General questions and answers

Updated July 23, 2020

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About COVID-19

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Not all coronaviruses are COVID-19.
  • A novel (or new) coronavirus is a strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans.
  • COVID-19 is a type of novel coronavirus that is spreading from person to person in many countries and states, including Colorado.

  • COVID-19 spreads from person to person and is thought to be transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.
  • It may be possible that 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, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

  • Symptoms, especially early on, may be mild and feel like a common cold. Early symptoms could include a combination of cough, body aches, fatigue, and chest tightness. A fever may not appear until several days into the illness, and some people may never develop a fever throughout the duration of the illness. People who have symptoms should get tested and self-isolate.
  • More advanced symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, and more. These people also should get tested, self-isolate, and contact a medical provider as necessary. 
  • In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. 

It depends on the severity of the illness.

2-14 days.

  • Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and sometimes death.
  • According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild.
  • Anyone can experience severe illness from this disease, but there are a number of groups at higher risk of severe illness, including: 
    • People who are 65 and older.
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
    • People who have serious heart conditions.
    • People who have weakened immune systems.
    • People determined to be at high risk by a licensed health care provider.

  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but vaccine research is underway.
  • There is no specific, evidence-based treatment for COVID-19 at this time, but there are studies involving promising treatments, such as the antiviral medication Remdesivir. 
  • Many of the symptoms can be treated, and therefore treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Many people will be able to recover on their own.
  • Scientists are reporting progress with clinical trials of an antiviral medication called Remdesivir, but trials are still in progress to find out whether this is a suitable and effective treatment.

At this time, it is safe to assume that everyone is at risk of getting COVID-19. That is why it is so important to keep up with and follow state and local public health orders.

  • Generally speaking, food is not contaminated with coronaviruses, and cooking would kill any virus in the food.
  • According to the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation, normal chlorination treatment should be sufficient to kill the virus in drinking water systems. Their conclusion is based on studies of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19, and we can’t be sure how long this virus stays in the air. We advise taking a cautious approach to prevent spread.

There is likely a very low risk of spreading the virus from products or packages that are shipped over days and weeks. Coronaviruses are generally spread through respiratory droplets and don’t survive well on surfaces. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through imported goods or shipped packages.

Normal swimming pool disinfection techniques are thought to be effective against COVID-19. 

  • For COVID-19, close contact includes:
  • Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19.
  • Caring for a sick person with COVID-19.
  • Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19, although just passing by a person for a few seconds should not cause you to be overly concerned.
  • Being in direct contact with fluids from a sick person with COVID-19. This includes being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.

Community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in many communities where people are spreading the virus to other people.

We are still learning about the virus, but we believe that the majority of spread is through symptomatic cases, but presymptomatic and asymptomatic spread may also occur. For that reason, it is critical for people to follow physical distancing recommendations, wear cloth face coverings, and wash their hands.

No. Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic, or racial group is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19. 

The name of this disease is Coronavirus Disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”

On Dec. 31, 2019, Chinese health officials alerted the World Health Organization of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The pneumonia was caused by a virus that did not match any other known virus.

Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting initial animal-to-person spread. Now, person-to-person spread is occurring.

Businesses and employment

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not have, and cannot provide, you with a letter clearing you to go back to work. If you had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should isolate yourself for 10 days after symptoms started, and continue isolating yourself until you are fever-free (without the use of fever-reducing medications) for 3 days. Public health is not requiring people to have a negative test to return to work. If your employer is requiring this, you may want to contact your doctor, or another health care provider, or direct your employer to this Q and A.

It depends on who advised you to quarantine. If public health instructed you to quarantine, get documentation from that specific public health agency (such as Tri-County, Denver Public Health, etc.). If a health care provider instructed you to quarantine, contact that provider to get the documentation.

As we are a separate entity from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, we cannot offer direct assistance on filing for unemployment. We recommend consulting the CDLE site for questions about unemployment or calling them at (303) 318-8000. 

If you suspect that someone is violating public health orders, you should contact your local public health department.


  • It varies depending on the data source and when the data is reported to the state.
  • Vital records data is updated periodically after the CDC codes the data. We report out vital records data to account for deaths from COVID-19. 
  • Epidemiological data, like the number of confirmed cases, is updated daily at 4 p.m. and accounts for all cases reported to the state as of the previous day
  • Facility outbreak data is updated every Wednesday at 4 p.m.
  • Please note that the data is only as up-to-date as what has been reported to the state. You may notice lags in data or changes in numbers as labs, hospitals, facilities and local agencies report their data to the state. 

Information on the state’s dashboard may change as new or different information is discovered through case investigations performed at the local level. Labs, hospitals, and state and local public health agencies enter initial data into a database. Then, local health agency epidemiologists investigate the cases to gather more information. As they gather more information about a case, they update the data. 

Cases and deaths are attributed to the county of residence of each individual.

The total number of cases includes both confirmed and probable cases.  

  • Cases are considered confirmed when there has been a positive molecular amplification test (such as PCR) performed by a lab. 
  • A case is  considered probable when it : 
    • (1) Meets clinical criteria* AND there is epidemiologic evidence,**  but no lab test to confirm.
    • (2) Meets clinical criteria* AND tested positive using an antigen or serologic test. 
    • (3) A person has an epidemiologic link** AND has tested positive using an antigen or serologic test
    • (4) A death certificate lists COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death, but there is no lab test to confirm.
      • *Clinical criteria: patient must have one of the following AND no alternative more likely diagnosis: (1) at least two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, rigors, myalgia, headache, sore throat, new olfactory and taste disorder(s) OR (2) at least one of the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing OR severe respiratory illness with at least one of the following: clinical or radiographic evidence of pneumonia, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
      • **An epidemiological link is close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 disease OR travel to or residence in an area with sustained, ongoing community transmission OR a member of a risk group as defined by public health authorities during an outbreak.
  • A person can test negative for COVID-19 and still be counted as a probable case if they meet the probable case definition, which is (1) “meets clinical criteria* AND epidemiologic evidence,**  but no lab test to confirm.”
    • CDPHE interprets “no confirmatory laboratory testing” as the absence of a positive test, not the absence of any test.  
    • There are many reasons a test can produce a false negative result. This can happen when a person is tested too early in the incubation period or too long after symptoms improve and there isn't enough viral material for the test to detect. It can also happen if a sample was collected improperly or not handled or stored at proper temperatures. 
    • If the negative test is accompanied by a low suspicion of COVID-19 or a more likely alternative diagnosis, the person should not be counted as a probable case.

  • Data presented on this dashboard represents more than 80% of all reported COVID-19 cases. Cases with an unknown race or ethnicity are excluded from these calculations, so it does not provide an accurate view of statewide trends. 
  • The state is working with hospitals and medical providers that interact directly with patients to encourage them to collect and report this data. 
  • As an important note, race and ethnicity data can be challenging to collect and report accurately if a medical provider does not ask the patient to self-report it.  

  • We currently rely on a broad network of individual health care providers and hospitals to report the data that shows up on our dashboard. 
  • The Colorado Hospital Association reports discharge data, which provides  a snapshot of people who have recovered from the most severe illnesses related to COVID-19. 
  • All hospital data is collected and maintained by the individual hospitals and is shared in aggregate by the state in partnership with the Colorado Hospital Association. Our data-sharing agreement with the hospitals does not permit the state to release facility-level data. For that information, contact the individual hospital that maintains that data. For questions and more information about hospital data, please contact the Colorado Hospital Association.

Colorado provides death data related to COVID-19 in two ways:

  • Deaths caused by COVID-19:
    • The vital records death data is based on CDC coding of death certificates, and it reflects the number of deaths due to COVID-19, based on the expert judgment of health care providers and coroners. 
      • The number comes from death certificates where COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death.
  • Deaths among people who died with COVID-19:
    • The epidemiological death data reflects people who died with COVID-19. It comes from two sources:
      • From health care providers and laboratories that report cases to the state using a national case definition.
      • From state-reviewed death certificates where COVID-19 is listed as the cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death. These death certificates may not yet have been coded by the CDC.

  • Public health systems across the country use epidemiological death data to rapidly classify and count cases and deaths consistently. The vital records death data, which accounts for deaths caused by COVID-19, take much longer to obtain.
  • The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists set a national standardized case definition for counting COVID-19 deaths for epidemiological purposes, and the CDC approved it. The case definition includes both confirmed and probable case deaths:
    • A death is classified as a confirmed case if the case had a positive COVID-19 lab test.
    • A death is classified as a probable case if the case meets the probable case definition or the death certificate lists “COVID-19” or an equivalent as a cause of death, but it does not have a positive lab test. 

  • The numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and deaths among people with COVID-19 should not be added together to determine a total death count. They are from separate data sources.
  • The numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and deaths among people with COVID-19 are reported from two different systems that are updated on different timelines. These numbers cannot be compared day-to-day to determine how many deaths have occurred in each category.
  • The number of deaths due to COVID-19 are not necessarily included in the number of deaths among people with COVID-19. After review, at either the state or national level, some deaths may not be counted as COVID-19 deaths. This is rare, and the expectation is that in the end the numbers will closely align. 
  • The deaths due to COVID-19 are provisional counts and often track several weeks behind the epidemiological data. 
  • More information about CDC’s COVID-19 Death Data and Resources.

Diagnosed with/exposed to COVID-19

  • If you tested positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test, stay away from others and follow the instructions on how to isolate. 
  • If you have a positive test result for COVID-19, public health may contact you to collect information about your exposures and give you more information about preventing transmission to others.
  • Coloradans who are sick and receive negative COVID-19 test results should continue to stay home while they are sick and should consult with their health care provider about the need for additional testing and the appropriate time to resume normal activities.
  • If you need medical advice, call a health care provider or nurse line. It is important to CALL ahead BEFORE going to see a health care provider, urgent care, or emergency room in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Tell them your symptoms and where or how you might have been exposed.
  • If you are having a medical emergency, call 911. Tell the dispatcher your symptoms.

  • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, but you don’t have symptoms, follow the instructions on how to quarantine for 14 days after exposure. You may also want to get tested, but wait at least seven days after the date you think you were exposed to get tested using a PCR test.
    • If you get tested too early, there may not be enough viral material for the test to detect.
    • While it’s a good idea to wait about seven days to be tested after the date of exposure if you don’t have symptoms, some people may not become ill for up to 14 days. For that reason, people who have been exposed to COVID-19 should minimize their contact with others for 14 days from the date of their exposure, even if they test negative before the full two weeks have passed.



  • While it is believed to be rare, there have been some animals that have gotten COVID-19 from their owners or caregivers.
  • At this time there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 to people.

  • Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19. This is why it's very important to protect your pets by limiting contact if you are sick with either suspected or confirmed COVID-19. 
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, and sleeping with your pet.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

  • As the number of people with COVID-19 in the U.S. increases, it is possible that we may see additional pets develop illness. If your pet does develop mild respiratory symptoms, isolate them alone in a room with their bed, food and water, and other necessities.
  • Call your veterinarian to let them know that your pet has symptoms and that you are isolating them at home.
  • If your pet’s symptoms worsen, contact your veterinarian. Let them know that your pet needs to be evaluated.

  • o not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
  • Keep cats indoors as much as possible to keep them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where large numbers of people and dogs gather.

Testing of symptomatic animals for COVID-19 is rare. It can be allowed in a joint decision between the state veterinarian and the state public health veterinarian in consultation with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. It's critical to conserve testing resources for people.

Plasma donation

Convalescent plasma is plasma donated by people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 infection. This plasma contains antibodies that might be helpful in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 infections.

Protecting yourself and your loved ones

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home and self-isolate if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.
  • To protect others, wear a cloth face covering when outside your home and yard.
  • Aim to keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and non-household members.
  • Limit social interactions. The smallest group in the largest space poses the least risk.

Social/physical distancing

  • To socially distance simply means to increase physical distance between people in schools and workplaces, community events, and other places where people gather. The purpose is to limit disease spread. Examples include:
  • Giving no hugs or handshakes.
  • Increasing the physical distance between people to at least 6 feet.
  • Limiting social interactions and the size of group gatherings.
  • Staying home.

We need to limit in-person interactions to slow the spread of disease enough to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed. That means keeping enough beds and equipment in place so that hospitals can treat the sickest COVID-19 patients and continue to treat everyone else who has life-threatening conditions. 

Symptom Support Tool

The Symptom Support Tool can connect you with resources that can help with any physical or behavioral health symptoms you may experience during this time.

Collecting contact information along with your reported symptoms allows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to provide follow-up support -- text messages that point people toward the right resources to help them manage their symptoms, understand testing recommendations, access telehealth services, and get help for other needs. Additionally, by providing your location, CDPHE will be able to map symptom reports across the state. 

We care about your privacy. CDPHE is responsible for protecting the health information of Colorado residents. We collect specific personal health information from individuals in the community and put that information together to measure the public's overall health and well-being. Your information will be protected and analyzed only by CDPHE, their authorized users (such as the Colorado School of Public Health, which uses data to model disease outbreaks), and your local public health agency.


  • Anyone with symptoms should get tested, stay away from others, and follow the instructions on how to isolate. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 you should follow the instructions on how to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to prevent potential disease spread. If you’d like to receive text messages with information about support available during isolation and/or quarantine, report your symptoms to Colorado COVID Symptom Support tool. In general, you do not need a test if you do not have symptoms.
  • Read the most current information about testing.
  • Patients can be tested through commercial labs that conduct COVID-19 testing. First CALL your provider to see if you need to be tested and to get instructions. 

A map of community testing sites is available here.

Health care providers themselves don't do the tests for COVID-19; they are done at medical laboratories. A health care provider or nurseline can help you by discussing with you whether you need to be tested and giving information about where to go to get tested. Remember to always contact a health care provider first before just going to an office, clinic, or emergency room. Work with your health insurer to find a provider. If you don’t have insurance, visit the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing website.

On March 9, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis instructed the Colorado Division of Insurance to take action to help ensure Coloradans would not be price-gouged for COVID-19 care by requiring most insurance companies to provide free care for COVID-19.

The person who requested the test for you will receive the results. If your health care provider requested the test, that provider will receive your results and communicate those results to you.

No. COVID-19 is an immediately reportable condition in Colorado. That means that the lab that processed your test or the health care provider who ordered it must report the results to public health.

  • Using a PCR diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. This can happen when a person is tested too early in their incubation period, and there isn’t enough viral material for the test to detect.
  • False negative PCR results can also occur if a sample was collected improperly or not handled or stored at proper temperatures.
  • For COVID-19, a negative PCR test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.

Antibody tests, antibody blood tests, and serologic tests refer to the same thing. It is a test to check your blood to look for antibodies, which are proteins that help fight off infections. Antibody tests can show if you had a previous infection with a virus. 

  • According to the CDC, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. It depends on when someone was infected and the timing of the test.
  • Antibody tests cannot be used as the only way to diagnose someone as currently being sick with COVID-19.
  • We don’t yet know if a positive antibody test means you are immune to COVID-19.
  • Antibody tests may react with other seasonal viruses and result in false positive results. 

  • If you get an antibody test, and it is positive, that means you have antibodies that likely resulted from a COVID-19 infection or possibly a related coronavirus infection.
  • If you get an antibody test, and it is negative, you probably have not been previously infected with COVID-19. You still could have a current infection and still could get sick, or spread the virus to others, if recently exposed. Antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies, and some people may not develop them at all.

  • If you have symptoms, you would need a viral or swab test to confirm whether you have COVID-19. An antibody test alone cannot tell.
  • If you have no symptoms, you likely do not have an active infection, and no testing is needed.
  • Currently, these tests should only be used for research or surveillance purposes. 

Antibody tests are slowly becoming available through healthcare providers. Many companies are distributing rapid antibody tests, and some are being marketed as rapid, point-of-care tests. 


  • Non-essential travel is not recommended, and some kinds of travel may pose higher risks.
  • Airline travel may be riskier because of time spent in lines and terminals can make distancing difficult, and you may have to sit near others for long periods of time. Masking may be inconsistent. The virus does not spread easily on flights because of the way air is circulated and filtered, but viruses on high-touch surfaces in terminals and on airplanes can increase the risk of exposure via those surfaces.
  • A carefully planned driving trip to a hotel or vacation home is a less risky option because you should limit the amount of time spent interacting with people from other households. 
  • For any trip, consider what you will do if you become ill while away, and always check restrictions in the area to which you are traveling.
  • CDC’s travel website has more information.