food-focused economist opined in the New York Times recently that “he country’s complex food supply chains will nonetheless face mounting risks as the virus persists.”

    “The food industry is one of the nation’s most labor-intensive. California produces a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. The statewide “shelter in place” order gave an exception to agriculture, but counties are enforcing it differently, and there are concerns about outbreaks of Covid-19 among farm workers,” the economist continued.

    I have been making soups chock-full of veggies and a little protein. We’re putting these in the freezer for later. We’re also planting veggies in our three raised garden beds. Anyone who can take the same approach will not regret doing so.

    How else is coronavirus changing the world?

    Once we are able to relax the need for social distancing a bit, we’ll start to realize that we’ll always have the effects of this pandemic. People are already exploring what it will mean to us. Check out these predictions from big picture thinkers.

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    Shelly Strom

    5 posts

    Shelly is a writer based in Washington. Since coming out of early retirement from being a volunteer wildlife refuge caretaker in her early 20's, Shelly has written for newspapers, worked in corporate

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