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Does the virus live on my pet's fur? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we’re also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and News Network.

From your animal’s fur to eligibility for financial help, here's what you’re asking us today

Concerns over whether pets can carry the coronavirus were raised when a dog in Hong Kong initially tested positive. However, the canine was later retested and received a negative result for COVID-19. (Submitted by Leslie Lambert via AP)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and News Network.

So far we've received thousands of emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking, including a number of questions about mental health and whether pets can transmit the virus, including this question from Karen C.

Can pets carry the virus on their fur? Is it safe to have someone else take my pet while I am on shift, or is that exposing them to everything I get exposed to at work?

The World Health Organization says there is no evidence that pets can be infected with COVID-19. 

However, a dog in Hong Kong, with an infected owner, was tested in late February, and received a "weak positive" result. The dog then tested negative for the virus in early March. The 17-year-old animal later died, but vets in Hong Kong believe the stress and anxiety of being under quarantine was a contributing factor. 

Some of our emails about pets also include questions about whether the virus can survive on fur. Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist in Edmonton, says it's possible, but only if there's a substantial amount of the virus on the hands of the pet owner. 

"We wouldn't expect that much virus to transfer from fur, so beyond usual precautions I wouldn't worry about it," she says. 

What are the precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19? Remember to cover your mouth with a tissue, sleeve or upper elbow if you cough or sneeze, wash your hands regularly, wear masks if you have symptoms, and stay inside as much as possible.

I have reduced hours. When can I apply for the canada emergency response benefit? Or do I get the 75% subsidy straight through my employer without me applying?

Unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic? We are receiving hundreds of questions from Canadians including Scott P. about how to navigate federal programs offering financial assistance.

So far, the government has said its wage support program — the Canada emergency wage subsidy or CEWS — will cover up to 75 per cent of salaries for businesses so they can keep workers on the payroll. It would be something your employer would have to apply for, if they're eligible

As for the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), it is only for people who have no income as a result of COVID-19. 

It is specifically for those who are at least 15 years old and who:

  • Earned at least $5,000 in the last year.

  • Are without income for at least 14 consecutive days because of COVID-19, because they have temporarily stopped working, lost their jobs, are sick or in quarantine, or need to care for a child or a family member.

Canadians can begin applying for CERB on April 6 through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, and the government has said the funds will flow in about 10 days. 

It's important to note that people who already have applied for employment insurance (EI) do not have to reapply for CERB. 

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the government is also looking for ways to fill the gaps that remain for others, such as people who are facing a reduction in income.

You can read more about accessing these benefits and other supports and learn more about recent updates to the emergency aid measures

As a university student, do any of the EI options apply to us?

The personal finance questions keep coming, including this one from Karen A. in Calgary. Qualifying for Employment Insurance depends on a lot of things, but if you're working and lose your job, you might be eligible. Students who don't qualify for EI might be eligible for emergency funds through CERB. There's also an increased child tax benefit for students under 18. 

The federal government also announced a six-month moratorium on student loan repayments. You can search the National Student Loans Services website to see what your province is offering in terms of additional repayment relief.

For students who don't qualify for either EI or CERB, student unions across the country are working to open up emergency funds that students can apply for. 

Jessica Revington, president of the Students' Union at the University of Calgary, says students can apply for money to help with essentials through the Students' Union Hardship Fund. You can learn more here. The University of PEI and the University of Regina have set up similar emergency funds for housing, food, technology, medical care, and other issues.

What can we do to keep our hands clean if we don't have access to hand sanitizer while running errands? 

As hand sanitizer becomes increasingly hard to find on store shelves, many Canadians, including Geoff K., are wondering what to do?

Proper hygiene is key to reducing the risk of infection, and hand washing really, really works. All it takes is 20 seconds, and a little soap and water. Alcohol-based sanitizer is also an option, if you're out and about. 

Here's a first-hand look at how germs are transmitted, and how to wash them off.

Health Canada posted a list of safe hand sanitizers  for use against COVID-19. Public health officials caution Canadians not to try making your own hand sanitizer at home. Alyson Kelvin, a member of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, says, "Doing so could be unsafe and will produce an ineffective product."  She says you don't want "anyone making up their homemade hand sanitizers that might have a component that's going to lead to some kind of toxic reaction on their hands." 

Learn more about safely disinfecting your home and car here.

We're also answering your questions every night on The National.  Watch below:

Finance experts answer viewer questions about coping during the COVID-19 pandemic including whether small businesses should take on debt with uncertain times ahead. 7:37

Thursday we answered questions about microwaves and freezers. Read here.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

With files from Saman Malik

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