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Frequently Asked Questions
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people. Previous coronavirus outbreaks have included severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the current risk to the American public of becoming infected with this novel coronavirus. Because this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, the CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available, including any changes in the risk assessment.
How does it spread?
Although we have a lot to learn about this virus, it is currently believed that it spreads like other respiratory viruses- by people with the infection coughing and sneezing. These droplets are inhaled by other people or moved to the eyes, nose or mouth by contaminated hands.
What are the symptoms of this infection?
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include the following:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
If you have returned in the past 14 days from travel to a country with a COVID-19 outbreak or have been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19 AND are experiencing fever and respiratory symptoms (such as fever with coughing or difficulty breathing/shortness of breath), the CDC advises you to seek medical advice and call ahead to your health-care provider or nurse advice line.
Additionally, if you have NOT returned in the past 14 days from travel to a country with a COVID-19 outbreak OR have NOT been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19, but do have fever and respiratory symptoms seek medical advice and call ahead to your health-care provider or nurse advice line. Please do not show up at a clinic, urgent care, emergency room or other health facility without calling first. Your provider will need to take special measures to protect other people in the clinic. Telemedicine may also be available, enabling you to consult a provider from home.
What do I do if I feel sick?
If you develop symptoms — such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath — please take the following steps.
Call your health provider in advance. Please do not show up at a clinic, urgent care or other health facility without calling first. Your provider will need to take special measures to protect other people in the clinic.
We also recommend that anyone returning from a country with a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Notice check in with the secondary NIC contacts, even if you have mild or no symptoms.As noted previously, if you are returning from a country with a COVID-19 outbreak, please also check in with these contacts and stay home for 14 days.
The CDC also advises you to:
- Avoid contact with others and do not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean your hands by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
Stay home from school and work until at least 24 hours after your fever ends. If you must go out of the house or be around others, wear a mask and avoid close contact. Be especially careful around infants and small children as well as people who have compromised immune systems and/or are over the age of 65. If you returned from China in the last 14 days, and your arrival date was February 2 or later, you will have received instructions from the CDC and from the local or state health department. Please follow these instructions. Guidelines for travelers returning from other countries are available from the CDC.
I want to get tested for COVID-19. Where can I go?
Only health care providers can request a test for the virus that causes COVID-19 and those requests must be approved by a county or state public health office. Approvals are based on symptoms and on risk factors such as your travel history or exposure to individuals known to have the disease. For this reason, walk-in testing is not available at any health care facility in the region.
If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, please do not go to a health care provider before calling first. Please follow the directions in the “What do I do if I feel sick?” question if you are ill.
How do I help prevent the spread of viruses, including coronavirus?
You can reduce the risk of spreading coronaviruses by taking the same steps as you would to prevent infection from the flu and the common cold:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for a least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer, with 60-95% alcohol if water is not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately dispose of the used tissue.
Should I wear a mask?
Public health agencies currently do not recommend that people wear masks when they are in public. Additionally, scientists are not sure whether wearing a mask in public actually keeps healthy people from getting sick. It’s most important for people who are sick to wear a mask in a healthcare setting (such as a waiting room) to avoid exposing other people when they cough or sneeze.
Public officials recommend staying home and away from others if you are sick. However, keep in mind that if we see our friends, neighbors or other community members wearing a mask we should not assume that they have been exposed to coronavirus or any other illness. It’s not appropriate to make assumptions about why someone is wearing a mask or to stigmatize or discriminate against people who choose to wear masks.
How should I clean and disinfect communal spaces?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door knobs, tables, keyboards light switches). Use a disinfectant registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a 10% bleach/water solution to clean surfaces. Please avoid putting disinfectant gels or liquids on electronics and other equipment, including elevator buttons, unless they have been indicated as safe to use on those devices.