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Frequently Asked Questions


What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people. Others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can spread to people. This happened with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The virus that causes COVID-19 likely also originated in an animal and spread to humans. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is SARS. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. COVID-19 was first identified when it caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2019.

How severe is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As with any newly emerging infectious disease, knowledge about COVID-19 is evolving with time. At this point, it is clear that the virus can pass person-to-person and cause severe disease.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current knowledge of how COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS. Most often, spread of these viruses from person- to-person happens among close contact (within about 6 feet for a prolonged period). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. It is currently unclear if 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. With most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. Research to clarify the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 is ongoing. This information will further inform the risk assessment.

What should I do if I feel sick with a fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing?

  • Seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

How can I help protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection, although scientists at the National Institute of Health reported they are going to take steps towards the development of a vaccine. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What are the treatments for COVID-19?

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

COVID-19 testing is now available at multiple clinical laboratories, if indicated and upon order by your healthcare provider. Walk-ins to our public health clinics will not be accommodated for testing. Visit the OC Health Care Agency's Testing Network Webpage for more information.

What is the current case count?

Cases in the U.S. can be found on the CDC’s website, which are being updated at noon Mondays through Fridays.

Local case count information for Orange County are being updated by 2 p.m., seven days a week on the OC Health Care Agency's website.

Should I be wearing a face covering in public?

All Orange County residents should wear a cloth face covering when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. The primary role of face coverings is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

Should employees at essential businesses be wearing a face covering?

All employees at Orange County essential businesses should wear a face covering while at work when interacting with the public or co-workers.  However, due to the scarcity of critical medical supplies, N95 respirators and surgical masks should not be used except by healthcare workers and first responders.