Frequently Asked Questions

About COVID-19

People with chronic or underlying health conditions are more likely to become very sick from COVID-19. Those who have one or more of these conditions should be extra careful:

  • Moderate to severe asthma or chronic lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Weakened immune system because of smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, cancer treatment, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
  • Severe obesity

More information on COVID-19 and chronic or underlying health conditions can be found here

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is an illness caused by a virus that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID19 is a new coronavirus that has spread throughout the world. COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild (or no symptoms) to severe. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

COVID-19 is considered a national health emergency. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment can change daily. For the latest national situation report please visit the CDC’s website. For current information concerning Florida visit the Florida Department of Health website.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

Read about COVID-19 Symptoms.

The Florida Department of Health is actively working with private and public partners to monitor COVID-19. The Florida Department of Health has set up testing centers throughout the state https://www.floridadisaster.org/covid19/testing-sites/

The Florida Department of Health is communicating regularly with the public and health care providers with updates on COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. The COVID-19 Call Center is available 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121.

To read Gov. DeSantis’ Plan for Florida’s Recovery Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Click here https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/plan-for-floridas-recovery/

The virus most likely originally emerged from an animal source and now spreads from person-to-person. Like the common cold, it is spread by droplets, often generated when a person sneezes or coughs.

No. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. The recently emerged COVID-19 is not the same as the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or the coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

Exposure to COVID-19 and Testing

Call your doctor or your County Health Department if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms, and need to be tested. They will decide whether you need to be tested, tell you where to go, and link you to local resources for people who have limited mobility.”

Currently, COVID-19 antibody tests are not widely available. If you need an antibody test, contact your local health care provider or local County Health Department to find out if and where antibody testing is being offered in your area. Some private labs are conducting antibody testing with doctor’s orders.

If your antibody test comes back positive, you may have antibodies from the virus that causes COVID-19. Your health care provider may recommend getting a second test so confirm the accurate reading. If your antibody test comes back negative, you may not have had COVID-19 before. It can take 1-3 weeks after infection to develop antibodies. Some people do not develop antibodies.

Currently, COVID-19 antibody tests are not widely available. If you need an antibody test, contact your local health care provider or local County Health Department to find out if and where antibody testing is being offered in your area. Some private labs are conducting antibody testing with doctor’s orders.

If your antibody test comes back positive, you may have antibodies from the virus that causes COVID-19. Your health care provider may recommend getting a second test so confirm the accurate reading. If your antibody test comes back negative, you may not have had COVID-19 before. It can take 1-3 weeks after infection to develop antibodies. Some people do not develop antibodies.

The amount of time it takes to get your test results back varies. For information regarding your test, contact the testing facility that ordered or collected the test. The COVID-19 Call Center cannot provide results, or provide a status update. 

The Florida Department of Health follows CDC guidance on testing for COVID-19. This means that when a person goes to their local health care provider they will be asked the following questions:

  1. Did you have close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms?
  2. Are you located in an area where there is confirmed community spread?
  3. Are you experiencing unexplained respiratory illness that requires hospitalization?
  4. Have you traveled to or from an affected geographic area with community transmission in the last 14 days and have a fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, that person will be tested. Additionally, a person can be tested at the discretion of their local health care provider if they do not meet the above criteria.

The Florida Department of Health has three labs open in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa that will continue to operate to provide results as quickly as possible.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease in 2019 (COVID-19).  The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus (and avoid exposing other people).  Here’s how:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear a cloth face cover in public
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect “high-tough” surfaces

See more about preventing and preparing for COVID-19.

The time between exposure to the COVID-19 virus and onset of symptoms is called the “incubation period.” The incubation period for COVID-19 is typically 2 to 14 days, although in some cases it may be longer.

The CDC recommends self-quarantining for 14 days if you have recently traveled to a high-risk area, even if asymptomatic. If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath during those 14 days contact your health care professional and mention your recent travel. Your health care provider will help you determine the nearest COVID-19 testing center for you to visit.

If you have had close contact with someone showing COVID-19 symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you should call your county health department or other health care professional to discuss the steps and precautions you should take.

Respiratory swabs (nose and throat) are collected by a health care provider and sent to a private laboratory or one of the state public health laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

To be tested for COVID-19 an order from a healthcare provider may be required. Your healthcare provider can either collect a sample for testing in their office or provide an order to obtain testing at an alternative testing site. Some testing sites require an order from a healthcare provider, and for an appointment to be scheduled in advance, though there are a number of sites that will test regardless of symptoms and without an appointment.

The locations of COVID-19 testing are decided and coordinated by local communities. State-supported testing sites can be found here.

More About COVID-19

While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person. The Florida Department of Health and CDC recommend that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.

The length of time that the virus survives likely depends on factors. These factors could include the type of material or body fluid containing the virus and various environmental conditions such as temperature or humidity. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other institutions are designing standardized experiments to measure how long COVID-19 can survive in situations that simulate natural environmental conditions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The list of disinfectant products can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have any evidence to suggest that animals or animal products imported from areas with widespread community transmission pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
The CDC, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) play distinct but complementary roles in regulating the importation of live animals and animal products into the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization are reliable and up-to-date sources of information about this evolving outbreak.

For Florida specific information, please consult the Florida Department of Health website: http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/

Other Health Care Concerns

Yes, you should contact your healthcare professional just like you would at any other time. You should not delay in seeking medical care if you are concerned about your health, but call your healthcare provider before visiting the office.

If you are concerned about visiting your doctor, ask about what telehealth services they may offer. Your doctor’s office may ask screening questions, limit the number of people who can be in the office at any one time, require face masks, and introduce other processes to keep you safe.

The COVID-19 outbreak has been stressful for most people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can cause strong emotions in both adults and children. The CDC offers resources on how to cope with the stress surrounding COVID-19 which you can find here

Additional behavioral health resources can be found here.

Tracking the Spread of the Virus (Contact Tracing)

It’s important that you speak with a contact tracer if you have had potential exposure to COVID-19.  The Florida Department of Health urges all Floridians to answer calls from (833) 917-2880, (833) 443-5364 and (850) 583-2419  as this is part of Florida’s comprehensive contact tracing effort.

All public health professionals who conduct contact tracing are highly trained in confidentiality. When they talk to people who have been in contact with a patient, they do not share any information about that person under any circumstance.

The Department’s COVID-19 contact tracing fact sheet is a great source of information about how contact tracing works. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides in-depth information about the principles and importance of contact tracing.

For contact tracing to be most effective, it should be carried out as soon after diagnosis as possible. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will likely be contacted quickly by a public health professional to initiate contact tracing. It is important to remember, though, that not being contacted for contact tracing does not mean you did not test positive or that you cannot transmit COVID-19. Proper precautions, such as social distancing, regular hand washing, and wearing a mask, should still be taken.

Many communicable diseases, including COVID-19, can be spread by people who do not appear to be sick. Since these people feel well, they are unlikely to get tested and may not know they are carrying a virus. Contact tracing can help public health officials learn who these asymptomatic carriers are so they can be informed about appropriate prevention measures, to include testing and self-isolation. This helps keep disease at bay.

When a person tests positive for a disease or condition, a public health case investigator will work with the patient to create a list of people they’ve been in contact with during a given time frame. The contact tracing expert then contacts each of those people so that they can take appropriate precautions (getting tested, self-isolation, monitor for symptoms, etc.) and, in turn, create a list of people they’ve been in contact with as necessary. By using this strategy, public health professionals can get ahead of infectious diseases and prevent further spread.

Contact tracing is done by specially trained public health professionals. In general, these trained staff study patterns and causes of diseases in humans. Public health professionals tasked with contact tracing are experts in protecting client confidentiality, counseling, cultural competency, and more.

Contact tracing is a disease control measure. Public health professionals work with patients to develop a list of everyone they have been in close contact with during a certain period. The staff will then contact those people to let them know about their possible exposure so that they can take proper precautions.

Travel

Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Traveling may be especially dangerous if you or who you are visiting are high-risk for contracting COVID-19. People at higher risk for severe illness need to take extra precautions. Visit the CDC’s website for more.

Visit Gov. DeSantis’ Reopening Plan for more information on traveling: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/plan-for-floridas-recovery/

Per Executive Order 20-139, effective June 5 (with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), vacation rentals may seek approval to operate vacation rentals by submitting a written request and a county vacation rental safety plan to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

For more information on vacation rentals, visit http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/os/documents/2020.05.15%20Posted%20Recommended%20Safety%20Measures%20and%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Vacation%20Rentals.pdf

Domestic Travel: The COVID-19 outbreak in United States is a rapidly evolving situation. The status of the outbreak varies by location and state and local authorities are updating their guidance frequently. The White House’s Opening Up America Again plan means some parts of the country may have different guidance than other areas. Check with the state or local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.

International Travel: The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial travel options remain available, U.S. citizens should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite length of time. For more information, visit the Department of State website.

For more detailed information: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/travelers/

Each company establishes its own refund policies, and any decision regarding refunds are between the traveler and the individual company.

Treatment and Vaccines

Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
Learn about COVID-19 Treatment.

What's Open

Schools remain distance learning. Education officials are developing plans for the Fall 2020 reopening of public schools. 

Daycares may open. Summer camps may operate. (All with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties). The Florida Department of Health has provided guidance for organized youth activities.

Entertainment businesses, including but not limited to movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, and arcades, may operate at 50 percent capacity with appropriate social distancing and frequent sanitization (with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties).

As of June 5 (with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), gyms may operate at full capacity with appropriate social distancing and frequent sanitization.

As of June 5 (with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), salons and barbershops may continue operating while adhering to safety protocols. For additional guidance, visit http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/os/documents/2020.05.09%20DBPR%20FAQs%20re%20Executive%20Order%2020-120.pdf

Yes. Beginning May 21, Florida State Parks began offering camping and in some cases cabins for our guests. Visitors should practice social distancing, expect limited hours and capacity.

For more information which Florida State Parks are open and closed, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/learn/safety-updates

As of June 5 (with exceptions in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), bars and restaurants may operate at 50 percent seating capacity inside and full capacity outside with appropriate social distancing. Patrons may only receive service if seated. Restaurants may allow bar-top seating.

All persons in Florida are encouraged to avoid congregating in groups larger than 10.