Navigating COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

What to Know About the Coronavirus

The health and well-being of our employees is one of Starkey's top priorities, and we are committed to providing a safe environment and wellness offerings.

As an employee, you may have questions on the coronavirus (COVID-19). We have proactively organized resources to ensure the people of Starkey are well informed and know we are monitoring updates from the CDC. Like the flu or pneumonia, the coronavirus is serious, but should not cause panic.

Since this virus was discovered, we have been actively working to plan for the effect this virus could have on our employees, as well as its potential impact on our business. We also sat down with Chief Health Officer Archelle Georgiou, MD, for an insightful Q&A.

Q: What is a “novel” coronavirus and what does it mean?

A: Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a wide range of disease. The most common coronaviruses cause the common cold. Others, like SARS, cause more serious illness. A “novel” coronavirus is a new type of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans, and this current outbreak is due to a new coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) but is being referred to as COVID-19.

The challenge with any novel virus, including COVID-19, is that our immune systems have not been previously exposed to it, so we have little or no natural immunity. And, since it’s new, there is no public health history regarding how the virus behaves, spreads or responds to existing anti-viral treatments.

Here is an additional explanation about coronaviruses from the CDC:

Q: Who is most at risk if they do get exposed to coronavirus?

A: This week, the medical journal JAMA published an analysis of data of 72,314 cases of COVID-19 cases in mainland China. This is the largest such sample we have and offers the latest insight to the virus and who it affects. Here’s what we know:

  • The highest risk of infection is in those who are aged 30 and older. In fact, 90% of patients were age 30 and older and only 2% of patients were 19 or younger.
  • The risk was highest in people with pre-existing chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cancer. This isn’t surprising since the virus can cause pneumonia and individuals with heart, lung or immune conditions are more vulnerable.
  • The overall mortality rate was 2.3% and the risk of death increased with age. Again, not surprising. But they also observed that men were at higher risk of dying than women. It’s unclear why.

Q: How bad is this outbreak really? Is the media making this out to be worse than it really is?

A: COVID-19 is serious but should not cause panic. Here are some facts to put this outbreak into perspective:

  • The overall mortality rate for COVID-19 is 2.3%. This is significantly higher than the rate for influenza which is about 0.15%. However, it’s much lower than the 15% mortality rate for measles or the 50% rate for Ebola.
  • There are currently 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 virus in the United States. Compare this to 16,934 confirmed cases of influenza in the most recent week. Based on these statistics and the mortality rates for each virus, 1–2 people will die of COVID-19 and 26 will die of influenza.

Q: Do face masks help prevent coronavirus infections?

A: Two major studies concluded that when used correctly AND paired with regular handwashing, masks are highly effective in preventing the spread of viral infections. In these studies, family members of children with flu-like illnesses who used the masks properly were 70–80 %less likely to be diagnosed with the illness. Improper wear and fit make them ineffective and could be more harmful than not wearing them at all since they could cause you to touch your face, which is the number one way to get sick.

However, the CDC does not recommend using a face mask as a routine precaution for influenza or COVID-19.

Q: What is the chance of COVID-19 becoming a big problem in the US?

A: The honest answer is that the spread of COVID-19 in the US is not a question of if – but when. According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, the spread of COVID-19 in the US is “very possible, even likely.” However, keep in mind that 88% of cases are mild.

Q: How do I know if I have a regular cold, the flu (influenza), or COVID-19?

A: Influenza and coronaviruses (including those that cause the common cold and COVID-19) have similar symptoms but the risk of catching influenza in the US is far greater at this time. While you should call your doctor if you are concerned, here are some symptoms that help differentiate between these conditions:

  • Influenza: Intense symptoms come on suddenly and include fever higher than 101.5 degrees, extreme fatigue, muscle and body aches, dry cough and chills.
  • Common Cold: The earliest signs of a cold are usually a sore or irritated throat followed by a runny nose, congestion and sneezing. Symptoms may also include a mild headache, chills or fatigue and low-grade fever with symptoms lasting for 2–4 days.
  • COVID-19: Early symptoms are similar to the common cold but, in patients that have more severe infections, the symptoms progress and include a higher fever, worsening cough, and shortness of breath.

Q: Is there anything I can do to protect me and my family?

A: The most effective way to protect yourself and others against colds, influenza and COVID-19 is to frequently wash your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a 3-foot distance from those who are coughing or sneezing.