Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Basics | COVID-19 Prevention | COVID-19 and Children

COVID-19 Basics

What is Coronavirus?Emotional Support Helpline
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause mild illnesses like a cold, to more serious illnesses like pneumonia. The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new rapidly spreading coronavirus (or respiratory illness) that can take 2-14 days to appear after exposure. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health (DOH) require a quarantine period of 14 days after exposure to a confirmed case or travel to the U.S. from a country with a large outbreak.

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 including older adults, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

How does COVID-19 spread and what are the symptoms?
COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, which means to become infected, people generally must be within six feet of someone who is contagious and come into contact with these droplets. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

If you have any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and/or bluish lips or face.
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:
• The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
• The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
• The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?
If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including refrigerated or frozen food?
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer.

How is COVID-19 treated?
There is currently no FDA approved medication for COVID-19. People infected with this virus should receive supportive care such as rest, fluids and fever control, to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

COVID-19 Prevention

Is there a vaccine?
Currently, there is no vaccine available.

How can I protect myself and others from Coronavirus?
Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
Do not shake hands. Instead wave or elbow bump.
Monitor your heath more closely than usual for cold or flu symptoms.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Get the flu shot. Although the flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, it will help prevent the flu which has similar symptoms to this coronavirus.
Do not go to travel ban countries. Click here for the latest information on the Coronavirus and travel.
Store water, food, medications and other essentials. Create a household plan of action in case of illness in the household or disruption of daily activities due to COVID-19 in the community. Consider a 2-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food, water and other essentials.
Stay updated. For the latest information on COVID-19 visit the NY Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention websites.

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
The CDC provides guidance for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 here.

Should I wear a facemask? Will that help protect me?
If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.

If you are not sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

COVID-19 and Children

What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?
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. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on CDC’s current Risk Assessment page.

Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than in adults?
No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs.

How can I protect my child from COVID-19 infection?
You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.
• Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing)
• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
• Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.