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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

See information on COVID-19 and chronic or underlying health conditions

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. 

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

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Read about COVID-19 symptoms.

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.

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. Click here for a list of disinfectant products.

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.

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.

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.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus (and avoid exposing other people). Here’s how:

  • Vaccines are the most effective tools to protect your health and prevent the spread of disease.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wear a cloth face cover in public.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect “high-touch” 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.

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.

Many state-run and local testing sites are available throughout Florida.  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.

To find a testing site near you, click here.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

To support Governor DeSantis’ initiative, there is currently a standing order in Florida signed by the State Surgeon General that allows patients to receive this treatment without a prescription or referral if administered by an eligible health care provider. Such referrals are not required at any of the State of Florida monoclonal antibody treatment sites.

At the direction of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health and Florida Division of Emergency Management are working together to deploy mobile and stationary monoclonal antibody therapy treatment sites. Click here to find a monoclonal antibody treatment site.

There is no cost for monoclonal antibody treatment. No one will be denied services due to inability to pay for administrative cost at State of Florida sites. However, insurance can be billed if available.

Monoclonal antibody treatment is most effective when given early and the sooner it is given the better. There is not a time limit to receive the medication, however it must be delivered prior to the occurrence of severe illness.

This treatment is available to all eligible people, regardless of vaccination status.

High-risk patients should get treatment as quickly as possible after testing positive for COVID- 19. Examples of medical conditions that may pose a higher risk for severe illness and could potentially benefit from this treatment include, but are not limited to:

  • Older age (65 years of age and older)
  • Individuals overweight
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Immunosuppressive disease or treatments
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic lung diseases
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Having medical-related technological dependence such as tracheostomy or gastrostomy

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

Find additional behavioral health resources.

Tracking the Spread of the Virus (Contact Tracing)

It is possible that the FDOH may contact you. 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 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.