General COVID-19 FAQ’s
Coronavirus disease (also called COVID-19) is an infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus), one of the most recently discovered types of coronaviruses. Those who have this disease may or may not experience symptoms, which range from mild to severe.
COVID-19 spreads easily from person-to-person, even when an infected person is not showing symptoms. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets containing the virus go into the air. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, exposing them to the virus.
People may also be exposed to COVID-19 by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a surface with the virus on it. Although this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, researchers are still learning more about COVID-19.
Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. The most common symptoms include:
● Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Cases of COVID-19 range from mild to severe. Some people who are infected don’t have any symptoms and don’t feel sick. Most people have mild symptoms. Visit the CDC website for more information about symptoms.
Severe cases are more likely to occur in the following people:
● Older adults (the older you are, the higher your risk for severe illness from COVID-19).
● People of any age with underlying medical conditions.
It is important to note that serious illness can also occur in young, healthy adults. If you have questions about your risk, talk to your healthcare provider. For more information, you can also visit the CDC website.
COVID-19 is very contagious. The risk of getting COVID-19 depends on many factors, including close contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19. It is important to follow your federal, state, and local government guidance to protect yourself from exposure.
There is currently no treatment for COVID-19. Not all patients with COVID-19 will require medical attention, and most people recover within 2 weeks without any specific treatment. For severe cases, hospitalization and respiratory support may be required. For mild cases, treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid situations in which you may be exposed to the virus. Everyday actions can help protect you and prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.
● Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
● Restrict any activities outside your home and maintain a safe distance (around 6 feet) between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding crowded areas, shopping malls, religious gatherings, public transportation, etc.
● Wear simple cloth face coverings in public settings (like grocery stores and pharmacies) where social distancing is difficult, especially in areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
● Stay home when you are sick unless you are seeking medical care.
● Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks).
● Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
● Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
● Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
If you believe you may have COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the following steps can help prevent the disease from spreading to others:
● Stay home except to get medical care
﹣Take care of yourself by getting rest and staying hydrated
﹣Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, may help you feel better
﹣Avoid public areas, including work and school
﹣Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis
﹣Stay in touch with your healthcare provider
● Separate yourself from other people
﹣Stay in a separate room and away from other people and pets in your home
﹣If possible, use a separate bathroom
﹣If you need to be around other people or animals, wear a face-covering
● Cover your nose and mouth
﹣If you are sick, wear a face covering when you are around other people or pets
﹣Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissues in a lined trash can
● Clean your hands often
﹣Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or before eating or preparing food
﹣If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
﹣Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and other people with unwashed hands
● Do not share
﹣Do not share dishes, cups/glasses, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or electronics with other people
﹣After using personal items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher
● Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day
﹣Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your separate “sick room” and bathroom
﹣If possible, wear disposable gloves while cleaning
﹣Someone else should clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas
﹣If a caregiver or someone else needs to clean and disinfect, it should be done on an as-needed basis
﹣Caregivers should wear a face covering and disposable gloves
﹣Clean and disinfect areas that might have blood, stool, or bodily fluids on them
If you think you have been exposed, it is important to closely monitor for symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop severe symptoms, especially if you experience:
● Severe trouble breathing (such as being unable to talk without gasping for air)
● Continuous pain or pressure in your chest
● Feeling confused or having difficulty waking up
● Blue-colored lips or face
● Any other emergency signs or symptoms
If you seek medical attention, be sure to call ahead before visiting the facility. This will help the facility keep other people from possibly getting infected or exposed.
● Tell any healthcare provider that you may have COVID-19.
● Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
● Put on a facemask before you enter any healthcare facility.
Social distancing also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. It includes:
● Staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people
● Not gathering in groups
● Staying out of crowded places and avoiding mass gatherings
Social distancing is one of the best ways to avoid being exposed and to help slow the spread of the virus. It is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it is very important to stay home and limit your interaction with others in your household and in public. If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months, as long as you do not develop symptoms.
● If you have not been tested but may have been exposed to COVID-19, self-monitoring, and self-quarantine is recommended to see if you get sick.
● If you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolation is recommended so that you do not pass the virus to others.
For more information on self-isolation and self-quarantine, click here.
If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 or that you have been exposed to the virus, you should consult your place of work for specific guidance about whether to stay home or continue working.You should adhere to recommendations set forth by your employer or the department of health, as they may differ from the CDC’s guidelines.
Isolation and quarantine are both ways to limit your interaction with others to prevent the spread of disease.
● Isolation is separating individuals with COVID-19 from people who are not sick. Individuals are separated for a period of time until they are no longer infectious.
● Quarantine is separating individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven't been tested. They are separated for a brief period of time (14 days after possible exposure) to see if they develop symptoms.
For more information on self-isolation and self-quarantine, click here.
If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 or that you have been exposed to the virus, you should consult your place of work for specific guidance about whether to stay home or continue working. You should adhere to recommendations set forth by your employer or the department of health, as they may differ from the CDC’s guidelines.
If someone in your household is told to quarantine because they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you should quarantine as well. This is especially true if you’ve been in close contact with that person. It’s possible for you to have the virus even if you don’t have symptoms. Quarantine should last 14 days from your last close contact with this person in order to see whether you develop symptoms. Limit close contact with others as much as possible (stay at least 6 feet apart) and avoid having any unnecessary visitors, especially people who are at high risk of severe illness. You do not need to quarantine if you have had COVID-19 in the last 3 months, have recovered, and do not have symptoms. If you have questions, contact your healthcare provider for additional information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend considering different factors when deciding to stop isolation or quarantine:
●Those who have been infected with COVID-19 should isolate. They may be able to stop isolating once symptoms have improved, and it has been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared. Some symptoms such as loss of taste or smell may last for weeks or months and should not delay ending isolation. Those who have never had symptoms may be able to stop isolating 10 days after testing. However, those who had severe illness from COVID-19, or people with a weakened immune system, may need to isolate longer than 10 days or may require testing to determine when they can be around others.
●Those who have been possibly exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine. They may be able to stop quarantining if they don’t develop symptoms, and it has been at least 14 days after possible exposure. However, those who’ve been possibly exposed to COVID-19 but have already had COVID-19 in the last 3 months, recovered, and do not have symptoms, do not need to quarantine.
Please note that it’s possible for a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stop isolation before someone possibly exposed can stop quarantining
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, please check with your primary healthcare provider or local health department to help determine when it’s right to stop isolation. Typically this is done when fever and symptoms improve and 10 days have passed since symptoms started. Some symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, may last for weeks or months and should not delay ending isolation. If you do not have symptoms, you may be able to stop isolating 10 days after your test was performed. Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing and isolation. For more information, please visit the CDC website.
Reinfection with COVID-19 has not been confirmed in any individual that has recovered. Whether an individual can be reinfected remains unknown and is under investigation. A positive PCR test result during the 90 days after illness started is most likely from the initial infection rather than reinfection. Visit the CDC website for further information
Prolonged viral shedding is what happens when parts of a virus are detectable in a person for a period of time even after they’ve recovered from an illness. For some individuals who had or have COVID-19, the virus may be in their test samples for up to 3 months. Retesting during this time period is not recommended. However, if an individual starts having symptoms consistent withCOVID-19 during this period and other illnesses are ruled out, a healthcare provider or infectious disease expert may consider additional testing. The best available evidence suggests that most individuals who have recovered are likely no longer infectious, but there is not enough evidence at this time to confirm this. If you have questions, contact your healthcare provider for additional information.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that there is a higher burden of illness and death from COVID-19 among certain racial and ethnic minority groups. Based on data from New York City, Black and Hispanic people have more cases of COVID-19, as well as higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 than White and Asian people. More studies are underway to confirm this data and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on these communities.
Whether or not you get infected with COVID-19 depends on a number of factors. The good news is that you can control many of these factors. Visit the CDC website for more information.
Recent data suggest that COVID-19 has a greater impact on certain racial and ethnic minority groups. Health differences are often due to social and economic conditions. In public health emergencies, these conditions can isolate people from the resources they need to prepare for and respond to outbreaks.
Some conditions contribute to a higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19 for certain racial and ethnic minority groups. These conditions include:
● Some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in densely populated areas and have multi-generational households, making it difficult to practice prevention and social distancing.
● Racially segregated and medically underserved neighborhoods are linked to more underlying health conditions. These groups have higher rates of chronic conditions — such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease — that increase the severity of COVID-19.
● Some racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have health insurance and have distrust of the medical system, making them less likely to seek care when they are sick.
● Some racial and ethnic minority groups are critical workers or work jobs where they do not receive paid sick leave, making it more likely they will continue to work even when they are sick.
● Some racial and ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in jails, prisons, and detention centers, which have specific risks due to close living quarters, shared food services, etc.
● Some racial and ethnic minority groups don’t speak English or speak English as a second language, sometimes creating a barrier when it comes to access to care.
Researchers as well as state and federal governments are currently monitoring the number ofCOVID-19 cases, complications, and deaths in minority groups, which will help improve the management of patients, distribution of resources, and public health information.
Additionally, there are many resources available within the community, such as free and low-cost health services, grocery delivery services, and educational materials. Please contact your healthcare provider or local health department for more information.
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid situations in which you may be exposed to the virus. If you or someone you care for is at higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19, take steps to protect them, as well as yourself, from getting sick. These steps include:
● Stay home and follow isolation practices
● Wash your hands often
● Stay away from people you know are sick
● Wear simple cloth face coverings in public settings
COVID-19 can affect pregnant women as well as nonpregnant women. There is not enough evidence at this time to suggest that pregnant women have a higher risk of getting COVID-19. However, studies show that pregnant women may have a higher risk of developing more severe illness. There may also be an increased risk of issues during pregnancy, such as premature birth.
If you’re pregnant and think you may have COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss the next steps in your care. If you’re in labor and think you have COVID-19, call ahead and notify your hospital or birthing center prior to your arrival so that the healthcare professionals at the facility can take proper precautions to protect you, workers, and other patients.
Hospitals and birthing centers should implement proper disease control practices to help control and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Practices should include testing pregnant women or women who have recently given birth who develop symptoms of COVID-19 while in the hospital. These healthcare facilities should limit the number of visitors to pregnant women or women who have recently given birth who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. Visitors should also be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entry.
Based on limited data at this time, people with HIV who are on effective HIV treatment have the same risk for COVID-19 infection as people who do not have HIV. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This includes people who have weakened immune systems. Individuals with HIV are at greater risk of getting very sick if they have a low CD4 cell count or are not on effective HIV treatment.
The best way to prevent getting sick is to avoid exposure to the virus. If you have HIV, its important to continue taking your HIV medicine and follow the advice of your healthcare provider. You should also eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and reduce your stress as much as possible. Staying healthy helps your immune system fight off infection. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, you should also take these everyday preventive actions.
People with HIV have higher rates of certain underlying health conditions. These conditions, as well as older age, can increase the risk for more severe illness if people with HIV get COVID-19. This is especially true for people with advanced HIV.
In addition to following the same recommended safety precautions as everyone else, people with HIV should also take the following steps:
● Keep a 30- to 90-day supply of your HIV medicine on hand, as well as any other medicines or medical supplies you need for managing HIV. Ask your healthcare provider if you can receive your medicine by mail.
● Make sure you get all necessary vaccinations, including seasonal flu and bacterial pneumonia, as these conditions affect people with HIV more often.
● In case you need to isolate, ask your healthcare provider about telemedicine and other remote care options.
● Talk to your healthcare provider about what happens if you do become infected by COVID-19. Make a plan for how you will delay your routine medical and lab visits until follow-up testing and monitoring are possible.
PCR Test FAQs
While waiting for your test results, you should stay home and avoid others to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. Let other members of your household and your immediate contacts know that they should quarantine or get tested. Continue to watch for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) on what to do if you’re sick.
Specifically, you can follow these steps while waiting for your test results:
● Stay home and monitor your health
● Review locations and people you’ve been in contact with in the past two weeks
● Answer the phone call from the health department
The test can show a negative result even if you are infected with COVID-19*. This can happen if:
● It is too soon for the test to detect the virus.
● There was a problem with your sample or the test itself.
No test is 100% accurate at all times.
● If your results are negative and you’re having symptoms, continue to follow isolation precautions and ask your healthcare provider if you need further testing.
● If your results are negative and you don’t have any symptoms, continue to monitor for any symptoms up to 14 days after your last possible exposure.
*Although the possibility is low, a false negative result should be considered if you have had recent exposure to the virus along with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
This test can show a positive result even if you are not infected with COVID-19. This can happen if there was a problem with your sample or the test itself. These tests have been designed to minimize false-positive results. If you are concerned about the accuracy of your results, ask your healthcare provider if you need further testing.
Indeterminate means that the test did not detect a clear positive or negative result. It was unable to accurately detect COVID-19. Your result could be indeterminate if:
● You are infected with COVID-19 but the test was done too early to detect the virus, OR
● There was a problem with the sample you provided or the test itself.
It is recommended that you get retested or see a healthcare provider to discuss your result and confirm the next steps. To get retested, please directly contact the company from which you ordered the test or ask your healthcare provider about testing recommendations.
You should immediately isolate and wear a face mask at all times. You may be contacted by public health authorities for contact tracing purposes. This means that officials will ask you to provide information about your immediate household contacts and anyone else you may have been in contact within case those people should be tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate as well.
Available data indicates that individuals with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms start. How long someone remains infectious varies by individual and depends on the severity of illness. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect people in your home and community, follow these guidelines provided by the Centers for disease control and Prevention (CDC).
Retesting for COVID-19 is not recommended for individuals who have tested positive in the past 3 months. Available data indicates that individuals with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 are no longer infectious 10 days after symptoms start. Individuals with severe or critical illness, as well as those who have a weakened immune system, may remain infectious for up to 20 days after symptoms start. Individuals who have recovered may have detectable virus in their samples for up to 3 months after the start of infection, but may not be infectious during that time. If you have questions, contact your healthcare provider for additional information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that individuals who develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the 3 months after a known infection may need to be retested if another condition cannot be ruled out. Follow up with your healthcare provider or an infectious disease expert for additional information. You may need to self-isolate during this time, especially if you develop symptoms within 14 days after close contact with an infected person.
General Test FAQs
PWNHealth only uses COVID-19 tests that have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). These authorized tests minimize the chance of inaccurate, false positive, or false-negative results. The FDA has found that tests that meet certain standards are of superior quality and have high sensitivity and specificity* (measurements of accuracy).
PWNHealth will not use tests that have been shown to have low sensitivity and specificity. For additional information, please reach out to the lab directly.
*Actual sensitivity and specificity may vary between test manufacturers. A sample that is not properly collected may also result in an inaccurate result.
An antibody test checks to see if you’ve developed antibodies against COVID-19, which occurs after being exposed to the virus. Antibody tests do not show whether a person is currently infected.
PCR tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. It determines if you’ recurrently infected and can spread COVID-19 to others.
You should get an antibody test if you’ve been previously exposed or believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and want to see if you have developed antibodies.
You should get a PCR test if you think you have an active COVID-19 infection
Visit the CDC website for more information.
If you’re currently having symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently been exposed, you should get a molecular PCR test to see if you’re currently infected.
Antibody tests do not show whether a person is currently infected. Therefore, they should not be used in place of a PCR test to diagnose a current infection.
Antibody tests can complement PCR tests by providing information about exposure and how the immune system responds to COVID-19 infections.
There is no test that can tell you when you can visit someone who is at risk for more severe symptoms of COVID-19. Check with your primary healthcare provider or local health department to help determine when the time is right to make such visits. Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing and COVID-19 safety precautions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to grant Emergency Use Authorization(EUA) to diagnostic tests that have not yet received formal approval in times of a public health emergency. The FDA has granted EUA for certain tests during the COVID-19 pandemic to help detect or diagnose COVID-19.
Like full FDA approval, EUA relies on strict standards. However, EUA is completed more quickly based on the limited data that is available, unlike full FDA approval.
For more information, please visit the FDA website.
The antibody tests and the molecular tests (together referred to as “tests”) have not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
The FDA has authorized the use of some tests by certain laboratories under Emergency use authorization (EUA);
The antibody tests have been authorized for the detection of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 only, and not for the detection of any other viruses or pathogens;
The molecular (PCR) tests have been authorized for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 only, and not for the detection of any other viruses or pathogens; and,
Tests are only authorized for as long as the circumstances exist to justify the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for the detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner.
Sensitivity and specificity are different and complementary measures to inform doctors and patients about the accuracy of a test. A good test has both high sensitivity and high specificity.
● Sensitivity is a measure of how well a test is able to detect people who are infected (positive cases). If a person has an infection, a test with 100% sensitivity can accurately detect it with a positive result.
● Specificity is a measure of how well a test can detect people who are NOT infected (negative cases). If a person does not have an infection, a test with 100% specificity can accurately detect it with a negative result.
A positive result that is incorrect is called a false positive. False positives occur when a person tests positive even though they do not have the infection.
A negative result that is incorrect is called a false negative. False negatives occur when a person tests negative even though they do have the infection.
False negatives and positives can worsen the COVID-19 pandemic by providing false reassurance to those who have the infection or by causing those who do not have it to use critical resources.
PWNHealth is required by law to report any positive COVID-19 PCR results to state or local health departments. You may be contacted to discuss who you’ve been in close contact with. It may be helpful to start thinking of the people you were in close contact with, beginning 2 days before your symptoms started (or if no symptoms, 2 days before you had your test taken). If you have additional questions, please contact your local health department or visit the CDC website.