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 Los Angeles County.

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.
  • May also spread through airborne transmission, when tiny droplets remain in the air even after the person with the virus leaves the area.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

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.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever (above 100.4 F)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste and smell

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 or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. 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
  • All essential workers regardless of symptoms. This includes:
    • Health care workers
    • First responders
    • Social service employees
    • Utility workers
    • Food supply workers
    • Other public employees
  • People who are either over 65 or have chronic underlying health conditions.
  • People in institutional congregate living settings, such as skilled nursing or long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, correctional institutions. (Although these groups will not primarily access testing in the County’s drive-up sites.)

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 lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs
  • 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 lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs.

What Should I Expect?

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

Test results may take up to 3-4 days. Positive test results will be notified with a phone call. Negative test results will be notified by email.

If you have more questions about testing, check out these FAQs or visit https://covid19.lacounty.gov/testing, for more information, including a full list of testing locations.

What Should I Do After I Get Tested?

The LA County Department of Public Health has released a guidance based on test results on 4/9/2020. 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, see If You Are Sick or Caring for Someone.
  • 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

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization. For patients who are more severely ill, hospitals can provide supportive care. We are continuing to learn more about this novel coronavirus and treatment may change over time.

What if I don’t have health insurance and I need screening or treatment for COVID⁠-⁠19?

How is it decided whether a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can self-isolate at home or must be confined to a hospital or elsewhere?

Local health departments are working in partnership with the California Department of Public Health and the CDC, and making determinations on whether a person ill with COVID-19 requires hospitalization or if home isolation is appropriate. That decision may be based on multiple factors including severity of illness, need for testing, and appropriateness of home for isolation purposes.

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 If You Are Sick

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community. (Call your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough or difficulty breathing.)
  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home, this is known as home isolation
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick or if you are caring for others
  • Cover your cough and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
  • Monitor your symptoms

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:

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)
      AND
    • other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)
      AND
    • 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)
      AND
    • other symptoms have improved (for example, when their cough or shortness of breath have improved)
      AND
    • 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