The CDC just added six official COVID-19 symptoms

And everything else you need to know about the novel coronavirus this week.
a person in a lab
A survey shows one in five New Yorkers tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. But we will still likely be social distancing in some form well into summer. Pexels

Follow all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage here, including tips on cleaning groceries, ways to tell if your symptoms are just allergies, and a tutorial on making your own mask.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a fast-moving target. Each week, doctors identify novel aspects of the viral infection, researchers discover new potential treatments, and officials implement new tactics to tackle the microscopic beast. Here’s the most important information you need to know this week.

The CDC added six new official symptoms of COVID-19.

Chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell have all been reported in enough patients with COVID-19 to warrant inclusion on the CDC’s list of symptoms. These new additions could prove crucial to identifying the true number of infections across the US and the world, as individuals seeking a test to confirm SARS-CoV-2 must be symptomatic in order to receive one.

Two more cats tested positive for the coronavirus, but they aren’t likely to spread the disease around.

On April 22, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that two house cats from different regions of New York state tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making them the first pets in the United States confirmed to have the virus.

Cats contracting the virus isn’t new. Reports back in February and March identified a house cat in Belgium and one in China with SARS-CoV-2. Early in April, the Bronx Zoo announced one of its tigers tested positive for the virus after showing mild symptoms. The overall risk for cats remains low, and most of them show only mild symptoms. There is no evidence that felines can pass the disease back to humans.

Right now, neither the CDC nor the Department of Agriculture is recommending routine testing for house cats.

A popular heartburn drug might help some patients overcome COVID-19.

Famotidine, better known by its brand name Pepsid, is being tested as a potential drug in the arsenal against COVID-19. Doctors in China found that people who were taking the medication for chronic acid reflux appeared to be dying at a lower rate than other patients. Now, researchers at Northwell Health in New York City are running a double-blind placebo-controlled test with high-dose famotidine to see if it helps patients with COVID-19. The trial is now ongoing, and results are not yet available.

Air conditioning could spread the coronavirus.

A small, limited study performed by Chinese researchers and published in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that an air conditioning vent at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China could have played a role in spreading COVID-19 to multiple patrons. One diner (who was asymptomatic at the time) appears to have spread the virus to nine other people seated in close proximity to them at the restaurant. A nearby air-conditioning vent, the researchers theorize, may have wafted the viral particles around.

While more data is definitely needed to be sure of how circulating air might increase viral spread, Harvey V. Fineberg, who heads the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, told The New York Times that, as summer approaches, restaurants should monitor airflow and arrange tables accordingly.

Cleaning products should not be injected into a person’s veins to cure COVID-19.

Last Thursday, at a coronavirus briefing, President Trump suggested that perhaps there could be a way to inject disinfectant (which kills the virus that causes COVID-19) into the human body. Trump later stated that his comments were meant to be sarcastic. Unfortunately, he is far from alone in suggesting that household cleaners can have a place in health and wellness routines—and this idea is incredibly dangerous. You should not drink, bathe in, or inject yourself with bleach or any other disinfectant.

A survey shows one in five New Yorkers carry antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. What does that mean for the rest of us?

A preliminary report announced by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo found that one in five surveyed New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the novel coronavirus. But what this means is still unclear.

First, there are reports that many available antibody tests are not 100-percent reliable, meaning that people who test positive for antibodies to coronavirus—which suggests they have had the virus in the past—might not have actually had it. Second, scientists are still unsure if people who have had the novel coronavirus are immune to future infections, nor for how long any immune protection against reinfection could last. Based on what virologists know about similar coronaviruses, it’s likely some level of immunity exists, but no one knows the specifics of this new threat.

Perhaps most crucial to note is that, as we’ve previously reported, even one in five people is not nearly enough to protect us all. We won’t be protected through herd immunity with those rates of infection, leaving the city’s ability to reopen uncertain.

California lifted its ban on plastic bags to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Single-use plastic bags have been banned in California since 2016, but for the next 60 days, that ruling has been suspended. Some are concerned that reusable bags, which customers bring into the store from their homes, could help to spread the novel coronavirus. While good data on the transmission of pathogens via reusable bags is scarce, officials are erring on the side of caution and allowing grocery stores to provide single-use plastic bags to their customers.

Other states with plans to do away with plastic bags, such as Maine and New York, have further delayed their bans until the pandemic is under better control. If you are going to bring in reusable bags with you, it’s best to clean and sanitize them before entering a food store, and to do so again once you’ve returned home.