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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).

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.

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.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

COVID-19 testing is now available at multiple clinical laboratories, if indicated and upon order by your healthcare provider. Walk-ins to our public health clinics will not be accommodated for testing.

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 on gatherings mean?

On March 17, 2020, Orange County Chief Executive Officer authorized emergency regulations and County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick issued a local health officer’s order effective through March 31, 2020. The order prohibits gatherings of any number of people in the county except as specified; closes bars and other establishments that serve alcohol, and do not serve food; closes on-site dining for restaurants; and strongly recommends those 65 years of age and older and those with a serious chronic medical condition (like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes) to remain at home. Regardless of the expiration of the County Public Health Order, residents of Orange County are required to continue to stay at home except for essential needs in accordance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order here. Because transmission is occurring throughout the county, it is important for individuals and businesses to practice social distancing, as directed by the Governor and the State's Public Health Officer.

What does Governor Newsom and California Department of Public Health’s guidance on gatherings 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.

Residents of Orange County are required to continue to stay at home except for essential needs. Because transmission is occurring throughout the county, it is important for individuals and businesses to practice social distancing, as directed by the Governor and the State's Public Health Officer, regardless of the expiration of the County Public Health Order.

State of California Governor Executive order can be found at https://covid19.ca.gov/img/Executive-Order-N-33-20.pdf. Frequently asked questions regarding the order can be found on the state website at https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/.

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://coronavirus.egovoc.com/coronavirus-in-oc.

Should I be wearing a face mask in public?

You may choose to wear a cloth face covering when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. There is limited evidence to suggest that use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

Read more: CDPH - Face Covering Guidance




For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV. Follow us on Facebook @ochealthinfo and on Twitter @ochealth. Call the HCA’s Health Referral Line at (800) 564-8448.