Editor’s Note: Longtime readers of the Free Press might remember a regular feature called Answers, where, in a time before Google, we answered readers’ questions. Since even Google does not have all the answers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, reporter Kevin Rollason will attempt to answer your coronavirus queries. Send your questions to email@example.com.
Question: Is it safe to bring mail into my home as well as my newspaper?
Answer: As someone whose job depends in large part on a physical newspaper getting to your door, I'm pleased to say that Manitoba Public Health officials are indicating it is safe to do this -- and they add that mail is okay too. But they say there are still some precautions you should take which people haven't had to do before the spread of COVID-19. The main one is to practice good handwashing after you are done reading and handling the mail and newspaper. They also say don't forget not to touch your face while you are reading the paper.
Q: Is there anything Canada Post has done to keep Canadians and their employees safe while handling mail?
A: A Canada Post official says the Crown corporation has "dramatically changed the way we work, the way we deliver, the way we operate our post offices, and how we clean our facilities across the country, to keep our employees and customers safe and healthy." Canada Post has told Canadians not to open doors when mail is being delivered and to stand two metres away from employees filling community mailboxes. But they have also made changes to staff, staff scheduling, work layouts and work practices so employees can be two metres apart, as well as giving them gloves, personal protective equipment, and disinfectant. And they've begun cleaning their facilities more often and, where needed, added sanitizing to workstations.
Q: I've always been able to order a three-month supply of prescription drugs, but now I'm being limited to a single month and that costs me more in prescription fees. Why is this being done and can the province have pharmacists waive or reduce this fee?
A: Manitoba Public Health officials say pharmacies have been told to restrict individuals to a single month supply of drugs in order to ensure a consistent supply of medications for everyone. And Manitobans are not alone in this: the entire country is limiting prescription drugs to a single month to help reduce the effects of a global drug shortage. People are being advised to speak to their pharmacist about options for dispensing fees.
Q: I'm wondering whether the travellers who came back and tested negative for COVID-19, did they still have to self-isolate for 14 days?
A: Manitoba Public Health officials say, yes, they still had to isolate. That's because the coronavirus is known to take up to 14 days to cause illness and, especially if they had symptoms, the test result could have been a false negative.
Q: I was in an elevator, the doors opened, and a person got on. Once the doors closed the person began coughing and looked sick. How do I know whether the person just had a cold or the coronavirus?
A: Manitoba Public Health officials say there's really no way you would know the difference, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting in that situation. One way would be to take the stairs instead of an elevator. Another would be not to get into a crowded elevator, but to wait for another one. One of the best ways, though, would have been for that person to not go out. Manitobans should know by now that if you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms you need to be self-isolating for 14 days from when you first experienced the symptoms. Unfortunately, now you'll have to self-monitor yourself for symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and runny nose for 14 days and, if you do start getting those symptoms, you need to immediately self-isolate and call Health Links – Info Santé to find out what to do next.
Q: I heard through social media hospitals are looking for donations of baby monitors to help look after babies and children in hospital. Is that true?
A: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority officials say none of their hospitals is looking for baby monitors. But, hey, if you want to help out during these trying times there are things they are looking for, including industrial grade N-95 respirators or accelerated hydrogen peroxide cleaner disinfectant. You can also volunteer to help others. Check these two websites for more information: https://manitoba.ca/covid19/business/index.html#call and https://helpnextdoormb.ca.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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