Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 6/19/20


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.

What are the symptoms?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms 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. 

Risk of Infection

How serious is this threat to the public?

On March 11, 2020 the WHO characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. This situation poses a serious public health risk. The United States nationally is in the acceleration phase of the pandemic. The duration and severity of each pandemic phase can vary depending on the characteristics of the virus and the public health response.

The risk from COVID-19 to Americans can be broken down into two main categories, risk of exposure and risk of serious illness and death.

1) Risk of exposure:

  • The general American public is increasingly likely to be exposed to this virus at this time as the outbreak expands and community spreading occurs in more places.
  • People living in places where ongoing community spread is occurring are at an elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on location—We currently have community spreading of COVID-19 in San Diego County.
  • Certain populations may have an increased risk of infection, including healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who have visited areas affected by COVID-19, and other close contacts of persons with COVID-19.
  • Visit the CDC website for the current risk assessment in the United States.

2) Risk of Severe Illness:

  • Based on information from those affected by COVID-19 early on, some people are at a higher risk of getting very sick from this virus if they are infected. These higher risk groups include:    
    • Older adults—People 65 years and older
    • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
    • People of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, especially if their medical condition is not well controlled, including:       
      • Chronic Lung Disease            
      • Moderate to Severe Asthma
      • Heart Conditions
      • Compromised Immune System
      • Severe Obesity—Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥40
      • Diabetes
      • Chronic Kidney Disease or Individuals Undergoing Dialysis
      • Liver Disease

The CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.

How does the COVID-19 virus spread?

Person-to-person spread is believed to be the main way the COVID-19 virus is spreading – between people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet/2 meters). 

  • Through respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks, similar to how influenza (the flu) and other respiratory illnesses spread. 
  • The virus is spreading easily and sustainably between people. 

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. 

Investigations are ongoing to learn: 

  • How easily it is transmitted
  • The severity of the virus – Illness in people infected by the novel coronavirus has ranged form people sick to people being severely ill and dying
  • What medical measures can be used

What is community spread?

Community spread means that people are becoming infected with a virus or illness in an area or community, but the source of the infection is not known. During community spread, the virus is spreading from person-to-person without newly infected people knowing how or where they were exposed to the virus.

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.  


A Community Cluster Outbreak is three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases from different households in a cluster of COVID-19 associated acute respiratory illness (ARI) occurring in a community setting and has been assessed by the local health department as having public health importance.

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.

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

It is currently unclear whether a person can be infected with the COVID-19 virus, fully recover, and then be re-infected. Scenarios like this are still being closely studied.

Testing and Treatment

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

Patients are diagnosed by laboratories who test samples (often through nose swabs) sent in by healthcare providers. The County of San Diego Public Health Lab, as well as hospital, clinic, and commercial laboratories in San Diego County can test for the COVID-19 virus.

Do I need to get tested?

Anyone in San Diego County can be tested for COVID-19.  If organizations are limited in their capacity for testing, they may consider a priority testing strategy. Information about groups prioritized for testing can be found on our testing page. Please 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 County of San Diego testing site. Visit our Healthcare Professionals page for more guidance on testing.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

Call your healthcare provider to determine if you have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and if you should get tested. Health plans are required to cover COVID-19 tests at no cost to the patient, even if you are asymptomatic. 

If you are unable to get tested for COVID-19 through your healthcare provider, do not have a healthcare provider, or are uninsured, you can schedule an appointment at one of the FREE testing sites in San Diego County online or by calling 2-1-1.


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

If you are feeling sick and think you might have been exposed to the with COVID-19 virus, stay home and call your healthcare provider for medical advice. or think you might have it, follow the steps below and see our Home Isolation Instructions for COVID-19 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.


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.

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.


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.

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?

Depending on the severity of the illness and your symptoms, some people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are not required to be admitted to a hospital and are able to do in-home isolation while they recover from their illness. Call your healthcare provider for guidance.

If you are feeling sick and think you have COVID-19, follow the guidance below and see our Home Isolation Instructions for more information 

  • Stay home—Restrict ac tivities 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 in your home, people and animals—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. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • 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—Take precautions if possible, including notifying your healthcare provider before seeking care and wear a facemask when around others.

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

How is COVID-19 treated?

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

  • The Food and Drug Administration is allowing a few medications to be used for COVID-19, to date, one medication has shown some effectiveness. 

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.

Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), also known as Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS), Pediatric Inflammatory Multi-System Syndrome (PIMS)?

It’s a new and rare health condition seen in children and individuals up to 21 years of age, who, in most cases, were infected with COVID-19, recovered, and then later suffered severe inflammation in their organs. MIS-C is like other rare conditions such as Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome that also cause severe inflammation. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a helpful MIS-C web page for parents as does the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

What are possible symptoms of MIS-C that I should call my doctor about? 

Call your doctor if your child has had a fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) for 24 hours or longer AND any of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea
  • rash or changes in skin color
  • breathing problems
  • child seems confused or overly sleepy
  • both eyes appear pink or red
  • swollen lymph node or gland on one side of the neck
  • red cracked lips or a tongue that looks like a strawberry
  • swollen hands or feet, which might also be red

Is MIS-C contagious?


If I think my child has MIS-C, what should I do?

Get in touch with your child’s doctor right away. If your child is sick, has a fever and any of the symptoms listed above, call your child’s doctor and get medical care for your child. If your child is confused, very sleepy or difficult to arouse, go to the emergency department or call 911.

Quarantine and Isolation

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 used to separate and restrict the movement of people who are well but who may have been exposed to an infectious disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but are not showing symptoms. A quarantine can help limit the spread of infectious diseases. Home Quarantine Guidance

Isolation is used to separate sick people (who have or may have an infectious disease) from people who are healthy. Isolation typically occurs in a hospital setting but can be done at home (self/home-monitoring) or in a special facility. Usually individuals are isolated, but larger groups can be isolated as well. Home Isolation Instructions

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 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 and since accessing a healthcare setting in person may not be beneficial since there is lack of treatment, limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and limited testing. 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 since your symptoms first appeared AND at least 24 hours after you have recovered.

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. Your symptoms have improved.

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

Household quarantine:

Your last day of quarantine is 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 14 day quarantine and then have additional instances of close contact with a person with COVID-19 (such as being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes), contact with their body fluids or secretions (such as being coughed on or sneezed on), sharing utensils or saliva, or you provided care without wearing protective equipment, then you will have to restart the 14-day quarantine period.
  • If you do not have any symptoms, there is no need to get tested. If you have been tested, you still need to stay in quarantine for 14 days even if your test result is negative.

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

*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.

Prevention and Mitigation

What can I do to help prepare myself and my family as COVID-19 starts spreading in our community?

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.
  • Review and plan for long-term closures that effect you and your family such as childcare facilities, schools, and workplaces.
  • 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 to take care of essential needs or if you are considered an essential worker. 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 social distancing?

Social distancing, or physical distancing, is a practice recommended by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. It is a non-pharmaceutical intervention that requires the creation of physical space between individuals who may spread certain infections. The key is to minimize gatherings as much as possible and to create space between individuals. To help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, health officials recommend a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between individuals. The following resources help explain what social distancing means in practice:

The California State Public Health Officer has issued an Executive Order for all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except for permitted work, local shopping or other permitted errands, or as otherwise authorized.

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.

What does it mean to "flatten the curve?"

In epidemiology, "flattening the curve" means slowing the spread of a virus so that fewer people need to seek care or treatment at any given time. If too many people need medical care at the same time, the spike in the number of people needing to be hospitalized can overwhelm the healthcare system. If not enough resources are available, this can increase the potential for more deaths, including for patients hospitalized for other reasons and who do not have COVID-19. Social distancing and stay at home measures slow down the infection rate. On a graph, the spike or curve of patients infected with COVID-19 flattens to a level that the healthcare system is better able to manage.


What can I do to prevent getting COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.  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.

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, especially where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

***On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health announced that people in California must wear face coverings— Learn more about the state-wide guidance for the use of face coverings .***

The County of San Diego Public Health Officer Order further reinforces this guidance with a local requirement for all people ages 2 and older to wear a face covering.

Face covering should be used in addition to other protective measures, including frequent hand washing, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, staying at home, and practicing social distancing when around others outside of your household.

Why are people in San Diego County required to wear face covers?

The requirement to wear face coverings is based on studies that show that people may be infected with COVID-19 and not show symptoms (“asymptomatic”) or not yet showing symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”), which means they can carry and pass the virus on to others without knowing it.

The primary role of face covering is to help block respiratory droplets from being released into the air when someone coughs, sneezes, speaks, or breathes and infecting others nearby. 

These respiratory droplets can travel up to 6 feet before settling to the ground or other surface, but growing evidence suggests the COVID-19 virus may stay in the air longer and travel further than what we originally thought so practicing social distancing alone may not be enough to ensure people are protected.  Wearing a face cover significantly reduces the spread of these droplets and the ability of viral droplets to infect others. 

Face covers are more effective at stopping the spread of the virus when worn by many people, which is why we are requiring face covers to be worn in San Diego County. We all need to work together and do our part to help prevent COVID-19; everyone needs to wear a face cover for this protective measure to really be successful. Face covers don’t just protect you, they also protect the people you come into contact with, which makes wearing a face cover a win-win decision.

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—if anyone has extra medical grade face masks or respirators, they can be donated through the COVID-19 Medical Equipment Initiative.  

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. Items such as bandanas, scarves, and neck gaiters can all be used as face coverings. 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.

Of note, the FDA states that “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. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill. 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 frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces.”

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.


Should I spray myself or my kids 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.


Can I get coronavirus from a package sent from China?

Although we are still learning how the COVID-19 virus spreads, it is not believed that the virus can be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country reporting COVID-19 cases. 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.  


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, for a prolonged period of time) with anyone who is a known or suspected to have COVID-19, you and/or your family member(s) should self-quarantine for 14 days from the last time you had contact with that individual.  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. 



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.

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

Call your healthcare provider to see what services they are able to provide. Hospitals and healthcare providers 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.

State guidance advises that non-urgent procedures at hospitals; outpatient care including primary care and specialty care in physician offices and health centers; behavioral health, long term care, ancillary, pharmacy, and dental services can resume to restart the care that has been postponed including preventive care such as well-child visits and vaccinations, adult clinical preventive services, and routine dental services.  

Providers should maximize 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?

Under certain circumstances. The Public Health Order generally prohibits non-essential personnel in these types of facilities, but visitors can be granted exceptions by a facility’s director, or designee, such as family or friends who are visiting a resident in an end of life or similar situation, parents or guardians visiting a child who is a patient, or because of any other circumstances deemed appropriate by the facility director, or designee.  The state agencies that license and regulate these facilities have also issued detailed guidance that allows visitation in certain situations following specific protocols.

Congregate Living Facilities

What protocols protect congregate living facilities against COVID-19?

Long-term care facilities, such as skilled nursing facilities and senior care centers, have established protocols for investigating outbreaks of infectious disease. Annually, the County of San Diego responds to anywhere from 20 to 30 influenza outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Those same protocols are being used to respond to possible cases of COVID-19. These include working with staff and administration to isolate possibly sick individuals and conducting thorough contact investigations among both staff and residents.

Social Interactions

Can I still travel?

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to all international destinations at this time due to the global impact of COVID-19. If you are considering travel of any kind, there are several things to consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you are going?
  • Will you or you be in close contact with others during your trip?
  • Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severely ill if infected with COVID-19?
  • Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?
  • Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 travel information, including travel health notices, visit the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel page.


Can I leave home to care for my elderly parents or friends who need help to care for themselves? Or a friend or family member who has disabilities?

Yes, but only if you are not feeling sick. Be sure that you protect them and yourself by following social distancing guidelines (including wearing a face cover, maintaining at least 6-feet of distance when possible) AND washing your hands or using hand sanitizer frequently and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue and then washing your hands.

If you have early signs of a cold, please stay away from your older loved ones.

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.

County of San Diego Efforts

What is the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) doing to monitor cases of COVID-19 in San Diego County?

The County of San Diego is working closely with federal and state agencies and the local healthcare community to monitor and test for the COVID-19 virus in the region. In addition, the County of San Diego holds press briefings on Mondays, Wednesdays, at 2:30 p.m. to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation in San Diego County. 

For information on the current situation in San Diego county, visit our Coronavirus in San Diego County web page. 

Why doesn’t the County release the names of restaurant and markets that have employees confirmed with COVID-19?

Releasing the names of the businesses would not change the action needed by the public.  During these challenging COVID-19 times, all individuals should always practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, avoid touching their face with unwashed hands, and use a face cover. In addition, COVID-19 is not transmitted through food—restaurants, grocery stores, markets and other food facilities have very clear prevention and sanitation guidelines and have been diligent about following those guidelines as well as CDC protocols and local Public Health Orders.


Where can I learn more about the County of San Diego’s COVID-19 Response Plan?

The County of San Diego COVID-19 Response Plan provides information for the public about the novel coronavirus and guidance on the public health impact on our community. The response plan outlines the county’s efforts to respond to this global incident including information on what the public can do, and provides resources and references related to COVID-19.

Cruise Ships

What is the process for allowing cruise ships to dock and who is responsible for COVID-19 screening?

The CDC is responsible for evaluating the health and safety of passengers and crew disembarking ships that have been in international waters. The CDC recommends all passengers and crew self-quarantine for 14 days after leaving the ship and arriving home.

If a passenger or crew member is diagnosed with COVID-19 after disembarking the ship, the local jurisdiction where the case resides conducts the contact investigation.

Each time a ship requests to dock in San Diego, the CDC consults with a number of agencies. They include the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego, the California Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Public Health, the Port of San Diego, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the United States Coast Guard, the cruise line, and the ship’s captain. They evaluate the best manner to handle the docking, disembarkation, and other logistical and public health matters using CDC guidelines.

How Are Cruise Ship Passengers Tracked?

CDC maintains a list of cruise ships affected by COVID-19.  If a San Diego resident tests positive for COVID-19 after a cruise, the case in included in the statistics provided daily by the County. If a non-resident passenger or crew member is found to have COVID-19 or is hospitalized in San Diego County, the CDC notifies the home state or country where the person lives, and the case is counted by those jurisdictions. Questions about cases on cruise ships docked in San Diego should be directed to the cruise ship company, the CDC Cruise Ship Task Force, or the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

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.