Page Updated: July 13, 2020

What is the Coronavirus Disease 2019?

The novel coronavirus is a new type of virus that recently started making people sick. It started in mainland China but is now infecting people around the world including those here in California.

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Other ways the virus may spread

  • At this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. Learn about COVID-19 and pets and other animals.
  • It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Learn what you should do if you have pets.
  • 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. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but the CDC are still learning more about how this virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

These symptoms* may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus:

  • Fever (above 100.4 F) 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

If you develop emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list does not include all possible symptoms. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Who is at Higher Risk?

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have heart disease with complications
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [(BM]I)≥40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • Smokers
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk
  • If you have one of the disability types listed below, you might be at increased risk of becoming infected or having unrecognized illness.
    • People who have limited mobility or who cannot avoid coming into close contact with others who may be infected, such as direct support providers and family members
    • People who have trouble understanding information or practicing preventive measures, such as hand washing and social distancing
    • People who may not be able to communicate symptoms of illness

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications

What Should I Do If I Think I Am Sick?

Call ahead: If you feel ill and it is NOT an emergency, call your primary care or specialty care provider, or an urgent care center, and describe your symptoms over the phone before going to any of these locations. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a fever, a cough or shortness of breath?
  • Have you had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus? (Close contact means having been within 6 feet of that person for an extended time, or being exposed to their cough or sneeze.)

If available, you may be able to request a phone or video visit with a nurse or your provider instead of going in-person. You can also complete a Coronavirus Symptom Self-Checker (made available by the CDC).

For more severe symptoms, such as higher fever and severe shortness of breath, you may be advised to call 911 or go to the emergency department.

Los Angeles residents can also call 211 LA County for any questions, concerns or information.

Testing for COVID-19

Who should be tested?

At this time, testing is prioritized for:

  • At this time, testing is prioritized for:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore Throat
    • New loss of taste and smell
  • Asymptomatic persons:
    • Persons over age 65
    • Those with chronic medical conditions
    • Essential workers in these groups: janitorial, security, airport, government, health care, food and grocery, and more. To view a complete list of the essential workers group, click here

How Do I Get Tested (if eligible)?

If you’re eligible for testing, you must make an appointment, in order to get tested. Follow the steps below:

  • STEP 1: Visit the website
  • STEP 2: Answer a series of questions. The answers determine if you are eligible for an appointment.
  • STEP 3: If you are eligible, you will receive an appointment confirmation number by email.
  • STEP 4: Bring the confirmation number and photo ID to your appointment.

For LA County residents with no access to the Internet:

  • Dial 2-1-1 for help making an appointment.

For LA County residents without a car:

  • You can still get tested! Testing sites can accommodate pedestrians, as long as you have an appointment.
  • NOTE: there are NO walk-up appointments available for people who have not registered.

To schedule a test, visit

What Should I Expect?

How Long Will It Take To Get My Results? How Will I Be Notified?

It typically takes between 3-5 days to receive your test results. Notification is done by email, text and by phone call, depending on the site. It very important that you provide accurate and complete information when registering because this is what is used to contact you for your results.

If you have more questions about testing, visit

What Should I Do After I Get Tested?

The LA County Department of Public Health has released a guidance based on test results on 7/24/2020. Please click here to read the document. 

  • You should stay home and self-isolate until the test results are back. See the guidance for home care that tells you how to take care of yourself while you are at home waiting for your test results.
  • If you were a contact to a suspected or positive case of COVID-19 you should remain in quarantine at your home and away from others until your results are back and then follow the guidance below based on what those results show.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, visit the Home Isolation Instructions for People with COVID-19 webpage
  • If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection at the time of your specimen collection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later. It is important to note that if you were a contact to a suspected or positive case when you got tested you must remain in quarantine for the full 14 days even if your test results were negative.

Getting Care for COVID-19

Home Care

There is no specific treatment for the virus that causes COVID-19. Here are steps that you can take to help you get better:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to reduce fever and pain.

Note that children younger than age 2 should not be given any over-the-counter cold medications without first speaking with a doctor.

Note that these medicines do not “cure” the illness and do not stop you from spreading germs.

Seeking Medical Care

Make a note of when your symptoms started and continue to monitor your health. Stay in touch with your doctor and seek prompt medical care if your symptoms get worse. People who are age 65 years and older or who have a health problem such as a chronic disease or a weak immune system may be at a higher risk of serious illness.

Call 911 if there are emergency warning signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Confused or hard to wake
  • Other serious symptoms

People with emergency warning signs should call 911. Tell the dispatch personnel that you have COVID-19. If it’s not urgent, call ahead before visiting your doctor, you may be able to get advice by phone.

COVID-19 may be stressful for people, visit to learn how to care for your mental health and support your loved ones. If you need to speak with someone about your mental health, contact your doctor or the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Access Center 24/7 Helpline at (800) 854-7771. If you need help finding healthcare, call the Los Angeles County Information line 2-1-1, which is also available 24/7.

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 If You Are Sick

All individuals who have been diagnosed with or who are likely to have COVID-19 must isolate themselves. These persons are required to follow all instructions in the Order and the Public Health guidance documents references in this order:

Follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and your community (source: LACDPH)

Stay home except to get medical care

  • Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Stay away from others until you have cleared isolation (see Home Isolation Health Officer Order)
  • If you must leave home to get medical care, do not use public transportation. Use a personal vehicle if possible. If you cannot drive yourself, keep as much distance as possible between you and the driver, leave the windows down and wear a mask if possible. If you do not have a mask, wear a cloth face cover (see below).
  • If you do not have someone to help you, if possible, arrange for food and other necessities to be left at your door. If you need help finding free delivery services, social services, essential items like food and medicines call 2-1-1 or visit the Public Health resource webpage.

Separate yourself from other people in your home

  • Stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home as much as possible. It is particularly important to stay away from people who are at higher risk of serious illness.
  • Use a separate bathroom. If this is not possible, clean the bathroom after use (see below).
  • Stay at least 6 feet from others.
  • Open windows or use a fan or an air conditioner in shared spaces in the home, if possible, to ensure good airflow.
  • Do not allow visitors and limit the number of people in your home.
  • Do not handle pets or other animals.
  • Do not prepare or serve food to others.

Wear a facemask or cloth face cover when you are around others

  • You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a hospital or doctor’s office. If you do not have a mask, wear a cloth face cover. Note, a mask or cloth face cover should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove it without assistance.
  • If you are not able to wear a facemask or face cover, then people who live with you should not be in the same room with you. If they must enter your room, they should wear a facemask. After leaving your room, they should immediately clean their hands, then remove and dispose of their facemask, and clean their hands again.
  • Use masks and face covers with caution with children. Infants and children under 2 should not wear cloth face coverings. Those between the ages of 2 and 8 should use them but under adult supervision to ensure that the child can breathe safely and avoid choking or suffocation.
  • See Guidance for Cloth Facing Coverings for more information.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands.

Avoid sharing personal household items

Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Wash them thoroughly with soap and water after use.

Clean your hands often

Wash your hands often and thoroughly, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces every day

High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean and disinfect any surfaces that may have body fluids on them. Use household cleaning and disinfectant sprays or wipes, according to the product label instructions. See cleaning instructions in Preventing the spread of respiratory illness in the home on the Public Health Website.

Returning to work or school

When your home isolation ends, you are no longer infectious, and you can resume your usual activities, including returning to work and/or school. You do not need to have a negative test or a letter from Public Health to return to work or school.

Caring For Someone Sick at Home

Advice for Caregivers

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings, follow this advice to protect yourself and others. Learn what to do when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or when someone has been diagnosed with the virus. This information also pertains to people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.

Provide support and help cover basic needs

  • Help the person who is sick follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine.
    • For most people, symptoms last a few days and people feel better after a week.
  • See if over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, help the person feel better.
  • Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests.
  • Help them with grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, and getting other items they may need. Consider having the items delivered through a delivery service, if possible.
  • Take care of their pet(s), and limit contact between the person who is sick and their pet(s) when possible.

Protect yourself when caring for someone who is sick

Limit Contact:

  • COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes
  • The caregiver, when possible, should not be someone who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Use a separate bedroom and bathroom: If possible, have the person who is sick stay in their own “sick room” or area and away from others. If possible, have the person who is sick use a separate bathroom.
  • Shared space: If you have to share space, make sure the room has good air flow.
    • Open the window and turn on a fan (if possible) to increase air circulation.
    • Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • Avoid having visitors: Avoid having any unnecessary visitors, especially visits by people who are at higher risk for severe illness.

Eat in separate rooms or areas

  • Stay separated: The person who is sick should eat (or be fed) in their room, if possible.
  • Wash dishes and utensils using gloves and hot water: Handle any dishes, cups/glasses, or silverware used by the person who is sick with gloves. Wash them with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • Clean hands after taking off gloves or handling used items.

Avoid sharing personal items

  • Do not share: Do not share dishes, cups/glasses, silverware, towels, bedding, or electronics with the person who is sick.

When to wear a cloth face cover or gloves

  • Wear gloves when you touch or have contact with blood, stool, or body fluids, such as saliva, mucus, vomit, and urine. Throw out gloves into a lined trash can.
  • A caregiver may wear a cloth face covering when caring for a person who is sick, however the protective effects (how well the cloth face covering protects healthy people from breathing in the virus) are unknown.
    • To prevent getting sick, make sure you practice everyday preventive actions: clean hands often, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose with unwashed hands, frequently clean and disinfect surfaces.

Clean your hands often

  • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Tell everyone in the home to do the same, especially after being near the person who is sick.
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Hands off: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

When To End Home Isolation

Based on evidence suggesting a longer duration of culture-positive viral shedding, the CDC has extended the duration of isolation of persons with COVID-19 to at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or initial positive test for those without symptoms).

Symptom-based strategy
Symptomatic patients with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 can be released from isolation when the following criteria have been met: 

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Asymptomatic persons with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 may be released from isolation, barring the development of symptoms, 10 days after the initial positive PCR test. The CDC has named this the time-based strategy.

The same criteria as above are used for the return to work for healthcare personnel, see CDC, Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19.

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (are home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

  • If they will not have a test to determine if they are still contagious, they can leave home after these three things have happened:
    • They have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
    • other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)
    • at least 7 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared
  • If they will be tested to determine if they are still contagious, they can leave home after these three things have happened:
    • They no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
    • other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)
    • They received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Their doctor will follow CDC guidelines.

How to Prevent Getting Sick

Frequent Handwashing

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.

  • Put distance between yourself and other people (6 feet)
  • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
  • Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick!

  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
  • Click here to learn how to properly wear, wash or throw away face masks as well as how to make your own at home.
  • Click here for guidance on when to use cloth face coverings.
  • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Racial Profiling & Misinformation Based on Fear of the Outbreak

It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.

If you have been the victim of or witness to an act of violence, bullying, harassment, threat, or other act motivated by hate, please fill out the Hate Incident Report Form or call 2-1-1 to file a report and be connected to support services.

Guidance Documents & Information

Health Passport

If you get sick, you might need to see a doctor by yourself. Your family or your caregiver can help you fill out a Health Passport to take with you. A Health Passport is a piece of paper that tells doctors about you, your medical needs, and how to keep you safe. (Source: DDS)

Additional Resources