Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How many cases of COVID-19 have there been in Colorado? ... in the U.S.? ... in the world? How many people have died?

Can we get more details about specific cases in Colorado?
  • In order to protect patient privacy, we are only releasing sex, age, and county. Local public health agencies who are leading these investigations will provide additional information as necessary to protect public health.

How many COVID-19 cases is Colorado expecting?
  • We anticipate an increase in positive tests for the forseeable future. At this point we cannot predict how many people will get sick, how many people will experience severe illess, or how long the illness will affect people in Colorado.

What is a coronavirus, and what is 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.  
  • Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people, such as has been seen with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses have caused outbreaks internationally and have been known to cause severe illness. Scientists think this is what happened with COVID-19
  • COVID-19 now is spreading from person to person in many countries and states, including Colorado.

How is COVID-19 spread?
  • COVID-19 spreads from person to person and is thought to occur 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.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
  • In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?
  • It depends on severity of illness.

How long does it take to start showing symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19?
  • 2-14 days.

How serious is COVID-19?
  • Since COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about the virus, the current understanding about how it spreads is largely based on what is known about similar respiratory illnesses.
  • Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.
  • According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild.
  • Higher risk groups include:
    • Older people (over age 60), especially those over 80 years.
    • People who have chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease, or diabetes.
    • Older people with chronic medical conditions are at greatest risk.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 treated?
  • There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, 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.

Who is at risk for COVID-19?
  • Certain people will have an increased risk of infection:
    • People who have traveled to areas where widespread community transmission is occurring.
    • People who had direct close contact with someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Some people are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. That includes:
    • Older people (over age 60), especially those over 80 years.
    • People who have chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease, or diabetes.
    • Older people with chronic medical conditions are at greatest risk.

Can food and drinking water be contaminated with COVID-19?
  • 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 COVID-19 in drinking water systems. This is based on studies of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Does COVID-19 stay in the air?
  • In general, coronaviruses do not stay in the air like measles (which can live up to two hours in the air). However, there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19, and we can’t be sure that this virus doesn’t stay in the air. We are taking a cautious approach to prevent spread.

Can packages or products shipped from other places be contaminated with COVID-19?
  • 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.

Does COVID-19 live in swimming pools?
  • CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division says that in general, it appears that normal swimming pool disinfection techniques are effective against COVID-19.

What is a close contact?
  • 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 for at least 10 minutes.
    • Being in direct contact with fluids from a sick person with COVID-19. This includes being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.

I keep hearing about “community spread;” what does that mean?
  • Limited person-to-person spread (or transmission) means a person became infected from a known exposure to another person in Colorado.
  • Limited community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in certain communities where people became infected, and we are unable to identify the source.
  • Widespread community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in many communities where people are spreading the virus to other people.

Can a person with COVID-19 spread the disease without having symptoms?
  • The majority of spread is through symptomatic cases. CDC is gathering data on how much asymptomatic spread with COVID-19 may be happening. Contact investigations ongoing in the U.S. and other countries will help answer this question.

Are people of  non-U.S. descent at higher risk for getting or spreading COVID-19?
  • No. Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic, or racial group is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.

Why is the disease called coronavirus disease 2019, 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.”

How did this outbreak begin?
  • On December 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.

Has the cause of COVID-19 been identified?
  • 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.

Who can get tested for COVID-19 in Colorado?

Will I have to pay to be tested for COVID-19?

Where do I find out my test results for COVID-19?
  • If you were tested at one of the state lab drive-up testing centers:

    • Individuals will be contacted directly with their results as soon as possible. Do not call the state lab, the state health department, or a local public health agency to get your results.

  • Otherwise:

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

 Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?
  • Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.
  • For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.

I think I have been exposed to COVID-19 -- what should I do?

If you tested positive for COVID-19 or if you develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should stay away from others (isolate yourself). 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 don't have symptoms but know you have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has symptoms (fever, coughing, shortness of breath), you should quarantine yourself.

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911. Tell the dispatcher your symptoms.

What happens if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • Currently, if you have a positive test result for COVID-19, public health will contact you to collect information about your exposures and give you more information about preventing transmission to others.

I am worried that people in stores, restaurants, and other public places might give me COVID-19.
  • Currently, restaurants, bars, and similar places are closed.
  • Passing someone briefly in a store or hallway is a low risk for transmission of COVID-19.
  • Generally, you need to be within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for at least 10 minutes to risk being exposed.
  • Please avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. The smaller the gathering, the larger the space, and the healthier the people, the lower the risk.

What can I do to protect myself/my family from getting COVID-19?
  • Coloradans should take preventive actions, stay informed, and practice social distancing.
  • Preventive actions
    • 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 if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.
    • Daily, clean surfaces in your home, and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
  • Stay informed
  • Practice social distancing
    • Try to keep 6 feet between yourself and other people whenever possible, particularly when you or others are sick. No hugs, no handshakes.
    • Work from home if you can.
    • Keep children and teens from gathering in other public places when school is closed.
    • Stay home.
    • Avoid group gatherings. The smallest group in the largest space poses the least risk. Our current advice is to not attend gatherings of more than 10 people.

Should I wear a face mask in the community to prevent COVID-19?
  • People who are not sick do not need face masks to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Ill people should wear a mask, if available, to protect family members or whenever and whereever a mask is needed to prevent the spread of germs.

Should I cancel my trip because of COVID-19?


  • If you are sick, avoid traveling.
  • If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (older adults and people with chronic medical conditions), avoid non-essential travel.
  • Everyone should seriously consider canceling non-essential travel.
  • Follow CDC recommendations on travel to areas where there is widespread transmission of COVID-19.
  • Some communities in Colorado are experiencing community transmission and outbreaks. Check the data page to find out what is happening in Colorado.


  • COVID-19 cases and outbreaks are occurring in many states and countries around the world, including in Colorado. While there may not be community spread in some places, community spread may start occurring.
    • Community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in communities where people are spreading the virus to other people. People may not know how they got the virus.
  • Traveling to places where there is community transmission means you might be exposed to COVID-19 or get sick with COVID-19 while you are away from home. If one of those things happens:
    • You may have to quarantine (if not sick) for 14 days in the place you traveled to.
    • You may have to isolate (if sick) for 7 days or longer in the place you traveled to.
    • You may have to do one of these things when you return home.
  • Traveling to other places means you may spread the disease to others before you know you have it. 


What if I was on the same flight as someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • The CDC is working with state health departments to notify anyone who may have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a flight. If you are at risk, your local or state public health agency will contact you.

Can I give my household pets COVID-19? Can they give it to me or other animals?
  • Infectious disease experts and multiple human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that household pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • Since there is still a lot unknown about the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with household pets and other animals.
  • If possible, have family, friends, or a non-sick member of your household feed and care for your pets while you are sick.
  • If you have a service animal or you must care for your household pet and you are sick:
    • Avoid close contact with your service animal or household pet.
    • Don’t share food, kiss, or hug your pets (don’t allow them to kiss you, either!)
    • Don’t sleep with your pets.
    • Wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

Can I visit my loved one in a nursing home, assisted living or other kind of facility?
  • Currently, only essential visitors can visit these places.
  • You should not visit if you have any symptoms or if anyone in your household has symptoms.
  • Before visiting your loved ones, reach out to the care facility to find out what its policy is.
  • The facility should have staff members available to answer your questions and be able to communicate with you on when it is safe to resume visits.
  • If you are allowed to visit, there may be some extra steps you need to take before going in.
  • If you are not allowed to visit, the facility should have other ways for you to communicate with your loved ones.
  • These policies, while hard, were put in place to protect your loved ones from COVID-19.

What are nursing homes and other care facilities doing if someone in the facility has COVID-19?
  • There are a number of actions a care facility must take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facility.
  • You can read more at on our provider web page. Scroll down to "long-term care facilities."

Do I need a doctor's note or negative test clearing me to return to work after I was sick?

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 7 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 website.