Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

Coronavirus General Information What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a virus. The virus mainly spreads from person to person when they are in close contact (within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes within a 24 hour period during the infectious period). Many people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness or no symptoms and can recover at home without medical care. However, some people (mainly older adults and people with underlying medical conditions) are more likely to get very sick. Severity of illness may require hospitalization, including intensive care, and may result in death.
How severe is COVID-19? Many people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness or no symptoms and can recover at home without medical care. However, some people (mainly older adults and people with underlying medical conditions) are more likely to get very sick, meaning that they may need to be hospitalized, including admission to intensive care. COVID-19 can be severe resulting in extended illness and recovery, long term medical conditions, or death.

 

Not everyone gets symptoms of COVID-19. If they do, symptoms usually show up 2-14 days after they are exposed. Some symptoms of COVID-19 include: Fever or chills; Cough; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Other symptoms: fatigue (feeling tired), muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
How does COVID-19 spread? The coronavirus mainly spreads from person to person when they are in close contact (within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes within a 24 hour period during the infectious period). The virus is spread through droplets from the nose and mouth of someone with coronavirus when they cough, sneeze, or raise their voice (like when they shout, chant, or sing) near another person.

 

Many people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms so they may not know that they can spread the virus to others. Wearing a face covering can help protect others in case someone is infected with COVID-19 and does not have symptoms.
How can I help protect myself? There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection, although a vaccine is being developed. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

 

Learn how to Protect Yourself and Those Around You
How concerned should people in Orange County, CA be about COVID-19? There is epidemiological evidence of community transmission in Orange County, indicating that COVID-19 is spreading in the community. Follow the Health Officer’s Orders based risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community.

 

Case Counts 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.

 

Treatment, Exposed, Caring for Someone What are the treatments for COVID-19? There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. Most people with COVID-19 will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Most people have symptoms for a few days and start to feel better after a week.


Someone with COVID-19 can do the following to help with their symptoms:
  • Get rest at home.
  • Drink lots of fluids and stay hydrated.
  • Use over-the-counter medicines to help with symptoms (after talking to your doctor).
  • Keep your doctor’s phone number on hand.
  • Check and track your symptoms if you have them. If your symptoms get worse, especially if you have trouble breathing, call your doctor right away.
  • Look for emergency warning signs and call 911 if necessary. Emergency warning signs for COVID-19 include: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, bluish lips or face, can’t wake up or stay awake. If someone is showing any of these signs, call 911. Tell the 911 operator that the patient has or is suspected to have COVID-19.

 

Learn more about Caring for Yourself or Someone with COVID-19
What should I do if I was exposed to someone with COVID-19? If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you should:

 

  • Get tested. If you were within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 minutes within a 24 hour period during the infectious period, you should get tested.
  • Stay home for at least 14 days after the last close contact (within 6 feet for at least 25 minutes within a 24 hour period during the infectious period) of someone with COVID-19.
  • Only go out for necessary errands like getting food, medicine, or other essentials.
  • Stay 6 feet apart and avoid close contact with others.
  • Wear a face covering when you are in the same room with someone with COVID-19.
  • Limit visitors to those who have to be in the home.

 

Learn more about what to do If You Have COVID-19 or Were Exposed

 

What should I do if I am a caregiver or live with someone with COVID-19? Most people with COVID-19 will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care.

 

Learn more about what to do If You Have COVID-19 or Were Exposed including Caring for Yourself or Someone with COVID-19
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 symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or other cloth face covering when unable to avoid contact with others.
  • 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.

 

Learn more about what to do If You Have COVID-19 or Were Exposed
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.
Testing Who should be tested?

Go to the OC COVID Testing Page “Who Should Get Test?” section to find the latest information about who should get a COVID-19 test.

What kinds of tests are available?

There are three kinds of tests for COVID-19:

 

  • A PCR or molecular test tells you if you have a current infection. It is taken with a swab in the mouth, nose, or throat. Only this test confirms a case of COVID-19 if positive.
  • An antigen test is a newer COVID-19 test that tells if you have a current infection. Antigen tests are currently approved for symptomatic patients only and a positive result is considered a probable case, not confirmed. Negative results do not rule out infection due to these tests having frequent false negative results. The test is taken with a nasal or throat swab.
  • An antibody (serology) test does NOT tell you if you are infected currently. It only tells you if you had a previous infection and currently is not recommended for individual use. It is done through a needle or finger stick to get a blood sample.

 

Go to the OC COVID Testing Page to find the latest information about who should get a COVID-19 test.
How is the COVID-19 test done? The COVID-19 test is done in different ways.

 

  • A PCR test is taken with a swab in the mouth, nose, or throat.
  • An antigen test is taken with a nasal or throat swab.
  • An antibody (serology) test is done through a needle or fingerstick to get a blood sample.

 

Go to the OC COVID Testing Page to find the latest information about who should get a COVID-19 test.
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 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.
Does my health plan have to cover my COVID-19 test?

Yes, if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you think you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19, or the test is otherwise medically necessary for your situation.

 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, under federal law, you can obtain a COVID-19 test anywhere and your health plan must pay for the test.

 

If you don’t have symptoms and don’t think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, but you are an “essential worker” as discussed below, your health plan must cover your COVID-19 test. However, you must contact your health plan before getting testing. They will help you get an appointment with a testing provider. If you don’t have symptoms, don’t think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, and aren’t an “essential worker” as defined below, and you think you need a test, please contact your health plan or health care provider for further guidance.
How do I know if I’m an “essential worker” for purposes of COVID-19 testing coverage? New state emergency regulations describe who are “essential workers” for purposes of coverage of COVID-19 testing.
You are an “essential worker” if you:

 

  • work in a correctional facility;
  • work in a congregate care facility (e.g., a residential care facility for the elderly or a shelter for people experiencing homelessness); or,
  • provide care in the home to an elderly person or a person with a disability.

 

You are an “essential worker” if you work in one of the sectors listed below and regularly have contact with the public or with people who may have or been exposed to COVID-19:

 

  • health care (e.g., hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, ambulatory surgery centers, health care providers’ offices, health care clinics, pharmacies, blood banks, dialysis centers, hospices, home health);
  • emergency services (e.g., police and public safety departments, fire departments, emergency service response operations);
  • public transportation (e.g., public transit, passenger rail service, passenger ferry service, public airports, commercial airlines);
  • food service (e.g., grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, grocery or meal delivery services); or,
  • education (e.g., childcare establishments, pre-kindergarten programs, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities).

 

Finally, you are an “essential worker” if you work in one of the sectors listed below and have frequent interactions with the public or can’t regularly maintain at least six feet of space from other workers:
  • retail;
  • manufacturing;
  • agriculture (e.g., harvesting sites or facilities, packing facilities, slaughter facilities); or,
  • food manufacturing (e.g., food production and processing facilities, food packing facilities.
Will I have to pay a co-pay for a COVID-19 test? If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or you think you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, under federal law, you do not need to pay a co-pay to be tested.

 

In all other circumstances, you may be required to pay a co-pay, just like you would when getting any other health care services.
How long will I have to wait to get a test? The length of time it will take depends on why you are seeking a test.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you were exposed, under federal law, you can go to any available testing site. The easiest way to find a testing site is to go to https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing or call your health plan so they can direct you to an available testing location.

 

If you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and don’t know if you have a known or suspected exposure COVID-19, but you are an “essential worker,” please call your health plan. The health plan must offer you a testing appointment that is no more than 48 hours after you contacted the plan. The testing site must be within 15 miles or 30 minutes of your residence or workplace. If the health plan can’t find you an available appointment within that time and distance, then you can go to any available testing site and your health plan will pay for the test.

 

If you don’t have symptoms or suspected exposure, and you are not an “essential worker, please call your health care provider. If your provider determines a COVID-19 test is medically necessary for you, your health plan must offer you a testing appointment that is no more than 96 hours after you contacted the plan. The testing site must be within 15 miles or 30 minutes of your residence or workplace. If the health plan can’t find you an available appointment within that time and distance, you can go to any available testing site.
How does my health plan know if I’m an “essential worker”? Your health plan can ask you questions about the nature of your work, to determine whether you are an essential worker.However, your health plan can’t ask you to provide further documentation or evidence of your work status. For example, your health plan can’t ask you to provide written proof of where you work or the conditions of your workplace.
I get my health care coverage through my employer, who has a “self-insured” plan. Do these new regulations apply to me? Self-insured plans are regulated by the federal government, rather than the state. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you were exposed to someone who you know or suspect has COVID-19, under federal law, your employer’s self-insured plan must cover your test.

 

In all other instances, you should talk to your employer’s self-insured plan to find out whether they will cover COVID-19 testing.

 

Test Results 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 test positive for COVID-19, stay home and let close contacts know they may have been exposed. A close contact is someone you were within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes within a 24 hour period during the infectious period.

 

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 10 days after your first symptoms appeared and
  • At least 24 hours with no fever without using fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) and
  • Symptoms have improved

 

Note that all three criteria are required before release from isolation; if you have a positive COVID-19 test, but have no symptoms, stay in isolation for 10 days from the date the test was taken.
Learn more about what to do If You Have COVID-19 or Were Exposed
What should I do if I have a negative COVID-19 test result? If you are negative but still feel sick, notify your healthcare provider (doctor) if your symptoms get worse, especially if you have trouble breathing. You may need to retest due to worsening symptoms.

 

Anyone who has been in close contact to someone with COVID-19 must still stay home for 14 days after last close contact since it can take that long to become sick.

 

Learn more about what to do If You Have COVID-19 or Were Exposed

 

Face Coverings 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.
Is there evidence that masks are effective? Yes, masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.
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.
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 member
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.
Where can I find the latest County Health Officer’s order? The most recent County Health Officer’s Orders are posted on OC Health Officer’s Orders and Recommendations.

 

Press Releases are available on Latest News and show previous orders.
Where do I get more information about the self-quarantine or self-isolation components of the County Health Officer's Order? Please review information about quarantine and isolation or 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.
How do I report a violation of the Health Officer's Order? To report a violation or for questions about the enforcement of the 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 if I still have COVID-19 questions? Please call the OC Health Care Agency’s OC COVID-19 Hotline at (714) 834-2000.

 

Contact Tracing and Employee / Employers If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and that test result is reported to the OC Health Care Agency (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? Refer to state guidance for relevant sector. Generally, employers do not need to report to health department as all laboratories are required to report results, however, in some instances, such as schools, the employer is required to report cases.
Does the employer have to perform the contact tracing? State guidance for most sectors requires employers to have ability to do contact tracing within the workplace, however, the employer is not responsible for contact tracing outside of the workplace. 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.

 

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.

 

COVID-19 Outbreak Investigation and Reporting What is the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak? HCA defines a COVID-19 outbreak as 3 or more laboratory-confirmed cases among employees who live in different households present within a 14 day period that are epidemiologically linked.

This definition applies to:
  • Work sites
  • Schools (including preschools, K-12, and colleges/universities)
  • Social groups (parties, church gatherings, etc.)


Note: the definitions above adhere to California Department of Public Health Guidance. They may be updated in the future as guidance changes.

An outbreak occurs when COVID-19 is spread to multiple persons in a community setting.  If multiple cases are identified in persons at one community site or group, but the cases are not linked epidemiologically and were acquired outside of the site, HCA will assist with preventing new cases, but this is not an outbreak.
Where do COVID-19 outbreaks occur? COVID-19 outbreaks occur in multiple community settings (e.g., work sites, schools, churches, congregate living, etc.).  A primary public health focus is prevention of spread in these settings.  It is the responsibility of every employer to protect the health and wellbeing of their workers and knowing what to do in the event of an outbreak.  It is a requirement for every employer to notify HCA if there is a known or suspected outbreak in the workplace. HCA will assist in investigating whenever multiple cases are identified at a public site.
When do I report an outbreak in a worksite? HCA should be informed whenever 2 or more cases are identified in a specific work or social group within a 2 week period.
When do I report an outbreak in a school setting (including preschools, K-12, and colleges/universities)? HCA should be informed whenever 2 or more cases are identified in a specific class, work or social group within a 2 week period.
How do I report an outbreak? An outbreak can be reported to HCA by calling the OC Health Care Agency's Health Referral Line toll free at 1(800) 564-8448.