Frequently Asked Questions

Novel Coronavirus FAQ Header

Click to read FAQs on the current Health Officer's Order

What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people. Others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can spread to people. This happened with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The virus that causes COVID-19 likely also originated in an animal and spread to humans. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is SARS. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. COVID-19 was first identified when it caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2019.

 

How severe is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As with any newly emerging infectious disease, knowledge about COVID-19 is evolving with time. At this point, it is clear that the virus can pass person-to-person and cause severe disease.

 

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current knowledge of how COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS. Most often, spread of these viruses from person- to-person happens among close contact (within about 6 feet for a prolonged period). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. It is currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. With most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. Research to clarify the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 is ongoing. This information will further inform the risk assessment.

 

How concerned should people in Orange County, CA be about COVID-19?

There is now epidemiological evidence of community transmission in Orange County, indicating that COVID-19 is spreading in the community. People aged 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions (heart disease, diabetes and lung disease) should stay home. All residents should practice good health hygiene which includes washing your hands, staying home if you are sick, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve (not hands).

 

How can I help protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection, although scientists at the National Institute of Health reported they are going to take steps towards the development of a vaccine. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

 

  • 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.
  • Avoid touching 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.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What are the treatments for 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.

What is the current case count?

Cases in the U.S. can be found on the CDC's website, which are being updated at noon Mondays through Fridays. Please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html.

 

Local case count information for Orange County are being updated by 2 p.m., seven days a week at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc.

What should I do if I feel sick with a fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing?

  • Seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

What should I do if I have a positive COVID-19 test result?

Most people with COVID-19 will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care.
If you have a positive COVID-19 test result and have symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), unless otherwise ordered, isolate at home and avoid contact with others until it has been:

 

    • at least 3 days (72 hours) after you have recovered, meaning you don't have a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine (e.g., Tylenol, Advil)
    • and at least 10 days after your first symptoms appeared

If you have a positive COVID-19 PCR test, but have no symptoms, isolate at home for 10 days from the date you took your test.
Persons should isolate at home by following OC Health Care Agency's Guidance for Home Isolation of Patients with Suspected/Confirmed COVID-19, which includes guidance to:

  • Stay home except to get urgent medical care
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Separate yourself from others
  • Isolate yourself in your own bedroom and use an unshared bathroom
  • Wear a facemask
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day
  • Monitor your symptoms

Other Resources:

What should I do if I have a negative COVID-19 test result?

If you are ill but test negative for COVID-19, your illness is unlikely to have been caused by COVID-19.  You may have an infection with a different germ, or an illness not caused by an infection. But no COVID-19 testing is 100% sensitive- people with COVID-19 may test negative.   If your provider strongly suspects COVID-19 is causing your illness, they may have you tested again.

 

If you are ill, you should keep monitoring your symptoms and seek medical advice about staying home and if you need to get tested again. If you were tested and you don't have symptoms, you should get tested again only if your medical provider and/or workplace tells you to.
Other Resources:

When should I get emergency medical care?

Look for emergency warning signs of COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

 

  • Significant trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other significant symptoms of concern to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms.

What should I do if I was exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. If you have had close contact (15 minutes within 6 feet) with someone with COVID-19, quarantine yourself at home or another residence until 14 days from the last date you were in close contact with the person. Do not leave your place of quarantine except to get necessary medical care or other basic needs like obtaining food or medicine. 

 

What should I do if I am a caregiver or live with someone with COVID-19?

If you live in a household or are a caregiver of someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, follow OC Health Care Agency's Guidance for Household Members and Caregivers of Patients with Suspected/Confirmed COVID-19, which includes guidance to:

 

  • Monitor and assist the patient
  • Prevent transmission by limiting contact, using protection such as face coverings and gloves, washing hands, and avoiding sharing household items
  • Clean all "high-touch" surfaces often and wash laundry thoroughly
  • Quarantine yourself if you have had unprotected exposure (15 minutes within 6 feet).

Other Resources:

Who should be tested?

If you have symptoms, we encourage you to get tested if you are able. Contact your healthcare provider or go to the OC COVID Testing Information Page to find information about where you can get tested.  Persons who are particularly recommended to get tested include healthcare workers, first responders, anyone 65 or older, and anyone with an underlying medical condition.  Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms.

 

Contact your healthcare provider or go to the OC COVID Testing Information Page to find information about where you can get tested. Call OC Health Care Agency's Health Referral Line at 800-564-8448 with any questions, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Classic COVID-19 symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Symptoms seen less commonly include congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Persons without symptoms should get tested for COVID-19 if directed by public health or their worksite in response to an outbreak in a congregate living facility, such as a nursing home, jail, or homeless shelter.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, whether or not you have been tested, you should take precautions as if you have COVID-19 infection, unless a medical provider has diagnosed you with an illness besides COVID-19.  This means that you should stay home and avoid contact with others until it has been:

  • at least 3 days (72 hours) after your symptoms improve and your fever resolves, meaning you don't have a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine (e.g., Tylenol, Advil)
  • and at least 10 days after your first symptoms appeared

Other Resources:

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested. But, now that testing is more widely available, if you are able, we encourage you to be tested if you have symptoms or are in one of the priority groups.

 

Contact your healthcare provider or go to the OC COVID Testing Information Page to find information about where you can get tested. Call OC Health Care Agency's Health Referral Line at 800-564-8448 with any questions, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

What kinds of tests are available?

There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.

 

  • A PCR test tells you if you have a current infection, and is the test of choice to detect COVID-19.
  • An antibody test may tell you if you had a previous infection.

PCR testing for COVID-19 are available throughout Orange County to identify individuals who are currently infected and slow transmission of disease. Go to the OC COVID Testing Information Page to find information about testing resources in Orange County.

An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.

Why is the County not offering antibody (serology) testing to the public?

There is currently no recommendation from federal, state or local health experts that individuals should get antibody tests. The County's Public Health priority is to identify people currently infected with the virus using viral testing and slow the transmission of COVID-19.

 

Antibody tests check your blood by looking for antibodies to COVID-19, which can show if you had a past infection with the virus. An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.
Viral tests for COVID-19 are available throughout Orange County to identify individuals who are currently infected and slow transmission of disease. Go to the OC COVID Testing Information Page to find information about testing resources in Orange County.

How is the COVID-19 test done?

The viral test for COVID-19 is a painless process that uses a thin swab to take a sample a sample from the back of the nose or throat, or inside the nose. It identifies the virus' genetic material if it is present. This material is detectable when a person has active infection. It is NOT a blood test and it does not test for antibodies or identify a past infection.

 

Many testing sites are drive-through and you may not need to leave your car. Call ahead to find out what the testing process for the testing site you are visiting.

What should I do if I have a positive COVID-19 test result?

Most people with COVID-19 will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care.
If you have a positive COVID-19 test result and have symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), unless otherwise ordered, isolate at home and avoid contact with others until it has been:

 

    • at least 3 days (72 hours) after you have recovered, meaning you don't have a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine (e.g., Tylenol, Advil)
    • and at least 10 days after your first symptoms appeared

If you have a positive COVID-19 PCR test, but have no symptoms, isolate at home for 10 days from the date you took your test.

Persons should isolate at home by following OC Health Care Agency's Guidance for Home Isolation of Patients with Suspected/Confirmed COVID-19, which includes guidance to:

  • Stay home except to get urgent medical care
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Separate yourself from others
  • Isolate yourself in your own bedroom and use an unshared bathroom
  • Wear a facemask
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day
  • Monitor your symptoms

Other Resources:

What should I do if I have a negative COVID-19 test result?

If you are ill but test negative for COVID-19, your illness is unlikely to have been caused by COVID-19.  You may have an infection with a different germ, or an illness not caused by an infection. But no COVID-19 testing is 100% sensitive- people with COVID-19 may test negative.   If your provider strongly suspects COVID-19 is causing your illness, they may have you tested again.
If you are ill, you should keep monitoring your symptoms and seek medical advice about staying home and if you need to get tested again. See "What should I do if I feel sick with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing?" above.

 

If you were tested and you don't have symptoms, you should get tested again only if your medical provider and/or workplace tells you to.
Other Resources:

What does the federal declaration of COVID-19 as a public health emergency mean?

On Friday, January 31, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the COVID-19 a public health emergency in the United States. The declaration went into effect at 2 p.m. PST on Sunday, February 2, 2020. As part of the emergency declaration, persons returning to the United States through select airports and considered to be at highest risk are being quarantined and monitored by public health officials. Locally, it's important to note that John Wayne Airport is not among this predetermined list of airports. All other returning travelers from China will face a health screening and face up to two weeks of monitored self-quarantine to ensure they pose no health risk.

 

What does the County Health Officer's order mean?

On May 23, 2020, the County Health Officer put into effect orders and strong recommendations to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as more business move toward re-opening. Community members are encouraged to read the orders and strong recommendations in their entirety here as well as the related frequently asked questions. The County Health Officer's Order contains specific legal requirements that all Orange County residents and visitors must follow related to cloth face-coverings, appropriate self-quarantining and isolation related to a COVID-19 diagnosis or potential exposure, and actions that business owners must take prior to re-opening under Stage Two of California's Resiliency Roadmap.
Read more:

 

What does the New Health Order change about the Previous Health Order?

There are two changes. First, pursuant to State guidance for variance counties, certain businesses and sectors may re-open on or after June 12, 2020, but only with approval of the County Health Officer.  For these sectors, please do not submit to OC Health Care Agency any documents for review and approval. Instead, please refer to https://www.ochealthinfo.com/about/admin/pubs/press for current information as to which sectors have been authorized by the County Health Officer to re-open.

 

Second, the County Health Officer's previous order requiring most residents to wear cloth face coverings outside their home when unable to physically distance themselves by at least six feet can now be safely modified to a strong SHOULD instead of a MUST. This is in line with our partners at the California Department of Public Health and is based on the County's measures against the State-mandated COVID-19 monitoring metrics:

Metrics Criteria

  • A County is flagged for elevated disease transmission criteria if:
    • Case rate (per 100,000) >100

OR

 

    • Case rate (per 100,000) >25 AND testing positivity >8.0% 
  • A County is flagged for increasing hospitalization criteria if:
    • >10% increase in the average number of confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized

 

  • A County is flagged for limited hospital capacity if:
    • <20% of staffed ICU beds are available

OR

 

    • <25% of ventilators are available

Specifically, Orange County's metrics related Disease Transmission (testing positivity, 4.5%), Increasing Hospitalizations (5.2%), and Limited Hospital Capacity (availability of ICU beds, 40%, and ventilators, 67%) DO NOT trigger any of the State metrics indicating concern and need for engagement regarding increased control measures.
The OC Health Care Agency stands with Public Health experts and believes the practice of wearing cloth face coverings helps slow the spread of COVID-19 and saves lives.
In all other respects, the New Health Order continues the orders and strong recommendations of May 28, 2020 Amended Health Officer Orders and Strong Recommendations

What does Governor Newsom and California Department of Public Health's guidance mean?

On March 19, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Public Health Officer ordered all individuals to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. The order also dictated individuals employ social distancing practices by maintaining 6 feet of distance from others.
On May 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order that informed local health jurisdictions and industry sectors that they may gradually reopen under new modifications and guidance provided by the state per the May 7, 2020 Public Health Order.
On May 23, 2020, our County Health Officer put into effect orders and strong recommendations to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as more business move toward re-opening. Community members are encouraged to read the orders and strong recommendations in their entirety here as well as the related frequently asked questions. The County Health Officer's Order contains specific legal requirements that all Orange County residents and visitors must follow related to cloth face-coverings, appropriate self-quarantining and isolation related to a COVID-19 diagnosis or potential exposure, and actions that business owners must take prior to re-opening under Stage Two of California's Resiliency Roadmap.
Read more:

 

Where do I get more information about the self-quarantine or self-isolation components of the County Health Officer's Order?

Please call the OC Health Care Agency's Health Referral Line toll free at 1(800) 564-8448 or TTD (phone for the hearing impaired) at 1(800) 801-7100.

 

What if I still have questions or would like to report a violation of the Interim Health Officer's Order?

Please call the OC Health Care Agency's OC COVID-19 Hotline at (714) 834-2000. For questions about the enforcement of the Interim Health Officer's Order, please contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department's (OCSD) dispatch team at (714) 647-7000. For those cities not under contract with OCSD, please contact your city police department's non-emergency dispatch line.

What is a cloth face covering?

A cloth face-covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth; it can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face; it can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen; and a face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. 

 

I'm a resident or visitor to Orange County. Where does the OC Health Care Agency strongly recommend that I wear a face covering?

Anywhere you come within 6 feet of others who do not live in your household. That includes:

 

  • Waiting in line to go inside a store
  • Shopping in a store
  • Picking up food at a restaurant
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Riding in a taxi or other ride service vehicle
  • Seeking health care
  • Going into facilities that are allowed to stay open
  • While at work
  • When at the beach or an outdoor museum

Read more:

Who should not wear a face covering?

Children under the age of 2; anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance; as well as individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition or developmental disability that prevents it.

 

Should children wear a face covering?

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering their nose and mouth when in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. Medical masks and N-95 respirators are still reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Read more:

 

Where am I not required to wear a face covering?

In general, as long as you maintain a 6 feet of physical distance from others (excluding your household members), you are not required to wear a face covering. That means, you are not required to wear a face covering when:

 

  • At home
  • In the car alone or with members of the household
  • When swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running alone or with household members

Should employees at essential businesses be wearing a face covering?

All employees at Orange County essential businesses should wear a face covering while at work when interacting with the public or co-workers.  However, due to the scarcity of critical medical supplies, N95 respirators and surgical masks should not be used except by healthcare workers and first responders.
Read more:

 

Businesses and employers play an important part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.  As part of California Connected, our state's contact tracing program, the Orange County (OC) Health Care Agency (HCA) will initiate COVID-19 workplace investigation and contact tracing, if necessary.  The following are frequently asked questions (FAQs):

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and that test result is reported to the HCA:
Will the HCA do case investigation and contact tracing?

  • Yes, if the employee is an OC resident.
  • No, if the employee is a not an OC resident.  The employee's county health department of residence will manage the case.  The HCA may assist another county in their investigation when it involves an OC employer.

The HCA has established a Case and Contact Investigator (CCI) team. More information on the CCI team may be found at the following link: https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/sites/virus/files/2020-05/COVID-19_Contact_Tracing_v03.pdf

Will the HCA notify the employee's workplace?

Privacy laws require maintaining an employee's confidentiality.  The HCA will only notify the employer if there are exposures in the workplace and an investigation is necessary.

If an employee voluntarily notifies their employer of testing positive for COVID-19: Does the employer have to notify the HCA?

No, all tests positive for COVID-19 are required to be reported to the HCA by the laboratory performing the test.

 

Does the employer have to perform the contact tracing?

No, the HCA CCI team will perform contact tracing if the employee is an OC resident or if assistance is requested from another county for a non-OC resident.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has available FAQs for employers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 employees, which are available at the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/general-business-faq.html#Suspected-or-Confirmed-Cases-of-COVID-19-in-the-Workplace

Please know the HCA does not perform case investigation and contact tracing based on serology (antibody) test results. Serology results alone are NOT used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection.
For more COVID-19 information, please visit www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus or call the HCA's Health Referral Line at (800) 564-8448.

 

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For more information, please visit Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19). Follow us on Facebook @ochealthinfo and on Twitter @ochealth. Call the HCA's Health Referral Line at (800) 564-8448.