Frequently Asked Questions

Texas Case Counts microscopic example of a coronavirus

How concerned should I be about COVID‑19?

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the new coronavirus, SARS‑CoV‑2 and the disease it causes, COVID‑19, is a global pandemic because of how fast it is spreading across the globe. A pandemic means a disease that is prevalent and spreading over the whole world. According to the WHO, this is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

The good news for the U.S. is that if we all change our behavior starting today, we can work together to help slow the spread of the virus. Slowing the spread helps hospitals and healthcare workers keep up with the healthcare needs of the community without becoming overwhelmed.


How do I protect myself and others from COVID‑19?

Coronaviruses are most commonly spread through coughing and sneezing, personal contact like shaking hands, and touching a surface with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Slowing down the spread beginning today will help protect you and everyone else. The virus is especially hard on our most vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those with chronic medical conditions.

These are simple steps everyone can take to help prevent spreading COVID‑19 and other viruses. Make them a habit now and teach these habits to those around you.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom. Also wash them before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If there's no soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterward.
  • Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs and other places touched often.

Is the risk for getting COVID‑19 the same for everyone?

No, but as the virus spreads, it affects multiple age groups. People in high-risk groups for getting very sick from COVID‑19 include people 65 years and older and those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and cancer. Those who have a compromised immune system are also at higher risk than those in the general population.

If you are in one of the higher-risk groups mentioned above and you develop fever or symptoms, call your doctor. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home.

▲ Top


What is social distancing, and should I do it?

Social distancing involves staying away from other people to avoid catching or spreading a virus. It's a fancy term for avoiding crowds and minimizing physical contact. This could mean avoiding concerts or weddings, skipping the handshake, and/or staying six feet from others. Health professionals believe COVID‑19 spreads from person to person by droplets from coughing and sneezing. The safest thing to do during an outbreak is stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with others.

▲ Top


Should I, or my family, go to large-scale events, sporting events, conferences and concerts? How do I make that decision?

We all want to go about our daily lives as normally as possible. But organizations are canceling and rescheduling events like conferences, rodeos and festivals. If you are considering attending a large gathering, consider your personal risk of getting and spreading the virus. If you are age 65 or older, or have a chronic medical condition, you need to be very thoughtful about your risk. Then decide for yourself whether you want to attend.

▲ Top


How long does the COVID‑19 virus live on surfaces?

We don't know yet. But we do know that if you clean and disinfect surfaces often, you can get rid of the virus. Think about surfaces that you and others touch often. Those may include elevator buttons, lockers, remote controls, light switches, stair rails, door knobs, drawer pulls and appliance handles. Clean them multiple times daily.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a list of products to use against coronavirus. Refer to it to learn about cleaning products that help slow the spread of the virus. Be sure to check manufacturer's guidelines about cleaning electronic equipment, such as cell phones, laptops, touch screens and keyboards.

▲ Top


Do home remedies work against COVID‑19?

Home remedies and therapies are not proven to help alleviate symptoms nor ensure you won't get it. That's why it is important to focus on prevention: always practice good hygiene and stay away from sick people. Eating healthy, regular physical exercise, good sleep and lowering stress levels are great ways to keep your immune system healthy.

▲ Top


What about my pets, are they at risk for COVID‑19? What about livestock?

Currently there is no known risk that pets or livestock can get sick from COVID‑19. However, animals do spread disease so always wash your hands after being around them. If you are sick, limit contact with animals to minimize risk to them.

▲ Top


Stores are running out of supplies — what do I really need and for how long?

While we want to be prepared, we don't want to strain our suppliers and hoard things our neighbors need. Protecting them protects you. Make sure you have several weeks' worth of medications and supplies like frozen foods and canned goods for people and animals in your care in case you need to stay home.

▲ Top


I feel sick. Do I need to get tested if I think I have COVID‑19?

Your doctor will help make the decision whether you need to get tested, based on your symptoms and risk category. Symptoms of COVID‑19 may show up 2–14 days after exposure and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you are age 65 or older and/or have other medical problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer — and have fever or symptoms — call your doctor. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. If you are in generally good health and you get sick, stay home and take care of yourself like you would for the flu. If your symptoms worsen, call your doctor.

▲ Top


What is the treatment for COVID?

There is no cure for COVID‑19 yet. There is also no vaccine available yet, either. The best we can do is treat symptoms. Only the very sick will need hospitalization.

▲ Top


Reliable Information Sources

Every Texan plays a crucial part in keeping our communities as safe as possible — practice good hygiene, stay home if you are sick and stay informed.

Find up-to-date novel coronavirus information at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus. Follow DSHS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @TexasDSHS. Share social media updates to keep your friends and family safe and informed. Also visit the CDC's website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

▲ Top


This page is being updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated April 2, 2020