Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about COVID-19 Coronavirus

Page updated 04/04/2020.  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 are fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) and cough or shortness of breath.  You can monitor your health by taking your temperature two times per day and watching for cough or shortness of breath.

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°F/38°C or higher)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • 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.  What are the current social distancing recommendations and regulations?  

  • See Information Regarding Business Closures and Staffing
  • See New York State on PAUSE
  • Please stay home as much as possible and to keep a safe distance of 6 feet from others in public spaces to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
  • NOTE: People who use or operate ride shares, taxi services or public transportation should make every effort to keep 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. 


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

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.


5. How do I get tested for COVID-19? 

For testing information please call your healthcare provider.  Communications have been sent to healthcare providers regarding testing guidelines.  Your healthcare provider will need to determine whether or not you need to be tested. If your healthcare provider approves your testing, your provider, NOT YOU, will contact the ECDOH. Do Not Seek Testing without direction from your healthcare provider.


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

There are currently no over-the-counter tests for COVID-19 approved by the FDA. Tests in NYS have to be authorized by a health care provider (physician, PA, NP) and sent to a lab that is authorized to perform COVID-19 testing by the FDA. The FDA has a consumer hotline for general information and complaints about fraudulent COVID-19 products at 1-888-INFO-FDA.


7. How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly 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. It also 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.


8. When are people most contagious? NYSDOH

People with COVID-19 are believed to be most contagious when they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Some early research shows that individuals with mild COVID-19 might be contagious even before they have symptoms, but it is not clear how common this is.


9. 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.

FRAUD ALERT: At this time there are no FDA-approved drugs or treatments for COVID-19. There are also no over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. If you get an email, phone call, offer by mail or other solicitation for these scams, hang up and ignore them. This is a very important warning to reinforce for every Erie County resident. The best medical advice for you comes from your physician.


10. 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. If you do not have a tissue use your elbow not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • 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 


10A. Should I wear a mask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the use of cloth face coverings (masks) in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).

If you are sick, wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth when you are around other people or in public spaces. If you cannot wear one because of trouble breathing, cover coughs and sneezes in some other way and stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

Face coverings should—

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Learn more:


11. What cleaning products should I use?

Community members can practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks) with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product. See CDC's Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for more information. 


12. What should I do if I have been in contact with someone that has symptoms of COVID-19, which are fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) and cough or shortness of breath?

  • 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.


13. What should I do if I get symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) and cough or shortness of breath?

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. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • 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 objects and surfaces. 
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • If you are sick wear a facemask if available. During a public health emergency, facemasks may be reserved for healthcare workers. (See Question 10A above)
  • 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) 


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


15. When can I leave my house after having symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) and cough or shortness of breath?

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

  • At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
  • 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.


  • 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. 


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

The ECDOH is not able to provide any documentation to people unless they also received a quarantine or isolation order from the ECDOH. 


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.


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

See Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Pregnancy


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

See Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Animals


22:  Where can I find community resources?


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


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