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Answering your frequently asked questions about COVID-19

The coronavirus is something we're all still trying to learn about and understand. We are answering some of your most-asked questions about the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic is something that we are still learning about on a daily basis. Researchers are working hard to understand the virus and government officials are making changes to keep its citizens safe.

We have compiled a list of commonly asked questions about COVID-19 and its effects.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, you can text FACTS to 502-582-7220 or visit our Coronavirus section on our website.

Why are older people more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms from COVID-19?

From early on in this pandemic, doctors knew that this virus does not impact everyone equally. For some, getting COVID-19 means a few miserable days. For others, it can be deadly.

According to an article by AARP, there are a few key reasons why older people are hit harder by this virus than others. First, older people are more likely to have underlying conditions that affect recovery from disease, like COPD. Second, our immune systems change as we age. Researchers haven’t been able to figure out an exact reason why this happens, but we are less able to fight off illnesses as we get older.

Third, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and our lungs become less elastic as we age. This makes the loss of airway function even worse for older people.

You can read more about this on the AARP website.

Can men's ties spread the coronavirus?

This question started after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stopped wearing a tie, citing a study from 2004 about doctor's ties and the spread of germs. Thes study found that out of 42 male surgical clinicians surveyed at a New York hospital, almost half had infection-causing pathogens on their ties.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how long the coronavirus can last on different surfaces, including fabric and clothes, so we can't make any concrete conclusions about whether ties could spread COVID-19. However, there are some precautions you can take.

The medical student who conducted the 2004 study notes that doctors could use a cleaning spray on the ties to disinfect them. Tie clips can help, and there's always the good old-fashioned bow tie.

Can scarves and homemade masks protect me from COVID-19?

The guidance on masks seems to be changing constantly. Doctors are still trying to figure out how effective masks as at curbing the spread of COVID-19. 

The current guidance from the CDC says that healthcare provides should only use homemade masks (like a bandana or scarf) as a last resort if they are working directly with COVID-19 patients. Researchers are still trying to figure out how effective homemade masks are against the spread of the virus.

Still, masks do act as a physical barrier, and after saying for weeks that the majority of us should not be wearing masks, it sounds like that recommendation may change since they're probably better than nothing.

“Any barrier is going to reduce your transmission to somebody else. Now, the question still remains of how much you can protect yourself if somebody else is sick by wearing cloth mask. But people are saying, you know what? Anything is better than nothing,” Dr. Alok Patel, a New York pediatrician, said.

Something to keep in mind is that medical professionals need masks the most right now. We want to make sure that we don’t snatch up all the masks and leave none for the people on the front lines fighting this disease.

Will the mail system be shut down because of COVID-19? Can the virus be spread through the mail?

The postal service is considered an essential service, meaning it will still continue to operate even when there are shelter-in-place orders. The postal service is needed to get things like medications and social security checks to vulnerable populations.

The United States Postal Service said it is upping its response to the virus to keep both its employees and its customers safe. It is expanding its leave options so employees don’t feel pressured to come to work if they’re feeling sick.

While the postal service is implementing these precautions, it’s important to remember that your risk of getting the coronavirus through your mail is low.

"In general, because of the poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces…there's likely a very, very, very low if any risk of spread from products or packaging that is shipped over a period of days or weeks in ambient temperatures,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier at the CDC said.

RELATED: VERIFY: Which disinfectants will work on the new coronavirus?

Will I have to pay a penalty if I can't renew my car tags or license on time?

In Kentucky, an executive order was issued in March extending the extension dates for licenses and car tags for 90 days. 

In Indiana, Governor Holcomb issued an executive order on March 19 that will last 60 days where, if a renewal cannot be done online, administrative penalty and late fees will be waived on tags and licenses.

What do travel restrictions mean for people who live in one state but work in another?

For the state of Kentucky, there are some exemptions to Governor Beshear's travel restrictions. When the governor announced his order to limit out-of-state travel, he said you can still travel out-of-state if it's for work, taking care of a loved one, or even to buy groceries if it's closer.

What are parents with custody agreements supposed to do with social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions?

Louisville Family Attorney Greg Bailey said the Supreme Court of Kentucky has issued an order essentially saying if there is a court order in place, parents should follow the order unless one of the parties has a confirmed case of COVID-19, is in isolation after coming into contact with someone who is positive, or has traveled to a place with a CDC travel health notice higher than Level 2 or 3.

Bailey also said that this is really a time for parents to work together to come up with the best plan with the child's health and wellness in mind.

If I’m social security, will I still get a stimulus check?

Yes, if you get social security, you will be getting a stimulus check. For a while, the treasury department was saying that you would need to file a simplified tax document to get it, but that's no longer the case.

RELATED: Social Security recipients won't have to file tax return to get stimulus check after all

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Social Security recipients do not need to take action and will receive their payment directly to their bank accounts.

Mnuchin said they want to get checks to Americans within three weeks, but some experts say people who don’t have direct deposit set up should plan to wait longer.

If I owe taxes, will I still get a stimulus check?

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, wrote a blog post about the stimulus check and answered a lot of common questions. He wrote that the bill for the stimulus turns off nearly all administrative offsets that could reduce tax refunds for individuals.

So, if you owe taxes or owe money for your student loans, you'll still get a check. The only offset that will be enforced, according to Grassley, is if you owe someone child support payments and it's been reported to the treasure department.

Has the tax return deadline been extended?

The filing and payment date for federal income tax returns has been extended to July 15, 2020. Penalties and interest won’t accrue on any unpaid balances until July 16. You can still file an extension if you can’t get your tax return filed by the new deadline.

The federal extension does not apply to state income taxes. Each state will have to make extensions on its own. Indiana and Kentucky have both followed the federal guidelines and have moved the filing and payment date on state taxes to July 15, 2020.

Is the Census still happening? Do I need to fill out my form?

Yes. Not only is completing the Census a requirement, but it is also really important to the communities we live in. Getting an accurate count of the people here is how we get the money we need from the federal government, and how we make sure we have the right representation in Congress.

 Even during a pandemic, the United States still has to complete the Census. The Constitution requires that we get a count every ten years, so 2020 is non-negotiable.

However, the Census Bureau is making some changes to address the pandemic. Timelines have been extended into May and through the summer to allow workers to spread out. Field operations are on hold at least through April 15 and the window for in-field interviews is extended through August.

The Census Bureau says it’s still planning to have the count completed so it can deliver the findings to Congress and the president by December 31, 2020.

You can also fill out your Census form online. It’s super easy and will take you about 10 minutes or less.

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Do you have a question about COVID-19? Text us at 502-582-7220 and we’ll try to find the answer for you!

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