COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions2020-06-10T21:36:41-07:00

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Coronavirus FAQ

What is a novel virus?2020-06-09T22:56:05-07:00

A novel virus is a new virus that has not been previously identified. COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans that we are aware of already that cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

Why is this disease being called COVID-19?2020-06-09T17:24:33-07:00

There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. The name was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practices for naming of new human infectious diseases.

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced the official name, first identified in Wuhan China. The name is officially the coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. The ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease, and ’19’ for year of discovery.

Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”

Why do state case numbers sometimes differ from CDC or other source’s case numbers?2020-06-09T22:45:44-07:00

The process used for finding and confirming cases displayed by different places may differ.

The CDC’s overall case numbers are validated through a confirmation process that is usually longer than other sources and depends on region.

Why do total case numbers on certain days sometimes go up after the fact?2020-06-09T22:48:03-07:00

Delays in reporting can cause the number of COVID-19 cases reported on previous days to increase. This process is sometimes called “backfill.” Since it takes time to conduct laboratory testing, cases from a previous day may be added to the daily counts days later.

What is the source of COVID-19?2020-06-09T22:52:49-07:00

The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. This occurred with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, and now it is assumed with the COVID-19 virus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. However, the exact source of this virus is unknown.

How does the coronavirus spread from human to human?2020-06-09T22:55:22-07:00

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”). Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Learn more on the CDC’s website about what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.

What does quarantine mean?2020-06-10T17:00:39-07:00

Quarantine means a period of isolation in which people that may have been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are separated from the general population. Quarantine, or self-isolation, is a very effective way to prevent further spread of a disease.

While quarantine means isolation for 40 days in Italian, modern quarantine often is only as long as the incubation period of a disease. In the case of COVID-19, after exposure most people will exhibit symptoms of the disease within 14 days. Receiving doctor’s orders or self-isolating because you have COVID-19 or were exposed to it usually only last 2 weeks.

If someone in quarantine did not get sick during the 14 days, they are not not considered a risk for spreading it further if they contracted it without symptoms. If they did exhibit symptoms in quarantine and recovered, they are also not considered a risk for spreading it further.

Can I contract COVID-19 by eating food?2020-06-10T17:09:44-07:00

Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 through food. It is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, such as from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Before preparing or eating food (and after you cough or sneeze) it is important to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging or a container. However, because of general low survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging. To be safe, unpackage your food items and put the food on a clean plate or in a clean bowl, throw away the bag or container, then wash your hands before cooking or eating your food.

Learn more on what is known about the spread of COVID-19 on the CDC’s website.

Does warm weather stop the spread of COVID-19?2020-06-10T17:14:42-07:00

Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during colder months, but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.

It is not yet known if weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. Investigative studies are ongoing worldwide.

What does “community spread” mean?2020-06-10T17:15:23-07:00

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Can mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects spread COVID-19?2020-06-10T17:17:25-07:00

At this time, the CDC has no data to suggest that COVID-19 or other similar coronaviruses are spread by insects.

The main way that COVID-19 spreads is from person to person through respiratory droplets, such as from sneezing, coughing, and talking.

How many cases are currently in the US and my area?2020-06-10T17:20:47-07:00

COVID-19 case counts for the United States and by state and county are updated regularly online.

See the current U.S. case count of COVID-19.

Should I wear a face mask?2020-06-10T17:33:22-07:00

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports that their use helps stop the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets created when coughing, sneezing, and even talking. Wearing a face mask in public spaces helps stop those droplets from passing between you and others. It is not a total solution, but a complimentary one to social distancing 6 feet from one another and good hygiene such as washing your hands with soap and water regularly.

The CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community settings such as grocery stores, malls, theaters, work, etc, including if they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Note that medical masks such as N-95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.

Can I get COVID-19 from mail, packages, or other deliveries?2020-06-10T17:36:47-07:00

Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is possible but unlikely to widely spread from domestic or international mail, products, or packaging.

If you’re concerned, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling mail or packages.

Are contact lens wearers at higher risk?2020-06-10T18:54:56-07:00

Currently there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers. Contact lens wearers should continue to practice safe contact lens wear and care hygiene habits to help prevent transmission of any contact lens-related infections, such as always washing hands with soap and water before handling lenses.

  • Always use solution to disinfect your contact lenses and case to kill germs that may be present.
  • Hydrogen peroxide-based systems for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses should be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • For other disinfection methods, such as multipurpose solution and ultrasonic cleaners, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to determine efficacy against the virus.
  • Handle your lenses over a surface that has been cleaned and disinfected.
Is my child at higher risk of infection from COVID-19?2020-06-10T18:56:49-07:00

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults.

While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

How can I protect my child from infection?2020-06-10T19:01:00-07:00

Education of proper hygiene and social distancing is the best tool. Encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, cabinet handles, etc).
  • Launder items, including washable plush toys, as appropriate and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the hottest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 a Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities.

Are they symptoms of COVID-19 different in children?2020-06-10T19:03:06-07:00

No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are the same in children and adults.

However, note that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with more mild symptoms than adults.

Symptoms in children and adults include coughing, shortness of breath, and fever.

Should children wear face masks?2020-06-10T19:06:42-07:00

CDC recommends that everyone 2 years and older wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are in public spaces. Face masks should NOT be put on children younger than 2 due to danger of suffocation. Children younger than 2 years of age are listed as an exception as well as anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

Wearing face masks is a public health measure adults and children over 2 should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Face masks should be used in addition to (not instead of) social distancing and proper hygiene.

Medical face masks and N95 respirators are still reserved for healthcare personnel and other first responders.

Can my child hang out with their friends?2020-06-10T19:10:17-07:00

While school is out, children should not have in-person interactions with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household.

Current data suggests children with COVID-19 may have only mild symptoms. However, they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions.

To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, assist your children with supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.

While school is out, will my child have access to meals?2020-06-10T19:12:07-07:00

Check with your school on continued meal services during the school dismissal.

Many schools are keeping school facilities open to allow families to pick up meals or are providing grab-and-go meals at a central location.

How do I keep my children healthy, physically and mentally?2020-06-10T19:17:41-07:00
  • Watch your child for any signs of illness.
    • If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider and keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow CDC’s guidance on “What to do if you are sick.”
  • Watch for signs of stress in your child.
  • Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions.
    • Parents and caretakers play an important role in teaching children to wash their hands. Explain that hand washing can keep them healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others.
    • Be a good role model—if you wash your hands often, they’re more likely to do the same.
    • Make handwashing a family activity.
  • Help your child stay active.
    • Encourage your child to play outdoors—it’s great for physical and mental health. Take a walk with your child or go on a bike ride.
    • Use indoor activity breaks (stretch breaks, dance breaks) throughout the day to help your child stay healthy and focused.
  • Help your child stay socially connected.
    • Reach out to friends and family via phone or video chats.
    • Write cards or letters to family members they may not be able to visit.
    • Check to see if your school has tips and guidelines to help support social and emotional needs of your child.

Some schools and non-profits also have resources for social and emotional learning, such as the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learningexternal iconexternal icon and The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligenceexternal iconexternal icon.

Can my family visit our older family members?2020-06-10T20:16:14-07:00

Older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions are at highest risk of getting sick from COVID-19. Consider postponing visits or trip to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters.

If you are unable to stay home with your child during school dismissals, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care, like an older adult or grandparent or someone with a serious underlying medical condition, limit your children’s contact with other people.

What can I do if my child or I have an underlying medical condition?2020-06-10T20:31:30-07:00

People chronic medical conditions, including children with physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional differences, are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Although most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, some data on children reported that the majority who needed hospitalization for COVID-19 had at least one underlying medical condition. The most common underlying conditions reported among children with COVID-19 include asthma, heart disease, and conditions that weaken the immune system. This information suggests that children with these underlying medical conditions may be at risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.

In addition to following the recommendations to prevent getting sick and running essential errands, families at higher risk should take extra steps:

  • Identify potential alternative caregivers that are not at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 themselves.
  • Obtain at least one month of medication and medical supplies. Some health plans allow for a 90-day supply of prescription medications. Speak with your healthcare provider about extra medication and supplies.
  • Review any care plans for your child, such as an asthma action plan, and make sure caregivers and backup caregivers are familiar with these plans.
  • Learn if your child’s healthcare providers, including doctors and therapists, have new ways to be contacted or new ways of providing appointments. If they offer telemedicine visits, find out how those are arranged and any additional information you need.
  • Discuss your support care agencies and how their providers are minimizing risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Ask your support caregivers to:
    • wear a face mask at all times. Their cloth face covering helps protect you if they are infected but do not have symptoms.
    • wash their hands with soap and water often, especially before and after interacting with your child. Provide hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol around your home.
    • regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces they use and touch, such as tables, countertops, doorknobs, changing stations, faucets, sinks, etc.
    • routinely disinfect any equipment, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, oxygen tanks and tubing, communication boards, and other assistive devices.
What do I do if someone in my home catches COVID-19?2020-06-10T20:43:55-07:00
If you have any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 911 immediately:
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before medical help arrives.

If you’re mildly sick, especially with a fever or cough, and think you might have COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover at home.

  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide your sick household member with face masks to wear at home, if available, to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.
  • Clean the sick room and bathroom, as needed, to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, food, and drinks.

This is not an exhaustive list. If you’re sick, self-isolation is key, even from your own household members so that they don’t contract it too.

What should I do if there’s an outbreak in my community?2020-06-10T20:54:08-07:00

First, stay calm and put your preparedness plan to work.

  • Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation. Check in with your local and state officials via their website’s for the most up to date information.
  • Continue practicing everyday preventive actions. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily using a regular household detergent and water.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Notify your workplace as soon as possible that you may have had contact with COVID-19. Ask to work from home or take leave for up to 14 days or more.
  • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. If you have a chronic medical condition or live alone, ask family, friends, and health care providers to check in on you. Stay in touch with family and friends, especially those at increased risk of developing severe illness, such as older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions.

Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

Can the CDC tell us when it’s safe to return to work or school after recovery from COVID-19?2020-06-10T21:03:38-07:00

The CDC cannot address the policies of any business or organization. CDC shares recommendations based on the best available science to help people make decisions that improve their health and safety. Employers, schools, and organizations are allowed to screen for symptoms or perform on-site symptom checks.

In all cases, follow the guidance of your primary healthcare provider and local health department. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.

Who is at higher risk of infection from COVID-19?2020-06-10T21:08:47-07:00

Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. It is our duty to keep these people safe by practicing social distancing, proper hygiene, and wearing a face mask in public spaces if possible.

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • People aged 65 years and older.
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
    • People with chronic lung disease or asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised in another way, such as smokers, cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplant recipients, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV/AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥40)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease
What should I do if I’m at higher risk?2020-06-10T21:12:40-07:00

If you are at higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick
  • Limit close contact and wash your hands often
  • Avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential travel
  • Work from home, if possible
  • Have your groceries delivered, if possible

This is not an exhaustive list. Talk to your primary care physician for more ideas on how to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Are there any medications I should avoid taking?2020-06-10T21:23:46-07:00

Currently, there is no evidence to show that taking ibuprofen or naproxen leads to a higher infection rate or a more severe infection of COVID-19.

People with high blood pressure should take their blood pressure medications, as directed, and work with their healthcare provider to make sure that their blood pressure is as well controlled as possible.

Any changes to your medications should only be made by your healthcare provider.

Should I avoid contact with my pet if I am sick with COVID-19?2020-06-10T21:26:57-07:00

It appears that COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations, but not from animals back to people.

Until we learn more about COVID-19, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick, just like you would with people, if possible. If you are sick, avoid:

  • Petting
  • Snuggling
  • Being licked
  • Sharing food
  • Sharing bedding

If you can, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a cloth face mask.