Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about COVID-19 Coronavirus

Page updated 05/22/2020.  Please check this page often for updated information.  If you do not find the information you are looking for below, please call the ECDOH COVID-19 Information Line at (716) 858-2929.

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COVID-19 has been confirmed in our community. Everyone should be monitoring their health and watching for symptoms of COVID-19, which include any of the following: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell.

COVID-19 Testing

Plasma Donation

How to Protect Yourself

What to Do If You Are Sick

Face Coverings


1. What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.  For the latest information, go to CDC COVID-19 website.  

 

2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms which include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees or higher)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell    
  • Diarrhea      
  • Some people can have severe complications.  
  • CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

 

3. How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly 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. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). See CDC How COVID-19 Spreads.  

 

4. How can I help protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, you should follow these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

  • Wash your hands often and correctly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands with soap and running water after touching the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks).  See Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home and it is recommended to use EPA-registered household disinfectants.  Follow the instructions on the label (such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use) to ensure safe and effective use of the product. 
  • Wear a face covering (see Question #5).
  • Practice Social Distancing (see Question #10)
  • See the CDC Checklist for Individuals and Families and 
  • Get Your Home Ready - Have a plan and know what to do if someone in your household becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms    

 

5. Should I wear a face covering?


6. What should I do if I have been in contact with someone that has symptoms of COVID-19, which include any of the following: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell?   

  • Stay home for 14 consecutive days from your last day of exposure.  If you are an essential employee then go to work and straight home. 
  • Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
  • Do not have visitors to your house during this time.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms.  

 

7. What should I do if I get symptoms of COVID-19, which include any of the following: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell?

If you develop symptoms:

  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home. 
  • Remain at home and away from others in your household (See Question #9.)
  • Call your physician and describe your symptoms. Do not go directly to their office or to an emergency department/urgent care center without calling first. If you feel you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately and let them know your symptoms.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands with soap and running water after touching the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow not your hands.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks).  See Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home and it is recommended to use EPA-registered household disinfectants.  Follow the instructions on the label (such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use) to ensure safe and effective use of the product. 
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Wear a face covering (See Question #5).
  • Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick (CDC)
  • 10 things you can do to manage your health at home (CDC) 

 

8. When can Essential Employees return to work after they have been infected with or exposed to COVID-19?  

 

9. When can I leave my house after having symptoms of COVID-19, which include any of the following: fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell?

Note: Essential Workers have different protocols. See Question #8.

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home can leave their home under the following conditions:

  • At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND 
  • You have had no fever for at least 3 full days (72 consecutive hours) in a row without the use of medicine that reduces fevers AND 
  • Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved).
  • Consult your health care provider by phone for additional guidance. 

 

10.  What are social distancing recommendations and guidelines?  

  • Staying home will save lives and protects our community.
  • Stay home as much as possible. Use home delivery services and online shopping services offered by grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services. If for some reason you must go out, then wear a face covering and keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others. (See Question #5)
  • Do not gather with people who live outside your home.
  • Don’t go to stores or other public spaces for fun or because you are bored.
  • People who use or operate ride shares, taxi services or public transportation should make every effort to keep at least six feet away from others to the extent that is possible. Taxi and ride share operators should take steps to properly disinfect hard surfaces in the vehicle in between riders and stops. 
  • See New York State on PAUSE
  • See Information Regarding Business Closures and Staffing 

 

11. Can the ECDOH provide me with a “return to work” note beyond my note from my doctor?  

See ECDOH COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Documents.

 

12. Who is at highest risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?

According to limited research, older adults, people who have chronic medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes and lung disease), and people who are immunosuppressed are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.  

 

13. How do I get tested for COVID-19?  

Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19:

  1. Diagnostic test (swab test) - Tells you if you have a current infection. 
  2. Serologic antibody test (blood test) - Tells you if you had a previous infection. It is very important to remember that when antibodies to COVID-19 are found in a person, scientists do not know yetif there is protection from future infections and how long the protection lasts. COVID-19 is caused by a new virus and many studies are under way to learn more about the disease and how the immune system responds to it. 

COVID-19 Diagnostic (Swab) and Antibody Testing is available through:

  • Searchable map of COVID-19 Testing Sites in Erie County (The sites included on this map have their own testing criteria and availability. Please call the organization before going to a site. This list is subject to change and may not reflect all testing options in Erie County. Please call your healthcare provider for guidance.)
  • 05/20/2020: At this time, all ECDOH antibody testing appointments are full.  We anticipate opening more appointments next week.  Please check back. ECDOH - Call 716-858-2929 to schedule a test. A lab order is not needed to be tested and you do not have to have symptoms to be tested.

  • Your healthcare provider can provide you with a lab order. A list of providers who are accepting new patients is available here.
  • NYSDOH - Call 1-888-364-3065 for testing criteria and to schedule a test.
  • Other organizations - Contact each organization for their criteria.

If you test positive or negative for COVID-19, no matter the type of test, you still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.

 

14. Can I test for COVID-19 at home? What about buying a test online?

The FDA authorized a diagnostic test for COVID-19 with an at-home sample collection option on April 21, 2020. This test is in limited use and is only available from LabCorp. 

Beware of web sites and other outlets that offer at-home COVID-19 test results. These are scams. The best medical advice for you comes from your healthcare provider.

The FDA has a consumer hotline for general information and complaints about fraudulent COVID-19 products at 1-888-INFO-FDA. 

 

15. Is there a vaccine or treatment?

There is currently no vaccine and no specific treatment for this disease.  People infected with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. The best medical advice for you comes from your physician.

FRAUD ALERT: If you get an email, phone call, offer by mail or other solicitation for COVID-19 tests or treatment, hang up and ignore them.

 

16. What cleaning products should I use?

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks).  See Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home and it is recommended to use EPA-registered household disinfectants.  Follow the instructions on the label (such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use) to ensure safe and effective use of the product. 

 

17. Where do I find information about travel?

For all travel related questions go to the CDC COVID-19 Travel website.

 

18. What is a Person Under Investigation (PUI)?

PUI is a person that has met specific criteria set by the CDC and is being monitored for disease.  

 

19. What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

First, both Isolation and Quarantine are similar in that they are both imposed to limit the spread of communicable disease. The differences are as follows.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
  • See Question #11.

 

20:  Where can I find information about COVID-19 and Pregnancy?

See NYSDOH Pregnancy and COVID-19: Resources for Pregnant People and their Families (03/21/2020)

See CDC Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

 

21:  Where can I find information about COVID-19 and Animals?

See CDC Animals and COVID-19

See FDA COVID-19 & Your Pets

 

22:  Where can I find community resources?

A variety of Community Resources are available here to help you deal with the COVID-19 situation.  

 

23: Are individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 required to notify their employer?

Answer is currently being updated 05/21/2020

 

24. Are employers required to notify their employees if they are made aware that someone in the business is COVID-19 positive?

Answer is currently being updated 05/21/2020

 

25. How can I donate Plasma?

If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and are now fully recovered, you may be able to donate plasma.  If so, your plasma may be rich in these antibodies and be helpful in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 disease in others. Donated plasma could be used right now, for compassionate treatment, even before we have scientific trials, or as part of a trial to determine definitively if this treatment works.

See the University at Buffalo program flyer or call 716-888-4845 or 716-888-4840 for more information.

See Roswell Park program flyer 

 

Additional Information

Use reliable, fact-based sources when seeking out information about COVID-19 and other public health topics. We recommend the following sites.

Frequently Requested

Contact

Phone: (716) 858-7690

Fax: (716) 858-8701

Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202

ECDOH Locations

Western New York 211