Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need to Know

Special Olympics latest news and frequently asked questions
Healthy and Fitness

(update 05/04/20) With the help of Special Olympics athletes and Program staff, we have developed a 30 minute eLearning course for our Special Olympics community about coronavirus COVID-19. This course is designed to cover some basic information: what is the coronavirus, what are the symptoms, how does it spread, and how you can protect yourself. We encourage the entire Special Olympics community to complete this module at learn.specialolympics.org. Please see instructions for accessing this course.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus COVID-19 is a viral illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019.

Have there been cases of COVID-19 among Special Olympics athletes?
The first case of COVID-19 in an athlete in the United States was reported on 7 March 2020. At Special Olympics, we are doing everything we can to provide information and assist in preventing COVID-19. You can find the current global count of cases of COVID-19 on the website of the World Health Organization, and the CDC website for the United States.

Corona Virus (COVID-19) FAQ illustration
Open full size image.

How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus spreads from one person to others through:

  • The air when someone who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes
  • Respiratory droplets. These are tiny wet drops that spray out when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks. They can land in the mouths or noses of people who are near or they can be sucked into the lungs when a person breathes in.
  • Close contact, like touching or shaking hands.
  • Touching something, like an object or surface, with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before you wash your hands.

NOTE: You can have COVID-19 and not have symptoms. So, people could spread COVID-19 to others by the air or those respiratory droplets and not even know they had COVID-19. That is why it’s so important to wear a face covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
With COVID-19, you could have no symptoms all the way up to a very serious illness. It takes 2-14 days after you get exposed to COVID-19 to get the symptoms. These symptoms are:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, like you can’t catch your breath

Or at least two of these symptoms:

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

Who is at higher risk of COVID-19?
Some people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness or not feel any symptoms at all, but some people will get sicker and will need to be hospitalized. Contact your physician’s office so that they can monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19 if:

  1. You have an intellectual disability or a moderate to severe developmental disorder;
  2. You are 65 years or older, are pregnant, or live in a group home or long-term care facility;
  3. You have underlying medical conditions including:
  • Blood disorders (sickle cell disease or on blood thinners)
  • Chronic health conditions like lung, heart, kidney, liver disease
  • Severe obesity (body mass index of over 40)
  • Compromised immune system (seeing a doctor for cancer treatments, received an organ or bone marrow transplant)
  • Current or recent pregnancy (in last two weeks)
  • Endocrine disorders (like diabetes)
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Brain and spinal cord disorders (like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke)

People who are at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 should:

  • Stock up on supplies (food, over the counter medicines)
  • Every day, keep at least 6 feet of space between you and others
  • Avoid crowds and non-essential travel
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick
  • Limit close contact and wash your hands often

What are severe complications from this virus?
There are a number of severe complications from COVID-19. People have gotten pneumonia in both lungs, blood clots, strokes, and many have died from COVID-19. People are at higher risk of those complications if:

  1. You have an intellectual disability or a moderate to severe developmental disorder;
  2. You are 65 years or older, are pregnant, or live in a group home or long-term care facility;
  3. You have underlying medical conditions including:
  • Blood disorders (sickle cell disease or on blood thinners)
  • Chronic health conditions like lung, heart, kidney, liver disease
  • Severe obesity (body mass index of over 40)
  • Compromised immune system (seeing a doctor for cancer treatments, received an organ or bone marrow transplant)
  • Current or recent pregnancy (in last two weeks)
  • Endocrine disorders (like diabetes)
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Brain and spinal cord disorders (like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke)

How can I help protect myself?
There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Here is a video and simple everyday actions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus:

  • Practice social distancing. This means stay six feet (or about two meters) away from others. Buy groceries and medicine, go to the doctor, and complete banking activities online when possible. If you must go in person, stay at least 6 feet away from others. Disinfect items you must touch. Get deliveries and takeout, and limit in-person contact as much as possible.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home as much as possible, and definitely when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others:
  1. Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
  2. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or anyone who can’t take off the mask.

Are there any drugs that can cure COVID-19?
Right now, there are no drugs proven to cure COVID-19. There are many, many drugs in trials to see if they work. The antiviral drug, remdesivir, is one of those drugs. It is being considered to fight COVID-19 and has shown some positive results in a drug testing. But, it’s still too early to tell if it will work for sure.

Giving out drugs, supplements, or other cures in the hopes that they might work is not only unscientific but also dangerous. Please do not try or recommend them.

There has been some dangerous medical advice in the media that can seriously harm your health. Some social media users are pushing Miracle Mineral Solution, which is in fact, part bleach. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already dismissed all of these claims. Drinking Miracle Mineral Solution or bleach or other disinfectants can cause severe medical distress, oral burns and in some cases, death. Additionally, antibiotics only treat bacterial infections—not viruses like the coronavirus.

Should I wear a mask when I go out in public?

  • Yes. You should wear a face covering whenever you are out in public. Face coverings can help prevent the spread of the disease to others. If you got COVID-19 and you don’t yet have symptoms, you could still spread it to others. Wearing a face covering can reduce that spread.
  • Face coverings should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone at home or in a health care facility.

What should I do if I have symptoms or think I might have been exposed to COVID-19?
If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19. Most people are able to recover at home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor’s office immediately. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

  • Keep track of your symptoms.
  • If you have any emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, new confusion or bluish lips or face), get medical attention right away. If you think it is a medical emergency, call 911 and let the person on the phone know that you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Put on a face covering before emergency medical services arrive or immediately after they arrive.
  • Don’t use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Stay away from other people (As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. Also, you should use a different bathroom, if available. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a cloth face covering.)
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • If you are sick, wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth (you don’t need to wear a face covering if you are alone).
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean your hands often.
  • Don’t share personal household items like toothbrushes or glasses.
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces like doorknobs and faucets everyday (in your bedroom and bathroom).

People with COVID-19 or its symptoms who:

  • are recovering at home (or other non-hospital setting), and
  • will not be tested to determine if they are no longer contagious

Can leave their “sick room” and home when:

  • They have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever) without the use of medicine that reduces fevers

AND

  • Other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)

AND

  • At least 7 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared

People with COVID-19 or its symptoms who:

  • are recovering at home (or other non-hospital setting), and will be tested to determine if they are no longer contagious

Can leave their “sick room” and home when:

  • They no longer have a fever (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)

AND

  • Other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)

AND

  • They received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart

People who DID NOT have COVID-19 symptoms, but tested positive who:

  • are self-isolating at home (or other non-hospital setting)

Can leave their “sick room” and home when:

  • At least 7 days have passed since the date of the first positive test

AND

  • They continue to have no symptoms (no cough or shortness of breath) since the test

For 3 more days, this group of people should continue to limit contact (stay 6 feet or more away from others) and wear a face covering for their nose and mouth when other people are present (including at home).

What should I do if I have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 but I am not sick?
You should call your doctor immediately and let him or her know about your exposure. You should monitor your health for fever, cough, and shortness of breath for 14 days from your last close contact with the person who has COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid public places for 14 days. Please follow your doctor’s advice on monitoring yourself.

Is there a treatment?
Currently there is no specific treatment for COVID-19 that will cure the virus. Scientists are testing drugs around the world to find some that will fight COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can get medical care to help with symptoms.

Are individuals with intellectual disabilities at increased risk for COVID-19?
Yes. The CDC considers people with ID as high risk for COVID-19. In addition, people with ID experience higher rates of chronic health conditions that also put them at higher risk of serious illness and poorer outcomes from COVID-19. Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities. Those who have existing medical conditions, including breathing problems, are also at increased risk for COVID-19.

What is Special Olympics doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during events?
Special Olympics Programs have been instructed to:

  • Coordinate with their local and state health departments to assess risk.
  • Postpone all in-person events including training, competitions and ongoing business operations and travel through 30 June 2020.
  • Communicate precautions to all participants and remind individuals (athletes, coaches, volunteers, staff, and others in the Special Olympics community) who are sick to stay home.
  • Distribute and share prevention and education materials.
  • Coordinate screening protocols to identify individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms.

What should I do if I have been to a Special Olympics event recently?
As with any other public gathering, monitor your health for symptoms. If you feel sick, follow the instructions above.

For additional information, follow the guidance of your local and national health authorities: public health departments, ministries of health, local health offices, World Health Organization, and the CDC.