Frequently Asked Questions

Texas Case Counts microscopic example of a coronavirus

Below are frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory disease spreading worldwide.

On this page:


Prevention

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, especially between people who have been in close contact, or within 6 feet, of each other. An infected person with or without symptoms may spread the virus to others. When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, droplets from their mouth can spread through the air and land in the mouths or noses of nearby people or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by smaller droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. This kind of spread is called airborne transmission. COVID-19 can also spread by a person touching a surface or object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

For the most up-to-date information, see the How COVID-19 Spreads section of the CDC website. CDC is learning more about COVID-19 every day and will update this section of their website as more information becomes available.

How can I help protect myself and others?

There is currently no widely-available vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. Take the following precautions to limit exposure for yourself and others:

  • Practice social distancing and avoid close contact with others:
    • Outside your home: Stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid crowded places.
    • Inside your home: Avoid close contact with household members who are sick. Avoid sharing personal items and use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members, if possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering in public and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when social distancing is not possible.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a household disinfectant on List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

What is social distancing, and does it help?

Social distancing, also called physical distancing, involves staying at least 6 feet away from other people to avoid catching or spreading a virus. It’s a fancy term for avoiding crowds and minimizing physical contact. Yes, it does help. The safest thing to do during a pandemic is stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with others. When you must go out, wear a mask or cloth face covering and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

Does staying home really help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

By staying home and only going out when necessary, you will minimize your exposure to COVID-19, and fewer exposed people means fewer cases of the disease. At this time, taking safety precautions to slow the spread remains very important. Preventing COVID-19 protects your health and helps our hospitals from becoming overrun and unable to treat everyone who needs care.

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Cloth Face Coverings & Masks

Should I wear a mask or cloth face covering in public?

CDC recommends members of the general public wear a mask or cloth face covering in light of data about how COVID-19 spreads. The virus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.

A mask or cloth face covering is not intended to protect the person who is wearing it. But, wearing a mask or cloth face covering may prevent the person wearing it from spreading COVID-19 to the people around them. Sometimes infected people don’t have symptoms (sometimes referred to as asymptomatic). So even if you don’t feel sick, wearing a mask or cloth face covering may help prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to those around you.

To be effective, the mask or cloth face covering should cover your nose and your mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face.

When should I wear a mask or cloth face covering?

Wear a mask or cloth face covering whenever you are out in public or when around people who don’t live in your household. These masks or face coverings help when you can’t avoid being in the same space as others.

Wearing a mask or cloth face covering does not mean you don’t need to stay away from others. Social distancing, or staying at least 6 feet from others, is still necessary to keep you and others safe.

Do I still need to stay at least 6 feet away from people if wearing a mask or cloth face covering?

Yes. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is just a part of your overall protection plan to keep you and others from spreading and getting COVID-19. Wearing masks or cloth face coverings is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19, not the only measure.

Why is CDC recommending wearing non-medical-grade masks or cloth face coverings instead of medical-grade surgical facemasks?

Surgical facemasks and N95 respirators are in short supply. So, do your part to protect our healthcare workers. Save medical-grade equipment for healthcare workers and first responders.

Are there people who shouldn’t wear a mask or cloth face covering?

Yes. Children under 2 years old should not wear masks or cloth face coverings. Also, anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask or cloth face covering without help should not wear one.

Is there a correct way to put on, adjust, or remove a mask or cloth face covering?

Yes. Wash your hands before putting on your mask. Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face. Make sure you can breathe easily. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you put on, adjust, or remove your mask or cloth face covering. Always wash your hands immediately after putting on, adjusting, or removing your mask or cloth face covering, because you can pick up the virus on your hands by touching it. Take off your mask or cloth face covering carefully by only touching the ear loops or ties, and place it in the washing machine when you get home.

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High-Risk Populations

Who’s at high risk for serious illness from COVID‑19?

While everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19, some people are at higher risk for getting very sick from the virus.

People aged 65 years and older have an increased risk of developing serious illness if they get sick with COVID-19.

Strong evidence also suggests that people of any age with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Those conditions are cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), obesity, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, type 2 diabetes, and a weakened immune system from an organ transplant. For the most up-to-date information, see the People at Increased Risk section of the CDC website. CDC is learning more about COVID-19 every day and will update this section of their website as more information becomes available.

Certain groups of people, such as pregnant women, people living in rural communities, racial and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, and others, may also be at increased risk and/or require extra precautions. For more information about these populations, see the Communities & Other Specific Groups page of the DSHS COVID-19 website, as well as CDC’s page, Other People Who Need Extra Precautions.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere. If you can’t breathe or have severe chest pain, call 9‑1‑1 and/or immediately go to the ER.

Adults and children who become infected may not show symptoms, yet they can still spread the virus to others. Therefore, everyone should take precautions to avoid becoming infected and infecting others.

If you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick, you can use the COVID-19 Self-Checker on the DSHS Texas Health Trace online system to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

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If You or a Loved One Is Sick or Had Contact with Someone Sick

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

If you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, consider getting a COVID-19 viral test. Other than getting tested and/or seeking health care, you should stay home and monitor yourself for fever and symptoms for 14 days after the last day you were exposed to protect your health and those around you. If you are 65 or older, have a medical condition (such as heart, lung, or liver disease, diabetes, or cancer), or are on kidney dialysis, and you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19—call your doctor.

I feel sick. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms reported with COVID-19 include chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, abdominal pain/discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Symptoms appear 2–14 days after exposure.

If you think you may be sick, you can use the COVID-19 Self-Checker on the DSHS Texas Health Trace online system to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

If you are generally in good health and get sick, consider getting a COVID-19 viral test and then stay home and manage your symptoms. Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere.

What are the emergency warning signs, and when should a sick person call 9-1-1?

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 9-1-1 and get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

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

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Your doctor can help make the decision whether you need to get tested, based on your symptoms and risk category.

Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?

Test results reflect the state of illness at the time when you are tested. Someone can test negative one day, then get exposed, and test positive on a later day. If a person is in the early stages of infection, it is possible the test will not detect the virus and come back negative.

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Caring for Yourself or Someone Else at Home

How do I treat COVID-19?

There is no cure for COVID-19 yet. There is also no widely-available vaccine yet. The best you can do is treat symptoms. Only the very sick will need hospitalization.

If you are generally in good health and get sick, you should consider getting tested and then stay home and manage your symptoms like you would for a cold or the flu. Call your doctor if symptoms get worse.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home.

If you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick, you can use the COVID-19 Self-Checker on the DSHS Texas Health Trace online system to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

How do I care for someone at home who is sick?

  • Have them care for their symptoms like they would if they had the flu. Make sure they rest, stay hydrated, and get good nutrition. See if over-the-counter medicines for fever help the person feel better.
  • Monitor them for worsening symptoms, especially shortness of breath. Call your healthcare provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
  • Disinfect objects you pass back and forth, and then wash your hands. Practice good hygiene.
  • Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members if possible.
  • Provide your sick household member with a mask or cloth face covering to wear at home to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others. Wash it as you would normally wash laundry.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as utensils, food, and drinks.
  • You can wash their laundry with yours. Here are some tips for how to handle their laundry:
    • If you have them, wear disposable gloves when handling their dirty laundry, then throw the gloves away.
    • Do not shake dirty laundry.
    • Wash items using the warmest possible water, and dry items completely using the highest appropriate heat setting.
    • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers.
    • Even if you used disposable gloves, wash your hands immediately after handling dirty laundry, and again after handling and disinfecting dirty hampers.
  • Caregivers should stay home and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after their last contact with an infected person.

When do I call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital?

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 9-1-1 and get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

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

I was sick, but now my symptoms are gone. When can I stop self-isolating?

If you had mild to moderate illness and cared for yourself at home, you can stop self-isolating when you meet all of the following criteria:

  • It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first appeared; and
  • You are fever-free for one full day (24 hours) without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
  • Your symptoms have improved.

If you had severe to critical illness from COVID-19, were hospitalized, or you are immunocompromised, talk to your doctor about when you can end isolation.

Do home remedies help?

Home remedies and therapies are not proven to cure COVID-19 nor ensure you won't get it. That's why it is important to focus on prevention: always practice good hand hygiene and stay 6 feet apart from those not in your household. Eating healthy, regular physical exercise, good sleep, and lowering stress levels are great ways to keep your immune system healthy.

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Pregnant Women & Children

Are pregnant women at greater risk from COVID-19?

According to CDC, pregnant women have a greater chance of developing severe illness with COVID-19 than the general public. Additionally, pregnant women with COVID-19 may be more likely to have adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. For more information, see the COVID-19 and pregnancy section of the CDC website.

How can pregnant women protect themselves?

Pregnant women should do the same things as everyone else to avoid COVID-19 infection, including:

  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Avoid close contact with others as much as possible, especially those who are sick. Avoid those who aren’t wearing masks or cloth face coverings.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • When you must go out, practice social distancing. Stay 6 feet from others outside your immediate household.

Pregnant women should also continue to seek health care throughout their pregnancy. Visit your healthcare provider for all recommended appointments during and after pregnancy.

Can COVID-19 be passed from mother to child?

According to CDC, infections causing COVID-19 in newborns born to mothers with COVID-19 are uncommon; however, some newborns have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 shortly after birth. It is unknown if these newborns got the virus before, during, or after birth from close contact with an infected person. However, current evidence suggests that the risk of a newborn getting COVID-19 from its mother is low, especially when she uses appropriate precautions before and during care of the newborn, such as wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene.

Pregnant women and mothers of newborns who are diagnosed with COVID-19 should discuss with their healthcare provider the risks and benefits of having their newborn stay in the same room with them.

For more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, caring for newborns, and breastfeeding, visit CDC’s Pregnancy and Breastfeeding webpage.

Are there special needs for children?

Based on available evidence, while fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. While it appears that in most cases, children who become sick experience mild illness, some children can get severely ill with COVID-19. In rare cases, severe illness in children might lead to death.

Also, in some cases, children with COVID-19 might develop a rare but serious complication called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

For more information and resources, see the COVID-19 in Children & Teens and MIS-C Info for Parents sections of the CDC website.

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Cleaning & Disinfecting

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

The virus is new, and much is being learned about it. Current evidence suggests that it may remain for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection with EPA-approved disinfectants is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.

Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, use an EPA-registered household disinfectant for SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19). See also CDC’s recommendations for household cleaning and disinfection.

Does cleaning frequently-touched objects and surfaces really help?

Yes. COVID-19 may live on surfaces for different lengths of time. We all touch certain things frequently: doorknobs, light switches, faucets, countertops, and more. If you touch something that was just touched by someone with the virus on their hands, you could pick up the virus on yours. That’s why we recommend you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and disinfect high-contact surfaces often.

What cleaning products should I use?

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

How do I deal with grocery shopping?

To keep yourself and others as safe as possible at the grocery store, wear a mask or cloth face covering while you are in the store. Use wipes to clean the handles of the shopping cart or basket. Be sure to practice social distancing while shopping, keeping at least 6 feet between you and other people who are not members of your household. Finally, wash your hands when you return home.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is currently no evidence that links food, food containers, or food packaging with transmission of COVID-19. However, like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects.

If you are concerned about contamination of food or packaging, wash your hands after handling them. Wash your hands before you prepare food and before you eat. Regularly clean and disinfect kitchen counters.

How should you clean a cloth face covering?

Wash your cloth face covering after each use how you would normally wash laundry. Have a few on hand to reduce washing.

How do I handle the laundry of a sick person?

You can wash their laundry with yours. Here are some tips for how to handle their laundry:

  • If you have them, wear disposable gloves when handling their dirty laundry, then throw the gloves away.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Wash items using the warmest possible water, and dry items completely using the highest appropriate heat setting.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers.
  • Even if you used disposable gloves, wash your hands immediately after handling dirty laundry, and again after handling and disinfecting dirty hampers.

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Pets & Livestock

Should I be concerned about pets or other animals getting or spreading COVID-19?

Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. A small number of animals have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19. If you are sick, limit contact with animals to minimize risk to them.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick?

It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. If possible, have someone else in your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them and wear a cloth face covering when in close contact with them.

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Travel

Should I cancel my travel plans because of COVID-19?

With the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, heed the advice of CDC and U.S. State Department travel notices, advisories, and recommendations. For interstate travel within the U.S., check with your destination for any COVID-19 travel advisories and/or closures.

For additional information, visit DSHS’s Information for Travelers page.

What are international travelers entering the United States advised do?

CDC advises that anyone who has traveled internationally in the past 14 days do the following:

  • Stay 6 feet apart from those who are not in your household, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are outside your home.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Watch your health and look for symptoms of COVID-19. Take your temperature if you feel sick.

If you participated in higher risk activities (such as large gatherings, crowds, or cruises) or think you may have been exposed before or during your trip, take these precautions for 14 days after you arrive:

  • Stay home (or isolated at your destination) for 14 days.
  • Avoid being around people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Consider getting tested for COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information, visit CDC’s After You Travel webpage.

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Other Questions about Safety

Is it safe to give blood?

Yes, those who are well can donate blood, according to CDC.

It is still important to practice social distancing and wash your hands. Contact your local blood donation sites for information about giving blood during COVID-19. Call ahead to the donation center to make an appointment, in case they are not taking walk-in donations.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their blood that may help treat those who have recently contracted the virus. Check with your donation center to see if you qualify for convalescent plasma donation.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?

The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in treated drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods used in most municipal drinking water systems use filters and disinfectants to remove or kill germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates water treatment plants to ensure that treated water is safe to drink.

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This page is being updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated November 13, 2020