Frequently Asked Questions

About COVID-19

Older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of contracting severe COVID-19.

Populations who are vulnerable to severe COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 50 years and older.
  • Pregnant or recently pregnant people.
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • People who live in jails and prisons.
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
    • People who have serious heart conditions.
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment.
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk.
    • Smokers.
    • Substance abuse disorders.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus discovered in 2019. The virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets and small particles produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

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 principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low. (Source: CDC)

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.

Free self-test kits are available online at covid.gov/tests.

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. Have you experienced any of the symptoms in the list below in the past 48 hours?
    1. fever or chills
    2. new or unexplained onset of cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
    3. new or unexplained loss of taste or smell
    4. new or unexplained muscle aches
  2. Are you isolating because you tested positive for COVID-19 OR are sick and suspect that you have COVID-19 but do not yet have test results?
  3. Have you been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 in the last 10 days?
  4. Have you traveled internationally in the past 10 days?

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.

To find a COVID-19 testing site, click here.

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.
  • Wear a face cover in public.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • 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 are concerned about a potential exposure and your health status, get tested for COVID-19 at a testing site near you.

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.

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.

Treatment Options

Yes. Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir  antiviral pills (for oral treatment) are available by prescription only. Eligible individuals should contact their health care provider to find out if this treatment option is appropriate for them.

Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir, are antiviral pills (for oral treatment) authorized for people with mild to moderate COVID-19. These antiviral treatments are available by prescription only and should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID-19, and within five days of symptom onset. Eligible individuals should contact their health care provider to find out if this treatment option is appropriate for them.

To be eligible for Paxlovid you must:

  • Be age 12 or older.
  • Have a positive test result for COVID-19.
  • Be at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Molnupiravir is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. To be eligible for Molnupiravir you must:

  • Be age 18 or older.
  • Have a positive test result for COVID-19.
  • Be at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Resources, guidance, and fact sheets for health care providers as well as patients and caregivers can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization website.

As of May 2022, several treatment options are available under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for COVID-19:

  • Options for patients not requiring hospitalization or supplemental oxygen include Paxlovid, Molnupiravir, and remdesivir.
  • If eligible, and within five days of symptom onset, Paxlovid should be considered the first treatment option.

Eligible individuals should contact their health care provider to find out if which treatment option is appropriate for them.

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.

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

Vaccines

Florida has many sites that are providing free COVID-19 vaccines.