Frequently Asked Questions
- Overview and Symptoms
- Risk of Infection and Serious Illness
- Testing and Treatment
- Quarantine and Isolation
- Congregate Living Facilities
- Social Interactions
- County of San Diego Efforts
Frequently Asked Questions from Other
- Community Sector Support FAQs – each sector has its own FAQ page
- Additional Resources
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?
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
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
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.
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.
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
- 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.
How serious is this threat to the public?
On March 11, 2020 the WHO characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. This situation continues to pose a serious public health risk.
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:
- 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:
- 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—As you get older, your risk for severe illness increases
People of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- In addition, the following conditions MIGHT
increase risk of more severe illness:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
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.
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.
What about Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A)?
Like children, adults who have been infected with COVID-19 can develop symptoms of MIS-A days to weeks after getting sick. MIS-A is a condition where problems can occur in different parts of the body like the heart, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or brain. Adults with MIS-A may have various signs and symptoms including:
- Low blood pressure
- Abdominal (gut) pain
- Neck pain
- Chest tightness/pain
- Feeling very tired
- MIS-A can be very serious, so it is important to seek medical care as soon as possible.
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
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 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 free County of San Diego testing site.
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 here or call 2-1-1.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Children, youth and caregivers covered by Kaiser Permanente should consult with their pediatrician or physician provider directly, or through www.kp.org.
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 here 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.
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 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?
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.
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.
- The Monoclonal
Antibody Regional Center (MARC) is open to treat COVID-19
positive patients. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a lab
that help boost the immune system to fight viruses. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization
for these proteins to treat adults and children with mild to
moderate COVID-19. Who can get this treatment?
- People who have a positive test for COVID-19, AND
- Have had COVID-19 symptoms for less than 10 days, AND
- Are at least 12 years old, AND
- Are at high-risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
People who require oxygen due to COVID-19 do NOT qualify. People who are allergic to monoclonal antibodies do NOT qualify. More information.
- Convalescent Plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 is being investigated as a potential treatment. People who were infected with COVID-19 develop antibodies to the infection; giving someone who is currently infected convalescent plasma can enhance their immunity and help fight the virus which could mean a shorter duration of illness and reduced severity of illness—Learn more about convalescent plasma and how you can help by donating blood or plasma through the San Diego Blood Bank.
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.
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
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:
- Ten days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND
- You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours/1 day without the use of a fever-reducing medication AND
- 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.
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:
- Your quarantine will end 10 (or up to 14) days after everyone in your household started to follow the Home Isolation Instructions for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- 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:
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.
care of your mental health. Tips to Maintain Mental Health and
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
What can I do to prevent getting COVID-19?
To date, three vaccines, from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. For local information on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the County of San Diego's COVID-19 Vaccine website.
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.
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. On November 16, 2020, this guidance was updated to mandate that a face covering is required at all times when outside of the home, with some exceptions. 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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 that are consistent with state and federal guidance or requirements. The state agencies that license and regulate these facilities have also issued detailed guidance that allows visitation in certain situations following specific protocols. Please contact the specific organization.
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. Those same protocols have been expanded to respond to possible cases of COVID-19 and need to comply with requirements from CDPH and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These include working with staff and administration to isolate possibly sick individuals, conducting thorough contact investigations among both staff and residents, and routine testing. Please contact the specific organization re: questions about their specific protocols.
Can I travel?
Travel itself can be a risk for exposure to COVID-19, particularly travel through shared vehicles such as air, bus or rail travel.
Update: On January 6, 2021, the California Department of Public Health advised against out-of-state, non-essential travel.
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. All persons arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries, should self-quarantine for 10 days after arrival, except as necessary to meet urgent critical healthcare staffing needs or to otherwise engage in emergency response. Additionally, this recommendation does not apply to individuals who routinely cross state or country borders for essential travel.
The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel at this time due to the domestic and 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 or recently exposed as a close contact to someone with COVID-19. 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
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.
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 Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation in San Diego County. These can be viewed live or on-demand on the County of San Diego's YouTube channel.
For information on the current situation in San Diego county, visit our Coronavirus in San Diego County web page.
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.
- Business and Employers
- Child Care Services
- Cities, Government, and Tribal Nations
- Community-Based Organizations
- Faith-Based Organizations
- Health Professionals
- Homeless Sector
- Long Term Care and Residential Facilities
- Military and Veterans
- Older Adult and Disability Service Providers
- Restaurants, Food, and Beverage Providers
- Schools: K-12
- Schools: Colleges and Universities
Please see the following resources for more information about the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak:
- California Department of Public Health Novel Coronavirus 2019 (n-CoV 2019) web page
- CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) web page
- World Health Organization Novel Coronavirus web page
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 .