Frequently Asked Questions
What is social distancing?
Social distancing means keeping enough space between you and any other people. People should be at least 6-feet away from each other. People should not gather in groups of more that 2-3. People should not go to events or large gatherings, even outdoors. Social distancing is a critical way to keep the virus from spreading from one person to another, especially for those at higher risk for becoming sick with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
What is a novel coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.
Why is the disease being called coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19?
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice for naming of new human infectious diseases.
What is the source of the virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus.
How does the virus spread?
While the initial transmission is believed to have been animal-to-person spread, COVID-19 is now spreading from person-to-person. This is thought to occur via respiratory droplets produced when a person infected with the virus coughs or sneezes, the same way flu and other respiratory illnesses spread. The virus that causes COVID-19 can also be transmitted if people touch surfaces and objects with the virus on it.
Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.
Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:
- The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
- The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.
Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.
Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including refrigerated or frozen food?
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.
Learn what is known about the spread of COVID-19.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
What is community spread?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Am I at risk for COVID-19 in the United States?
This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website.
Has anyone in the United States gotten infected?
Yes. There have been cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. related to travel and person-to-person spread. U.S. case counts are updated regularly on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. See the current U.S. case count of COVID-19.
How can I help protect myself?
Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.
What steps can I take to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Avoid non-essential gatherings of all types and sizes. (All non-essential gatherings of any size are banned.)
- Keep six feet from other people.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Call your healthcare provider from home if you are experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath. If you do not have a healthcare provider, please call our hotline at 315-349-3330.
- Do not go to emergency departments unless you are experiencing life-threatening conditions.
What cleaning products should I use to protect against COVID-19?
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. See CDC’s recommendations for household cleaning and disinfection.
What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.
Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?
Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. Based upon available information to date, those most at risk include
- People 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of any age with the following underlying medical conditions, particularly those that are not well controlled
- Chronic lung disease or asthma
- Congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
- Neurologic conditions that weaken ability to cough
- Weakened immune system
- Chemotherapy or radiation for cancer (currently or in recent past)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Lack of spleen or a spleen that doesn’t function correctly
- Extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40)
- People who are pregnant
What should people at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 do?
If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should: stock up on supplies; take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others; when you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick; limit close contact and wash your hands often, and avoid crowds. If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor. More information on how to prepare, what to do if you get sick, and how communities and caregivers can support those at higher risk is available on People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19.
Who is required to quarantine themselves?
The status for required mandatory quarantine is a person that has been in close contact (6 feet) with someone who is positive, but is not displaying symptoms for COVID-19; or person has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Europe or United States hotspots like New Rochelle in the past 14 days, and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Quarantine is implemented by the Oswego County Health Department.
Who is required to isolate themselves?
The status for required mandatory isolation is a person that has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms for COVID-19. Isolation is implemented by the Oswego County Health Department.
Does CDC recommend the use of facemasks or face coverings to prevent COVID-19?
In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example). Medical masks and N-95 respirators are reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?
There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged COVID-19 and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are betacoronaviruses with their origins in bats. While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we can use the information gained from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read about COVID-19 Symptoms.
Is Oswego County Testing for COVID-19?
Yes, there is a plan within Oswego County among healthcare providers to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The decision to test is based off current guidelines.
Should I be tested for COVID-19?
Testing for COVID-19 shall be authorized by a health care provider for individuals who meet one or more of the following criteria:
- An individual is symptomatic or has a history of symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, and/or trouble breathing), particularly if the individual is 70 years of age or older, the individual has a compromised immune system, or the individual has an underlying health condition; or
- An individual is less than 21 years of age who has symptoms consistent with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which is also known as Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome; or
- An individual requires a test for medical care, including being tested prior to an elective surgery or procedure, or individuals who are pregnant and their designated support person; or
- An individual has had close (i.e. within six feet) or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19; or
- An individual is subject to a precautionary or mandatory quarantine; or
- An individual is employed as a health care worker, first responder, employee of a nursing home, long-term care facility, or other congregate care facility, or other essential employee who directly interacts with the public while working; or
- An individual is employed by an essential business (e.g. food production, medical supply manufacturing) or any business that has been designated to “reopen” in certain regions of the state (e.g. construction, curbside/in-store pickup retail, wholesale trade); or
- An individual presents with a case where the facts and circumstances – as determined by the treating clinician in consultation with state or local department of health officials – warrant testing, or other criteria set forth by NYS DOH (e.g. place of residence, occupation).
How do you test a person for COVID-19?
State and local health departments who have identified a person under investigation (PUI) should immediately notify CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to report the PUI and determine whether testing for COVID-19 at CDC is indicated. The EOC will assist local/state health departments to collect, store, and ship specimens appropriately to CDC, including during afterhours or on weekends/holidays.
For more information on specimen collection see CDC Information for Laboratories.
What should I do if I have symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath)?
Please call Oswego County's COVID-19 hotline at: 315-349-3330.
Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?
Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.
For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.
What should healthcare professional and health departments do?
For recommendations and guidance on persons under investigation; infection control, including personal protective equipment guidance; home care and isolation; and case investigation, see Information for Healthcare Professionals. For information on specimen collection and shipment, see Information for Laboratories. For information for public health professional on COVID-19, see Information for Public Health Professionals.
What about animals or animal products imported from China?
CDC does not have any evidence to suggest that animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) play distinct but complementary roles in regulating the importation of live animals and animal products into the United States. CDC regulates animals and animal products that pose a threat to human health, USDA regulatesexternal icon animals and animal products that pose a threat to agriculture; and FWS regulatesexternal icon importation of endangered species and wildlife that can harm the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources.
Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?
While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China. There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals. For more information on the many benefits of pet ownership, as well as staying safe and healthy around animals including pets, livestock, and wildlife, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.
Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?
You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.
Should I go to events?
All non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are temporarily banned by New York State.