Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

Contributed by the Health Center at Hudson Yards team

Updated April 27

With new information being released daily on the Coronavirus from multiple outlets, it can be tough to know what is the latest and most accurate information. Our team meets regularly throughout the day with our affiliates at Mount Sinai Health System to ensure we are always at the forefront of the pandemic. 

Members can email and get their questions answered promptly from our team. Below are some of the more frequent questions we have received.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

In early spring, flu season is still ongoing and seasonal allergies begin to surface. These conditions have symptoms that overlap with symptoms of COVID-19. Importantly, there are a few key features of COVID-19 that are not typically present with seasonal allergies. These include fever and may include body aches and loss of smell, taste, or appetite.


Why stand 6 feet away?

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads. The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to mainly spread from close contact (i.e., within about 6 feet) with a person who is currently sick with COVID-19. The virus likely spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu and other respiratory infections spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 


Should I wear a mask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now requesting everyone wear a cloth face covering when going outside, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (ie. grocery stores and pharmacies). Recent studies are showing that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus are asymptomatic and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

It is critical to emphasize that the cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing and that maintaining a six foot distance remains paramount to slowing the spread of the virus. It is not recommended to wear surgical masks or N-95 respirators as those are critical supplies that must be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Instead, look around your house for scarves, shirts, or bandanas that can be wrapped or doubled over to create a barrier. See this video by CDC for how to make a face covering from fabric and two rubber bands.


What is flatten the curve?

It’s hard for it to feel real to people and hard for them to take the measures that are needed to stop the COVID-19 spread, but if we all do our part, we can flatten the curve. Meaning, if we stop spreading it to each other, we can decrease the peak. We can also spread out the time over which we have to manage the people that are going to get very very sick from this. To do our part, we all need to practice the local safety regulations put into place. For New York, the mandate is limiting time outdoors, keeping a 6 foot distance from people outside of your immediate household, avoiding gatherings of people, limiting public transportation as much as possible, washing hands regularly, and if you are sick or show any signs of symptoms, you stay indoors. 


I want to help. Can I donate blood?

Great question! Our affiliate, Mount Sinai is among a few institutions leading the efforts in a COVID-19 antibody treatment titled “Human convalescent plasma”. Patients who have recently recovered from COVID-19 have high levels of immunity in the form of antibodies in their blood that can be transfused into very sick COVID-19 patients in our hospitals. This treatment has been used in previous pandemics. Mount Sinai is ready to start treating patients and has an open call for individuals that had a confirmed COVID-19 test at least 21 days ago and all of the symptoms are now gone. So far, research is showing that 3 weeks post a confirmed COVID-19 test is producing the highest level of antibodies. If this is you or someone you know, please complete the form linked in this article to have your blood tested. If your antibody levels are high, Mount Sinai will work with you to donate plasma at a nearby blood donation center. You could save a life. 


Do I need to distance myself from my pet?

According to the CDC, there is no reason at this time to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection for COVID-19. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene. 


Can I get COVID-19 from touching my mail?

According to the CDC, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.


I am pregnant. Am I high risk for COVID-19?

We don’t have a lot of data about Coronavirus and pregnancy. There were two studies released about 18 pregnant individuals from China. Sixteen delivered by Caesarean section, all delivered at term, and none of the children were affected. As a result of that very small study, it appears that as long as mom is healthy, the baby is likely to be healthy.

As far as we know the Coronavirus does not cause problems for the fetus in cases of pregnant women who are exposed in the first trimester. However, it’s important to remember that we do not have much data that will confirm this. That being said, the general philosophy is that once the baby is formed, any virus that might cause birth defects would not have that effect. Whether or not COVID-19 causes developmental problems similarly is not yet known. But, as is the case with prior coronavirus infections, it does not seem to have any damaging effect on the baby.

Unfortunately, there is not enough data to say with certainty what effect the virus has on pregnancy and similarly what effect pregnancy has on progression of the disease. Due to the immune system changes in pregnancy and based on historic data from other viral infections, pregnancy might make women more susceptible to infection. In addition, they might have a more serious response to the virus. However, we emphasize that this is conjecture at present.


What are COVID toes?

Doctors are also reporting that they are beginning to see cases of “COVID toes,” red or purple patches on toes that some believe could be a sign of COVID-19. While the scientific evidence is still limited about what may be causing this medical condition, people who have this symptom should contact a dermatologist or health care provider, according to Noelani Gonzalez, MD, dermatologist at Mount Sinai.

The patches on the toes resemble another condition called chilblains, also known as pernio, a painful inflammation of small blood vessels. People may often feel itching, stinging, or burning. In most circumstances the condition resolves on its own and doctors recommend behavioral measures such as keeping your feet warm, but in persistent cases topical steroids can help reduce inflammation, and aspirin can help improve blood flow to your extremities. Fortunately, the condition tends to go away within a few days or up to two weeks, according to Dr. Gonzalez. Doctors typically see this condition in the colder months, which is one reason why the recent reports, while the weather is warming, may be an indication of something different.