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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Listeners Ask About Coronavirus Immunity, Parks, Whistleblowing and Baby Boom

photo of CDC recommendations for parks
Cleveland MetroParks is one of many park systems in Northeast Ohio that's still operating, but with limited access to facilites and programming. Officials are encouraging people to get outdoors during the coronavirus epidemic.

The effects of the coronavirus are being felt everywhere from our region's parks to small businesses. This week we're answering listener questions on a range of topics being impacted by the virus.

Even before Gov. Mike DeWine ordered nonessential businesses to close, we started getting emails from people who felt they were being forced to work when they should have been staying home, or working from home.

Sarah: And we’ve also heard from many people who feel that maybe their employer is staying open, but isn’t essential.

Kabir: The concern for a lot of them is, "How do I report this without retribution?"

Sarah: Earlier this week, Andy Chow from the Statehouse News Bureau asked DeWine what people should do.

“If they are not getting that satisfaction and think these rules are being violated to their health detriment, they have every right to contact us about that," DeWine said.

Chow then asked if there’s a system through which people can report anonymously.

“They can certainly do that. I’ll go back to my experience as a prosecutor: you’re always better having better information. If we get that information, we certainly have the ability to act on it. Again, the goal is to get people to do what’s right. If we came upon a situation like that, our first step would be to notify the company and ascertain whether we thought they were in fact violating the rules. If we decide they are, we would certainly ask them to change and then follow up from there with legal consequences.”

Last week, there were legal consequences for about three dozen businesses that were operating but deemed nonessential, including a car wash and a vape shop.  They were shut down by Summit County Public Health.  So what the governor said in these press conferences is being enforced under Section 18 of the order.

Sarah: Lt. Gov. John Husted added that businesses will probably have to follow these guidelines for a long time, even after they re-open and get back to being fully staffed.

Kabir: I should mention that not only do we air Gov. DeWine’s daily press conferences, but they stream on our website and we live-tweet them. During Saturday’s briefing, the governor said he’s having his team inspect every state contractor currently working to make sure they’re following the safety protocols.

Building up immunity
Sarah: Our next question is also one we’ve been getting more and more: Once someone has tested positive, do they build up antibodies? Are they immune? 

Kabir: For the answer, we went to Donna Skoda of Summit County Public Health.

“I could be tested right now and be negative, and be positive tomorrow.  So that is a false sense of security.  After this is over, if we did some surveillance – just like when West Nile hit – afterward, there was a lot of surveillance that said a lot of people had West Nile and never even knew they had it. We have to remember that about 80-85% of the folks who have this virus, may not know they have it, may not know they are carrying it, may have very, very mild symptoms."

photo of NEOMED, Angelo DeLucia
At NEOMED, Virologist Angelo DeLucia says there could be some effective tests for coronavirus antibodies coming in the future.

Sarah: Future testing for immunity is actually moving forward according to Angelo DeLucia, a virologist who’s been teaching about coronavirus-like diseases at NEOMED for 30 years.

“There is one [test] that just came out that is just using a very simple process that local hospitals could implement to see if you’ve been previously infected by looking for antibodies against viral proteins. But those have not been FDA approved yet or tested rigorously so that we can understand the results from those tests yet. But it’s going to be in the works soon.

“Most of the time, these will be antibodies that arise and fend off the virus – or so we hope.  But the IGG antibodies – that’s a specific type of antibody – those should be long lasting and stable. We should be able to screen our population after to see how many of us were infected by this virus. Maybe you suffered symptoms or maybe you didn’t; that would be a very important study.”

Kabir: DeLucia also discussed how long coronavirus can live on different surfaces and how it spreads.

“Twenty-four hours on cardboard, two to three days on plastic and steel [and] several hours in the air.  But what they haven’t done is shown how infectious that is to somebody picking it up from those surfaces. So those studies haven’t been completed yet. So my feeling is, if you go with the CDC’s results, and they’re pulling their results from what’s happening in Europe and China, of course, is human-to-human contact of some sort -- being in the same room closer than six feet, hugging or touching and then touching your face – this is the major route [for community spread].”

Sarah: By the way, along with surfaces in your home, we’ve been asked about packaging from the grocery store and restaurants, and whether those need to be disinfected.

Kabir: The rule of thumb is to transfer food to new packaging in your home, like plastic containers, and — as always — to then wash your hands.

Sarah: What about if you microwave food? Is that going to have any impact?

Kabir: The jury is still out on that, but Dr. DeLucia at least said this about warm weather.

“In Australia, it’s summer down there, and they have infections ongoing.  So all bets are off whether heat will, in fact, destroy the virus.”

Hitting the trails
Sarah: Our next question is from Richard Stratton, who asks which outdoor activities are affected, specifically in our parks.

Kabir: The parks have been deemed an essential service since the governor wants people to get outdoors for their physical and mental well-being.  You may have noticed golf courses are still open, too, but with limited schedules.

In the parks, facilities like playgrounds, many visitor centers, and fitness stations are closed. Some restrooms are open throughout the various park systems, mostly for emergency use.  Many golf courses have limited scheduling. Summit MetroParks has a list of closures and facilities here. The Cleveland MetroParks Zoo is closed but has online programming.  Their CEO, Brian Zimmerman, has actually made a video – which you can watch below – about precautions everyone should be taking when they hit the parks: keep your distance, let people know when you’re approaching on a trail so you can give each other space – but don’t visit if you’re experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus.

On a side note, I should mention that as of Sunday, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park closed several parking lots and the entire Towpath Trail -- but that's due to flooding.

Sarah: And our final question this week comes from Anthony Gardner.  He wants to know if there will be a major spike in births nine months from now, as we often see after major power outages or blizzards. Here’s what https://youtu.be/2GVKkN0MOB4?t=317" target="_blank">DeWine had to say during one of his recent press briefings.

"If Dr. Amy Acton is right, we may even see a baby boom. We'll see a lot of babies born. There's nothing more joyful than the birth of a child," DeWine said. "We have a lot to look forward to."

You can find resources and information about coronavirus – and ask your question for OH Really? – at wksu.org/coronavirus.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.