Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 5/21/21

Overview and Symptoms

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  • What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19?)

    A new (novel) coronavirus that was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December of 2019.

  • What is COVID-19?

    On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced COVID-19 as the official name of the disease responsible for causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. The breakdown of the name COVID-19 is “CO” for corona, “VI” for virus, “D” for disease, and “-19” for 2019.

  • What is the source of the COVID-19 virus?

    Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animal species, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. On rare occasions, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people. Genetic analysis of this virus indicates it originated in bats, but whether the virus jumped directly from bats to humans or whether there was an intermediary animal host is not yet known.

    Learn More

  • What are the symptoms?

    Not everyone with COVID-19 develops symptoms. Amongst those with COVID-19,  a wide range of symptoms have been reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

    Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with any of the following symptoms may have COVID-19:

    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    This is not an all-inclusive list. Visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date list of symptoms.

  • How does the COVID-19 virus spread?

    Person-to-person spread (through respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks) is believed to be the main way the COVID-19 virus is spreading – between people who are in close contact with one another (6 feet/2 meters or less for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24 hour period). 

    Airborne transmission of COVID-19 may also be possible under certain conditions. There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away. These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.

    Contact with Infected Surfaces or Objects – It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

    Learn more

  • Can someone catch COVID-19 twice (recover from COVID-19 and then catch it again)?

    Recent evidence suggests that reinfection is possible but is not common.

    Learn more

  • What is an outbreak of COVID-19?

    Outbreaks of contagious disease (such as COVID-19) generally consist of multiple cases of the disease in the same setting over a certain period of time. The precise definition of an outbreak depends on the disease involved and other factors. Below are definitions of COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate/residential and community settings. See our Triggers Dashboard for information about current outbreaks in San Diego County.  


    • In residential congregate settings such as dormitories, group homes, boarding houses, overnight camps, barracks, shelters, jails or prisons:
      • At least three probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period in epidemiologically-linked residents and/or staff.
    • In non-residential congregate settings, e.g., workplaces, adult and child daycare facilities, K-12 schools and colleges/universities:
      • At least three probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period in people who are epidemiologically-linked in the setting, are from different households, and are not identified as close contacts of each other in any other case investigation.
    • For large congregate non-healthcare, non-workplace settings (e.g., 100 or more persons in a potential risk cohort), particularly those in jurisdictions with widespread community transmission, local health departments may determine that a higher absolute or proportional (e.g., 5% or 10%) number of cases may be appropriate for defining an outbreak.

    CONGREGATE/RESIDENTIAL SETTINGS (such as skilled nursing facilities, retirement homes, senior care centers, and shelters)

    A congregate setting outbreak is when two or more cases (residents and/or employees) with COVID-19 acute respiratory illness (ARI) with symptom onset within 14-days of each other and at least one case is laboratory-confirmed for COVID-19.

  • How are outbreaks identified?

    We interview all cases about their activities during the two weeks prior to their illness onset. They may mention places they worked, shopped, visited, went to church, attended a gathering, etc.  They also let us know about any known contact they may have had with an individual who is ill. Sometimes a common location is very easy to identify, such as when a person states that several other people at the workplace are sick are known close contacts and we confirm if these people/coworkers also have COVID and are from different households. 

    Other times, it may be that a person mentions a place and two other people unknown to that person mention having visited the same place within a 14 day period. We then look into that location to see if it could be possible that transmission could occur at the site.  This involves looking at a business plan, possibly a site visit, further interviews, etc.  If it is possible as a transmission location, we work with those at the site to minimize any ongoing risk, and will list the location as a confirmed outbreak site.  If it is deemed that there is an on-going, active threat to public health and there is an action the public needs to take to protect themselves, we will make public the location of outbreaks—as illustrated recently when we made public our work with SDSU to mitigate their outbreak.

    Another example might be the identification of a primary case, close contacts at a site are identified, then secondary cases occur, and we are able to draw a direct line between the cases, and if they are not in the same household and the connection between the cases is at a specific site, we would identify that site as a community outbreak location.

    Being included on the outbreak list as the site of an outbreak does not necessarily mean any one person actually contracted illness at the site, only that our surveillance definition of an outbreak location has been met (three lab-confirmed positive cases from different household visiting within a 14-day period). With more than 95-percent of COVID cases not related to a community outbreak, it is import to note that community transmission is wide-spread and that non-pharmaceutical interventions like wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, maintaining a physical distance of at least 6-feet and washing your hands remain some of the best tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Why does the County not disclose the location of outbreaks?

    The County will only identify a specific location if there is an ongoing risk to public health. For example, in the past there has been instances of e-coli contamination and cases of Tuberculosis where public health was threatened and the health officer identified the specific location. In the instance of COVID-19 outbreaks, none have been determined to be an ongoing threat to the public health. If it is deemed that there is an on-going, active threat to public health and there is an action the public needs to take to protect themselves, we will make public the location of outbreaks—as illustrated recently when we made public our work with SDSU to mitigate their outbreak.

    Another consideration is we don’t want businesses and others to be reluctant to come forward to report. If businesses are called out in a manner that they feel is punitive, other businesses are less likely to be upfront about concerns related to potential outbreaks in the future, thereby impacting both the ability to trace and efforts to combat COVID and other infectious diseases.

    Moreover, while State licensing agencies have been able to provide this specific type of data, the County’s Public Health Officer is not able to do so. Information publicly disclosed by the Public Health Officer regarding communicable disease investigations must be de-identified to prevent it from being linked to a particular individual. (Title 17, Section 2502 (f)(3) of the California Code of Regulations.) Providing this sort of information has the potential to lead to either the identification of physical residential or work addresses of people who have contracted a disease, which would too closely link the disclosure to particular individuals.  Under Government Code section 6254 (k), the Public Health Officer may not provide these addresses in response to a Public Records Act request.

Risk of Infection and Serious Illness

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Testing and Treatment

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  • How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

    There are two types of tests:

    • Diagnostic tests, and
    • Antibody tests

    A diagnostic test shows if you have an active coronavirus infection. Molecular tests, like PCR tests, and antigen tests, are both diagnostic tests.

    Antibody tests look for the antibodies your immune system produced in response to an infection. These tests do not tell you when you had the infection, and therefore cannot be used to diagnose coronavirus.

    Learn more

  • Do I need to get tested?

    To align with the Federal and State testing priorities, San Diego County has released local guidance on testing priorities. These priorities use a tiered approach to take into account current testing capacity/availability and are subject to changes in the future, as new information is known and conditions change.

    The highest priority for the County of San Diego testing sites remains to test groups and individuals with COVID-19 infection symptoms, followed by asymptomatic people in high-risk groups or settings.

    Information about groups prioritized for testing can be found on our testing pagePlease see our flowchart about COVID-19 Symptoms Requiring Testing.

    Call your healthcare provider to determine if you have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and if you should get tested—If you do not have a healthcare provider or are uninsured, call 2-1-1 for assistance or to be referred to a free County of San Diego testing site.  

    Learn more

  • Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

    Health plans are required to cover COVID-19 tests at no cost to the enrollee. It is recommended that you first contact your healthcare provider for a COVID-19 test.

    If you are unable to get a test from your healthcare provider, the County of San Diego (County) has over 50 free COVID-19 testing sites throughout the region. Results generally come back in approximately 3 days. Find a free testing site or call 2-1-1.

    Learn more

  • Can my child get tested for COVID-19?

    Most children, youth, and their caregivers can receive testing through the COVID-19 Collaborative for Children in partnership with Rady Children's Hospital. Contact your Rady pediatrician or e-mail for more information. 

    Children, youth and caregivers covered by Kaiser Permanente should consult with their pediatrician or physician provider directly, or through

    If you are unable to get a test for your child or youth from your healthcare provider, children 6 months old and older are able to be tested at any County test site. Find a free testing site or call 2-1-1.

  • What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

    Stay home except to get medical care and/or testing.

    If you are feeling sick with COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your healthcare provider for medical advice. Testing is widely available and often recommended.

    Read the Home Isolation Instructions for COVID-19 and Health Officer Isolation Order to help protect other people in your home and community.

    Please see our flowchart about COVID-19 Symptoms Requiring Testing.

    If you do not have a healthcare provider or health insurance, call 2-1-1 to for assistance or to be referred to a County of San Diego testing site.

    Learn more

  • I feel sick, but don't have health insurance. How can I get help?

    If you need help finding medical care, call 2-1-1, which is available 24/7 to refer you to your closest community health clinic.

    If you are having difficulty breathing or keeping fluids down, go to an emergency room or call 911 right away.

  • I feel sick but I don’t think my employer offers paid sick leave and I can’t afford to take off work. What should I do?

    You don’t have to be diagnosed with coronavirus/COVID-19 to take a paid sick day. You may be able to use Paid Sick Leave for prevention if you or a family member have been exposed to the virus. Visit the California Employment Development Department’s website to learn more about your eligibility for paid sick leave during this time.

    The County can provide a stipend of $1,000, in the form of a paper check, for employed individuals who are confirmed COVID-19 positive and not otherwise eligible for paid time-off or State unemployment benefits. This one-time stipend will provide assistance to those who should stay home during the required isolation period. Learn more about the County of San Diego’s COVID-19 Positive Recovery Stipend Program.

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

    If a medical professional certifies that you are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19, you can file a disability insurance claim. More information

    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 to 70% of wages depending on income and range from $50 to $1,300 a week.

    If you are a Californian and a medical professional certifies you are unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, you can file a paid family leave claim.

    Paid family leave provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible 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 to 70% of wages depending on income and range from $50 to $1,300 a week.

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

  • What will happen if I get sick?

    Call your healthcare provider for guidance, and get tested as soon as symptoms develop. Many people have mild to moderate illness and are able to isolate and recover at home, however some individuals may need a higher level of care in the hospital.

    If you are feeling sick and think you have COVID-19, follow the guidance below, and see our Home Isolation Instructions for more information(The County of San Diego has a Temporary Lodging Program for individuals affected by COVID-19 who do not have a place to safely quarantine or isolate).

    • Stay home—Restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. 
    • Avoid contact with others—Do not go to work, school, or other public areas.
    • Avoid public transportation, this includes buses, trolleys, trains, ride-sharing services, and taxis.
    • Separate yourself from others (people and pets) in your home as best you can—Stay in a designated room and use a separate bathroom if possible.
    • Wear a facemask if you are sick and will be around other people or pets (e.g. when in the same room or vehicle) and before entering a healthcare facility.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
    • Clean your hands often--Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid sharing personal household items such as dishes, cups or glasses, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with people or pets in your home and thoroughly wash these items with soap and water after use.
    • Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces every day—These “high-touch” surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, tablets, keyboards, and bedside tables.
    • Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention as necessary or if symptoms worsen—Notify your healthcare provider before seeking care.

    More resources for people who are sick or caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 can be found on the CDC website.

    Learn more

  • What can I do if I cannot safely isolate from other people in my household?

    Residents of San Diego County may be eligible for temporary lodging at a local hotel. Ask your healthcare provider to contact the Temporary Lodging Line at 858-715-2350. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1 to get connected to a healthcare provider near you.

  • How is COVID-19 treated?

    The scientific and medical community are researching potential medications that can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection. Clinical trials to study these medications are underway. 

    • While no medications have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19, the FDA is allowing a few medications to be used for emergency use to treat patients with the virus.

    People who are infected should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms; for severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ function.

    People who are not sick enough to be hospitalized and who are only mildly ill may be advised by their healthcare provider to isolate and care for themselves at home—See Home Isolation Instructions for COVID-19.

    People at higher risk for serious illness if infected with the COVID-19 virus should contact their healthcare provider early to seek treatment, even if their illness is mild.

    Learn more

Quarantine and Isolation

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  • What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

    Isolation and quarantine are used to protect the public by preventing exposure to infected people or to people who may be infected by separating those individuals from others to limit the spread of an infectious disease.

    Quarantine is for healthy people who have had contact with a person with COVID-19. Most people should self-quarantine for a minimum of 10 days and up to 14 days to prevent the spread and see if symptoms develop. Home Quarantine Guidance

    Isolation is for infected people, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, who have or may have COVID-19. They should stay home and away from others until recovered. Home Isolation Instructions

    Learn more

  • How is it decided whether a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can self-isolate at home or must go to a hospital or special facility?

    The CDC, California Department of Public Health, and the County of San Diego provide general guidance that mild-moderately sick individuals should stay home and call their doctor for guidance. Ultimately, it is the clinical decision of the healthcare provider as to if their patient can recover at home or needs further, in-person medical evaluation, care, and possible testing. Many of these mildly sick individuals are advised to stay home to decrease potential spread of the virus. If someone is advised to stay home and symptoms worsen, they should call their healthcare provider again to re-evaluate.

  • What do I need to know about ending self-isolation and household quarantine?


    You should stay home until at least 10 days have passed (20 days for immunocompromised individuals) since your symptoms first appeared AND at least 24 hours after you have recovered. (The County of San Diego has a Temporary Lodging Program for individuals affected by COVID-19 who do not have a place to safely quarantine or isolate).

    Recovery is defined as:

    1.  Ten days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND
    2.  You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours/1 day without the use of a fever-reducing medication AND
    3.  Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving*.

    *Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.

    See our Home Isolation Instructions for more information or contact your healthcare provider.

    Household quarantine:

    Your last day of quarantine is at least 10 days and up to 14 days from when you last had contact with the individual who has known or suspected COVID-19. If you continue to live with or care for a person with COVID-19, the quarantine guidance is as follows:

    • If you already started your 10-14 day quarantine and then have additional instances of close contact with a person with COVID-19 (such as any of the examples of close contact listed above), then you will have to restart the 10-14-day quarantine period. 
    • If you do not have any symptoms or if you have been tested for COVID-19 and your test results are negative, you still need to stay in quarantine for at least 10 days and up to 14 days and continue to watch for symptoms.

    See our Home Quarantine Guidance for more information. If you develop any symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider for medical advice.

    *If you are a healthcare worker, first responder, or other   critical infrastructure worker , please refer to your employer and the  CDC Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers web page for guidance.

  • What if I've previously tested positive for COVID-19 or been vaccinated, do I still need to quarantine?

    According to the CDC, quarantine is not required for those who gained immunity within three months.

    • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
    • People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
    • People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease within the last three months and show no symptoms.

    Review the following documents for more information:


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  • What can I do to prevent getting COVID-19? VACCINES AND MORE.

    For local information on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the County of San Diego's COVID-19 Vaccine website. For information on the different vaccines, visit COVID-19 Vaccine Resources and Links

    In these early days of vaccine distribution and limited availability, physical distancing and wearing masks are still important. The best way to prevent getting sick is to avoid being exposed to the virus.  Here are a few proactive steps everyone can take to protect themselves and others:

    • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are at high risk for health complications if exposed.
    • If you do go out, practice social distancing
    • 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 that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces often.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home and isolate yourself away from others if you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, or your elbow, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Wear a  face covering anytime you are in a public setting, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

    Learn more

  • What can I do to ensure myself and my family are prepared to deal with COVID-19?
    • Below are steps you should follow at home. Some steps will be the same as preparing for other emergencies. You can find guidance for specific groups like businesses, schools, and others on our Community Sector Support pages.

    Get your household ready:

    • Store a two-week supply of food, beverages, and medications for all those living in your home, including pets. 
    • Create an emergency contact list of family, friends, and neighbors.
    • Make a plan to care for family members or loved ones who may get sick, especially those who are at greater risk for serious complications if infected and discuss how they would like to be cared for if they got sick, or what would be needed to care for them in your home.
    • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure you have a continuous supply in your home.
    • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
    • Identify a room or area of your home, separated from the rest of the family, where a sick household member could stay if they go sick, If possible, a separate bathroom should be used as well. 

    During the COVID-19 Outbreak:

    • Follow the Public Health Orders and stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, except for employees or customers traveling to and from essential businesses or reopened businesses. If you do go out, make sure you practice social distancing and cover your face.  
    • Stay informed but limit the amount of news you take in if it becomes too stressful.
    • Stay in touch with family, neighbors, and friends. For resources to help you stay fit and feel socially connected, visit our Live Well @ Home page.
    • Take care of your mental health. Tips to Maintain Mental Health and Wellness
  • What is currently open?

    Please visit the County’s Safe Reopening website as well as the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy website to see what is currently open.

    In addition, the San Diego County Public Health Officer has issued orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in San Diego County. These orders are to remain in effect until further notice to protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

  • Why should I wear a face cover?
    • The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings for all people over two years of age when in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.

      On May 13, 2021, the CDC released new guidance stating that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
    • California announced that the following mask guidance will remain in effect until June 15th, 2021 when California aims to fully reopen the economy:
      • Out in public, everyone
        • Wear a mask indoors in public places (unless you're eating or drinking).
        • Wear a mask at all times on public transportation.
        • Wear a mask in indoor and outdoor crowded places such as concerts, parades, sporting events, fairs, etc.
        • If you can maintain physical distance from others, you may go unmasked outdoors.

    Relative questions and answers from Public Health Communications Collaborative

    • What does the CDC mask guidance mean for local and state regulations where I live? My workplace? Local businesses?
      • "Everyone should continue to follow local and state rules and regulations, which may or may not have changed since the CDC released new recommendations. In addition, everyone should comply with the practices of businesses that continue to require masks. This is particularly important in indoor settings where vaccinated and unvaccinated people may interact. While many local and state governments, workplaces, and businesses updated their mask policies since the CDC issued its new recommendations, others have not, and others still may wait for additional guidance from the CDC" (PHC).
    • I’m not fully vaccinated. What does the CDC mask guidance mean for me?
      • "The guidance on wearing masks has not changed for unvaccinated people or partially vaccinated people, who should continue to wear a mask and maintain social distance, particularly when indoors or in crowded outdoor settings. To protect their friends, family, and community, unvaccinated people age 2 and older should wear a well-fitted mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.​ Unvaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outdoors if they practice social distancing or when they are at small outdoor gatherings where all other guests are fully vaccinated. You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks have passed since your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or since your one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine" (PHC).
    • I’m fully vaccinated. What does the new CDC mask guidance mean for me?
      • "If you are fully vaccinated — which means two weeks have passed since your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or since your one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — you have a very low risk of contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. You can resume normal activities without wearing a mask, with some notable exceptions. For example, fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in health care settings, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, public transportation, and airplanes. Additionally, vaccinated people should continue to follow local and state regulations, including individual business (such as retail stores and restaurants) and workplace requirements, which may differ from CDC guidance depending on local scenarios and transmission rates.
      • While COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, no vaccine provides 100% immunity. Even with new and evolving guidance, fully vaccinated individuals may make the personal decision to continue to wear a mask based on their own risk assessment and preference. Those with certain medical conditions such as immuno-suppression should consult their physicians regarding the continuation of mask-wearing and other protective measures" (PHC). 
    • Read more about mask guidance for Indoors at Home or fully vaccinated individuals at Californians, When Do You Need Your Mask?
    • Learn more about the state-wide guidance for the use of face coverings.
  • Why are people in San Diego County required to wear face covers?

    An individual infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus even if they do not feel sick. Wearing a mask blocks respiratory droplets from being released into the air when someone coughs, sneezes, speaks, or breathes. Because these droplets can travel six feet before settling to the ground or other surface, social distancing may not be enough to ensure people are protected. Wearing a face covering reduces the spread of these droplets and the ability of them to infect others.

    There is evidence that shows that wearing a mask also helps to protect the wearer from COVID-19. For both of these reasons, all San Diegans should wear a mask when outside their home and with people from other households.

  • What are the most effective types of face coverings?

    Choose a mask that:

    • Has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric,
    • Completely covers your nose and mouth, and
    • Fits snugly against your face without gaps.

    Avoid a mask that:

    • Is made of materials that make it hard to breathe, like vinyl,
    • Has exhalation vents, which allow virus particles to escape, and
    • Is intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators or surgical masks

    The CDC does not recommend the use of neck gaiters, unless they have two layers (or can be folded to make two layers). Evaluation as to the effectiveness of face shields are on-going, but their effectiveness is unknown at this time.

    For more information regarding face coverings, please visit the CDC’s How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask and Improve How Your Mask Protects You

  • I thought we had a medical supply shortage; shouldn’t we save face masks for medical professionals?

    Yes, medical grade face masks should be reserved for those who need them so that the current supply is not impacted.   

    The County of San Diego is requiring the use of cloth face coverings, which are different than face masks.  Homemade or cloth coverings are an acceptable alternative and can be washed and reused.  Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly but comfortable. Visit the CDC web page for instructions on how to wear a cloth face covering and for step by step instructions on how to make your own face covering.

    Please remember that face coverings are intended to be used in addition to other evidence-based measures and everyone should have a face covering in their possession and ready to wear when they leave their home or are within six feet of another person who is not a member of their family or household.

  • Should I disinfect my groceries? If so, how?

    COVID-19 is spread mainly from close contact from person-to-person in respiratory droplets from a person who is infected. While it can be spread from contact with contaminated surfaces, this is NOT thought to be the main way the virus is spread. When grocery shopping, individuals should most importantly cover their face, social distance, and wash their hands after coming home, after unpacking groceries, and before eating. Individuals should also wash reusable bags (if washable) or wipe them down with an EPA-approved disinfectant.

    Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. 

    If you are concerned about contamination of food or food packaging, wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before you prepare food for eating and before you eat. Consumers can follow CDC guidelines on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and frequently clean and disinfect surfaces.

    It is always important to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.

    If you would like to be extra cautious, you can wipe down the outside of food packaging such as cans, boxes, or other food containers.

    People should already be in the habit of and continue to wash fruits, vegetables, and other produce with cold water using friction—soap should not be used to wash edible foods because soap is not intended to be eaten.

    Learn more

  • Should I spray myself or my children with disinfectant?

    No. Disinfectant products are made to work on surfaces but can be dangerous for people. There are some chemical disinfectants, including bleach, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform, that may kill the virus on surfaces, but if the virus is already in your body, putting those substances on your skin or under your nose won’t kill it and can harm you.  These chemical disinfectants should also not be ingested.

    Learn more

  • Can I get coronavirus from a packages or mail?

    Although we are still learning how the COVID-19 virus spreads, it is not believed that the virus can be transmitted through goods received through the mail. Even though the virus can survive for a short period of time on some surfaces, the virus cannot persist on a surface after being shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.  

    Learn more

  • I heard that someone I know tested positive for COVID-19. How do I know if I or a member of my family was exposed to someone who has COVID-19?

    If you or someone in your family was in close contact (within 6 feet or less, for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period) with anyone who is a known or suspected to have COVID-19, you and/or your family member(s) should self-quarantine for a minimum of 10 days and up to 14 days from the last time you had contact with that individual. You may be contacted by County Contact Tracers after the person with a positive test is interviewed, if it is determined that you were in close contact with them. See our Home Quarantine Guidance for COVID-19 Close Contacts for more information and note that if you or your family members are a healthcare worker, first responder, or other critical infrastructure worker, please have them refer to their employer and the CDC Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers web page for guidance. 

    Learn more


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  • What should I do if I need to visit a healthcare provider?

    If you are feeling sick with fever or cough or other symptoms, please call your healthcare provider, nurse hotline, or urgent care center first.

    If you need to go to the hospital, call ahead so they can prepare for your arrival. If you need to call 911, tell the 911 operator the exact symptoms you are experiencing so the ambulance provider can prepare to treat you safely.

    Learn more

  • What should I do about routine, elective, or non-urgent medical appointments I have scheduled?

    Visiting your doctor, dentist or hospital is still important!​

    It is important for you and your children to continue to see your doctor and dentist for ​routine medical visits ​(check ups and immunizations) and ​to visit an Emergency Department when there might be a medical emergency.​

    Healthcare systems are working hard to provide necessary services while minimizing risks to patients and healthcare personnel.

    Healthcare systems may decide to perform non-emergent or elective surgeries or procedures based on the need and their supply capacity, and when it is consistent with California State Guidance. Call your healthcare provider to see what services they are currently providing.

    Many providers are maximizing the use of telehealth visits whenever appropriate for the patient and the condition.

  • Can I visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility?

    Visitors are allowed in facilities.  Regardless of their vaccination status, all visitors must be 1) screened for fever and COVID-19 symptoms; 2) must wear a well-fitting face mask and perform hand hygiene upon entry and in all common areas in the facility;  and 3) must follow physical distancing guidelines and maintain at least 6 feet distance from other visitors from different households, as well as from facility staff and other residents. There are circumstances when visitors are permitted to interact with residents following modified guidelines.  Please contact your facility or facility licensing entity for more specific guidance. References: AFL 20-22 ( and PIN 21-17.2 for long-term care facilities; AFL 20-38.7 ( for all facilities except long-term care facilities (such as General Acute Care Hospitals, Acute Psychiatric Hospitals).

Congregate Living Facilities

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Social Interactions

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  • Can I travel?
    • CDPH and the CDC recommend delaying travel until persons are fully vaccinated, because travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.
    • On April 2, 2021, the California Department of Public Health revised their travel advisory to include recommendations for fully vaccinated travelers.
      • All travelers arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries should follow CDC travel guidance.
      • All travelers who test positive or develop symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate and follow public health recommendations.
      • Fully vaccinated travelers:
        • are less likely to get and spread COVID-19, and can travel safely within the United States and California
        • should follow CDC travel guidance, and are not required to test or quarantine before or after travel unless they have symptoms concerning for COVID-19 disease.
      • Non-Essential Travel of Unvaccinated Persons
      1. Except in connection with essential travel, Californians should avoid non-essential travel to any part of California more than 120 miles from one's place of residence, or to other states or countries. Avoiding travel reduces the risk of virus transmission, including by reducing the risk that new sources of infection and, potentially, new virus strains will be introduced to California.
      2. Non-essential travelers from other states or countries are strongly discouraged from entering California, and should adhere to quarantine procedures.
      3. Non-essential travelers who are not fully vaccinated should get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before travel, and get tested 3-5 days upon arrival to their destination. They should stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if their test is negative.
      4. Non-essential travelers who are not fully vaccinated and don't get tested should stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

    Read full CDPH Guidance.

  • Can I provide care or visit with my elderly parents, or family, and or friends who need help or have disabilities?

    If you are both fully vaccinated, then you can visit with each other without wearing masks or physical distancing. If you or the person you are visiting are not fully vaccinated, then you should wear a mask when you are indoors and maintain 6 feet of distance. Please note, masks and physical distancing are still required for everyone regardless of vaccination status when walking in facilities in certain settings like healthcare settings, including nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

  • Why are some people blaming or avoiding individuals and groups because of COVID-19 and creating stigma?

    Stigma is discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation. As a result of this outbreak, stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about the COVID-19 virus and how it spreads, usually as a result of fears about disease and death and a need to blame someone.  This stigma creates rumors and myths and hurts others.

    People can provide social support and counter stigma by learning and sharing the facts. Communicating the fact that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma.

    Learn more

County of San Diego Efforts

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Additional Resources

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Please see the following resources for more information about the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak:


If you have testing or health-related questions or concerns, contact your healthcare provider.  For general questions about COVID-19, information about community resources, or if you are uninsured,  call 2-1-1 .