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This site tries to answer all of your questions about the coronavirus

Published May 7th, 2020 8:07PM EDT
Coronavirus questions
Image: Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock

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  • COVID Explained is a website from researchers and students at Brown, MIT, Harvard, Mass General, and other institutions with answers to common questions about SARS-CoV-2.
  • COVID Explained features a Q&A, a glossary of terms, and explainers for testing, immunity, and more.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

There are countless horrifying realities that we have to face on a daily basis due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but one of the most frustrating elements of this crisis is how little we know. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused much of the world to shut down, had never been encountered before the outbreak began in China last year, and so, we are learning more about it every day. In fact, we are often told things about the virus that are entirely contrary to what we thought we knew the day before. Everything is in flux, and it can be exhausting.

There are valuable resources that you should be checking for guidance from health experts, such as the coronavirus hubs of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but neither are really as comprehensive as one might expect. If you just want useful answers to basic questions, a new site from “a team of researchers and students at Brown, MIT, Harvard, Mass General, and elsewhere” might be your best bet.

COVID Explained takes many of the most common questions about the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19 and attempts to provide simple and straightforward answers that most anyone should be able to comprehend. For example, do you want to know if you can get infected by touching things at the grocery store?

The coronavirus can survive for roughly 3 days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel, according to research. However, there is not much evidence that simply touching a surface contaminated with the virus is likely to put a person at large risk, unless the surface was very recently handled by someone actively spreading the virus. Additionally, food is not believed to be a way by which the virus can spread.

Although it is not the main way by which the virus spreads, it is possible for the virus to spread if you were to touch a contaminated surface shortly after an infected person touched it, and you touched your nose, mouth or eyes afterwards, where the virus can enter the body. So while the odds of contracting the virus by touching a surface at the grocery store is low, you should still avoid touching your face while you’re grocery shopping, and make sure to wash your hands after returning from the store.

What about UV light? Could it actually be effective in killing the novel coronavirus?

The important thing to know is that UV light cannot kill the virus if the virus is already inside of the body. Additionally, it may not be safe to use so-called “UV sanitizers” on the body in the first place. UV sanitizers can damage the skin or eyes, and can cause cancer. Thus, direct application of UV light on the body for the sake of killing the virus may be ill-advised, doing more harm than good.

There is some evidence that UV light can be used as a disinfectant outside of the body, such as on water, lab equipment, or in crowded spaces like airplanes and buses. UVC light has been shown to destroy coronaviruses similar to the novel Coronavirus that causes COVID-19, so long as the virus is exposed directly to the light — i.e. in space or on surfaces. Not in the body itself. It works by destroying the virus’ genetic material.

And what’s this we’ve been hearing about drinking bleach? Is that a good idea?

No. This will kill you.

In addition to the Q&A, COVID Explained also has a glossary of all the terms you have been seeing that you may not have a complete grasp on, detailed explanations of the diagnostic tests that determine whether or not you’re infected and the serology tests that determine whether or not you have antibodies for the virus, and a post all about immunity and what we know (and don’t know) about our chances of being reinfected.

If all of the nonstop coronavirus coverage has been making you dizzy, this website might be just what you are looking for. At the very least, it should help to answer some of your most pressing coronavirus questions.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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