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Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus

What should you do if you think you’re sick?

Call ahead: If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and may have had contact with a person with COVID-19, or recently traveled to countries with apparent community spread, call your health care provider before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Typically, human coronaviruses cause mild-to-moderate respiratory illness. Symptoms are very similar to the flu, including:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath

COVID-19 can cause more severe respiratory illness.

What if I have symptoms?

Patient: If a person develops symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath, and has reason to believe they may have been exposed, they should call their health care provider before seeking care. Contacting them in advance will make sure that people can get the care they need without putting others at risk. Please be sure to tell your health care provider about your travel history. You can also take the following precautionary measures: avoid contact with sick individuals, wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Health Care Provider: Patients who may have infection with this novel coronavirus should wear a surgical mask and be placed in an airborne infection isolation room. If an airborne infection isolation room is not available, the patient should be placed in a private room with the door closed. Health care providers should use standard, contact and airborne precautions and use eye protection. Please see “Update and Interim Guidance on Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China” for more information about infection control. The Public Health Department will issue All Facility Letters to regulated healthcare facilities within California with updated information and guidance; these can be found on the AFL webpage.

How can people protect themselves?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This occurs 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. Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Every person has a role to play. So much of protecting yourself and your family comes down to common sense:

    • Washing hands with soap and water.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
    • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
    • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
    • Staying away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
    • Following guidance from public health officials.

Please consult with your health care provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.

Who is at Higher Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19?

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

    • Older adults (65+)
    • Individuals with compromised immune systems
    • Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
      • Heart disease
      • Diabetes
      • Lung disease

If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or health condition, it is important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease, including:

      • Isolate at home and practice social distancing.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
      • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
      • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay away from large gatherings and crowds.
      • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks.

It is also important that you listen to public health officials who may recommend community actions to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19, especially if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

For more information visit the CDC’s website.

What if I don’t have health insurance and I need screening or treatment for COVID19?

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization. For patients who are more severely ill, hospitals can provide supportive care. We are continuing to learn more about this novel coronavirus and treatment may change over time.

How is it decided whether a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can self-isolate at home or must be confined to a hospital or elsewhere?

Local health departments are working in partnership with the California Department of Public Health and the CDC, and making determinations on whether a person ill with COVID-19 requires hospitalization or if home isolation is appropriate. That decision may be based on multiple factors including severity of illness, need for testing, and appropriateness of home for isolation purposes.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and other coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are some coronaviruses that commonly circulate in humans. These viruses cause mild to moderate respiratory illness, although rarely they can cause severe disease. COVID-19 is closely related to two other animal coronaviruses that have caused outbreaks in people—the SARS coronavirus and the MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome) coronavirus.

Is California able to test for COVID-19?

Twenty-two public health labs in California are testing samples for COVID-19. These labs include the California Department of Public Health’s Laboratory in Richmond, Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey, Napa-Solano-Yolo-Marin (located in Solano), Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sonoma, Tulare and Ventura County public health laboratoriesThe Richmond Laboratory will provide diagnostic testing within a 48-hour turnaround time. More public health labs will soon be able to test samples for COVID-19. This means California public health officials will get test results sooner, so that patients will get the best care.

If a person develops symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough or shortness of breath, and has reason to believe they may have been exposed, they should call their health care provider before seeking care.

Should public events be cancelled?

To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health has determined that all non-essential gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until further guidance is issued by the California Department of Public Health.  This includes gatherings such as concerts, conferences, sporting events, gyms and theaters.  Bars, night clubs, wineries, breweries and wine tasting rooms should close. Restaurants should be closed for in-restaurant seated dining and should be open only to drive-through or other pick-up/delivery options.  Certain activities are essential to the functioning of our state and must continue.  Hence, this does not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, shopping at a store, mall, or farmers’ market, or charitable food pantries and distributions.

Is it safe to go to restaurants and bars?

California public health officials have directed bars, night clubs, breweries and wine tasting rooms to close. Restaurants should focus on food delivery and takeout while maximizing social distancing for those who are inside their restaurant.

For more information, see the Food, Beverage and Other Services Guidance (PDF).

What is Social Distancing? 

Social distancing is a practice recommended by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of contagious diseases. It requires the creation of physical space between individuals who may spread certain infectious diseases. The key is to minimize the number of gatherings as much as possible and to achieve space between individuals when events or activities cannot be modified, postponed, or canceled. Achieving space between individuals of approximately six feet is advisable. Additionally, there is a particular focus on creating space between individuals who have come together on a one-time or rare basis and who have very different travel patterns such as those coming from multiple countries, states or counties.

For more information, see the Gathering Guidance (PDF).

Should I wear a mask?

The California Department of Public Health, along with the CDC, does not recommend that healthy people wear masks at this time. However, masks are recommended to limit the spread of disease for people who are exhibiting respiratory symptoms.

What should I do if I am unable to work after being exposed to COVID-19?

Individuals who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim.

Disability Insurance provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 – $1,300 a week.

Californians who are unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim.

Paid Family Leave provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligibile workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week.

For more information related to resources for California’s Employers and Workers, please visit this Labor and Workforce Development Agency webpage. 

What is the state doing to protect our health? 

California has been actively and extensively planning with our local public health and health care delivery systems.

Here are some of the actions California is taking to combat COVID-19:

  • California activated the State Operations Center and the Medical and Health Coordination Center to coordinate response efforts across the state.
  • California is coordinating with federal and local partners, hospitals and physicians to prepare and respond to COVID-19.
  • Governor Newsom signed emergency legislation providing up to $1 billion in funding to help California fight COVID-19.
  • California made available some of its emergency planning reserves of 21 million N95 filtering facepiece masks for use in certain health care settings to ease shortages of personal protective equipment.
  • The state’s public health experts are providing information, guidance documents, and technical support to local health departments, health care facilities, providers, schools, universities, colleges, elder care and congregate living facilities and childcare facilities across California.
  • The Governor signed an executive order to ensure vital goods can be delivered to California retailers in a timely manner during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The Governor issued an executive order to ensure Californians who rely on Medi-Cal, CalFresh, CalWORKS, Cash Assistance for immigrants & in-home supportive services will not lose access due to COVID-19.
  • The Governor issued an executive order to ensure schools retain state funding even in the event of a COVID-19 physical closure.
  • California obtained approval to provide meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus.
  • The state directed mass gatherings be postponed or cancelled to slow the spread of the virus.
  • The Franchise Tax Board is providing a 90-day extension to file California tax returns for taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Caltrans launched a statewide educational campaign on more than 700 electronic highway signs, urging all Californians to be more diligent about containing the spread of the virus.
  • The state is allowing local and state legislative bodies to hold meetings via conference calls while still meeting state transparency requirements.
  • The California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency released guidance for homeless assistance providers in the state.
  • California is deploying massive resources to get individuals experiencing homelessness safely into shelter, removing regulatory barriers and securing trailers and hotels to provide immediate housing options for those most at risk.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles is allowing customers to avoid coming into the DMV office for 60 days so that at-risk populations can avoid required visits and practice social distancing.
  • California Volunteers created a resource page for how Californians can safely help their communities during COVID-19.
  • The Department of Food and Agriculture published a resource page for the agricultural sector.
  • The Governor issued an executive order authorizing local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners, slows foreclosures, and protects against utility shutoffs for Californians affected by COVID-19.
  • The Governor issued an executive order to protect the health and safety of Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19 residing at health care, residential and non-residential facilities licensed by the state.
  • The California Department of Public Health is coordinating with federal authorities and local health departments that have implemented screening, monitoring and, in some cases, quarantine of returning travelers.
  • In coordination with state and local health departments, California has actively managed suspect and confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients.
  • We are supporting hospitals and local public health laboratories in collection and testing for COVID-19.
  • 24 million more Californians are now eligible for free medically necessary COVID-19 testing.
  • The state is piloting screening and testing sites for high risk individuals in partnership with Verily.
  • The state requested a waiver from the federal government to make it easier for California to quickly and effectively provide care to about 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
  • The state issued guidance for vulnerable Californians – older residents (65+) and those with underlying health conditions – to isolate at home.
  • The state is providing safe, wrap around services to vulnerable residents who are isolating at home – ramping up existing meal delivery and home visiting services.
  • The California Employee Development Department (EDD) is encouraging individuals who are unable to work due to exposure to COVID-19 to file a Disability Insurance claim.
  • Californians unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member can file a Paid Family Leave claim.
  • The Governor removed the waiting period for unemployment and disability insurance for Californians who lose work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • EDD is encouraging employers who are experiencing a slowdown in their businesses or services as a result of the Coronavirus impact on the economy to apply for an Unemployment Insurance work sharing program.
  • The state secured SBA disaster assistance for California small businesses economically impacted by COVID-19.
  • California launched a consumer-friendly website and public service announcements to boost COVID-19 awareness.
  • The Governor declared a State of Emergency to make additional resources available, formalize emergency actions already underway across multiple state agencies and departments, and help the state prepare for broader spread of COVID-19.
  • The Governor issued a stay-at-home order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians and slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Governor placed the National Guard on alert to support COVID-19 community readiness.
  • The state requested federal assistance to supplement California’s efforts to prepare for a COVID-19 surge.
  • Governor Newsom requested immediate deployment of the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to the Port of los Angeles to decompress the state’s health care delivery system in Los Angeles.
  • The California Department of Public Health’s state laboratory in Richmond and 21 other public health department laboratories now have tests for the virus that causes COVID-19.