General questions and answers

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?
How many COVID-19 cases is Colorado expecting?
  • We anticipate an increase in positive tests for the foreseeable future. At this point, public health is working to “flatten the curve.” That means slowing the spread of disease so we can build up our health care system. We need to do this so hospitals will still be able to treat the sickest people.

Who can get tested for COVID-19 in Colorado?
  • The most current information about state lab testing here: https://covid19.colorado.gov/how-get-tested
  • 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. Not everyone will be able to be tested.
Where can I find a physician? What if I can't find one that offers testing?
  • 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. https://www.colorado.gov/hcpf.

Will I have to pay to be tested for COVID-19?
  • There is no cost associated with COVID-19 testing by the state laboratory but that testing has been prioritized for public health purposes. You may not be able to be tested at the state laboratory.
    On March 9, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis instructed the Colorado Division of Insurance to take action to ensure Coloradans can get access to medical care for COVID-19 without fearing the cost. More details are available at https://www.colorado.gov/governor/news/gov-polis-provides-update-states-response-covid-19.

Where do I find out my test results for COVID-19?
  • For the state lab testing center:
    • 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.
  • 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.
Do I need to report my positive or negative COVID-19 test results to state or local public health?
  • 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.

 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.
What does it mean when a result is “presumptive positive”? 
  • Positive test results from the state lab are considered presumptive positive. Previously, confirmatory testing was performed at CDC. That is no longer the case. All positive test results are considered confirmed cases 

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

If you tested positive for COVID-10 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 to risk being exposed.
  • Please stay home as much as possible 
  • Wear a cloth face covering when running essential errands like going to the grocery store or pharmacy.

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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?
  • 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. Some people may not develop fever, or fever may not appear until several days into the illness. People who have these symptoms should self-isolate.
  • More advanced symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. These people also should 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. 
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?
  • 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.
    • However, anyone can experience severe illness from this disease. 
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?
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, 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.
I keep hearing about “community spread;” what does that mean?
  • Community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in many communities where people are spreading the virus to other people. Public health is unlikely to be able to identify the source of exposure. 

Can a person with COVID-19 spread the disease without having symptoms?
  • The majority of spread is through symptomatic cases, but it does appear presymptomatic/asymptomatic spread may be occurring. For that reason, it is critical for people to follow public health orders and social/physical distancing rules and wear cloth face coverings.
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.
Is this disease worse than MERS or SARS?
  • Both MERS and SARS have been known to cause severe illness in people. 
  • 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 for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
Where can I get the most up to date information about this event?

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 and self-isolate 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
  • For general questions, contact CO HELP, Colorado's COVID-19 hotline:
    • Call 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911for answers in many languages including English, Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more.
  • State public health web page: covid19.colorado.gov
  • Facebook (facebook.com/CDPHE) and Twitter (@CDPHE)
  • CDC web page cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov
Practice social and physical distancing
  • Keep 6 feet between yourself and other people (people who don’t live in the same household as you whenever possible. No hugs, no handshakes.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • Keep children and teens from gathering.
  • Stay home.
  • Avoid group gatherings. The smallest group in the largest space poses the least risk. Currently, people should stay home except for essential needs.

Should I wear a face mask in the community to prevent COVID-19? 
  • Colorado is asking everyone to wear a non-medical cloth face covering while out in public. You can make or buy a covering that will cover your mouth and nose and use it whenever you are outside your house and yard.

When do I need to wear the mask?
  • Wear your non-medical, cloth face covering wheneveryou go out in public to get groceries or medications or to do other essential activities. Use it when going for a walk or out to exercise, if you are away from your own yard.

Why are we being asked to wear masks?
  • The main reason to wear a non-medical mask is to protect others. Science is telling us that some people may spread COVID-19 when they do not have symptoms. People may spread the disease when speaking, coughing or sneezing -- especially in situations where a physical distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

Shouldn’t we be wearing disposable or surgical masks?
  • No. We must keep medical masks for health care providers and first responders who are exposed to heavy amounts of the virus when caring for sick people. Cloth face coverings can help the rest of us help them by potentially limiting the spread of the virus.

Where do I get a mask?
  • You can make or buy your own. You can use a bandana or scarf. ColoradoMaskProject.com has resources. The CDC has a video https://youtu.be/tPx1yqvJgf4 or Google CDC cloth masks.

How should a mask fit?
  • Cloth face coverings should—
    • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
    • be secured with ties or ear loops
    • include multiple layers of fabric
    • allow for breathing without restriction
    • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
How do I clean and sterilize my mask?
  • Wash your mask regularly with your regular laundry.
How do take off the mask?
  • Be careful to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face covering, and wash your hands right after you remove it.

Where can I find out more?
What is social distancing?
  • Social distancing methods are ways to increase physical distance between people in schools and workplaces, at community events, and at other places people gather. Examples include:
    • No hugs, no handshakes.
    • Increasing the physical distance between people to at least 6 feet to help reduce spread.
    • Reducing the number of large group gatherings or activities. The smallest group in the largest space is the safest. 
    • Staying home.
Why are we social distancing?
  • The reason we need to stay home and not socialize is because we are trying to slow disease spread enough to build up our health care system. That means getting 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. If we don’t do this, many more people will die.

Should I cancel my trip because of COVID-19?
  • Currently, under Public Health Order 20-24, Coloradans should not travel for non-essential reasons.
  • Coloradans should limit their essential travel to places in their immediate communities.
  • Coloradans should not go to their second homes or take trips to resort or mountain communities.
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. 

Should my community gathering be canceled?
  • Currently, most social gatherings are prohibited. Please visit the CDPHE website for the most current information covid19.colorado.gov.
Should my child’s school be closed?
  • Schools currently are closed. Your school or district will have information on whether they may open for the remainder of this school year. 
What does the governor’s state of emergency declaration mean?

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?

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.

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.

My workplace is asking for documentation that proves I was told to quarantine. Who do I get this from?
  • 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.

How Do I File For Unemployment/Does My Business Qualify For Unemployment?
Where can I find information on government-issued loans for my business? Other financial assistance (non-unemployment)?
How do I report a business that is not in compliance with a state health order?
  • If you suspect that someone is violating an order you should first contact your local public health department or call the non-emergency police line to report any concerns. If local law enforcement or the public health agency is unresponsive, you may also file a report with the Attorney General’s office at covid19@coag.gov
Is my business considered essential during the Stay at Home order? 
  • Any business, including any for-profit or non-profit, regardless of its corporate structure, engaged in any of the commercial, manufacturing, or service activities listed below, may continue to operate as normal. Critical Businesses must comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the CDPHE and any applicable local health department. Critical Businesses must comply with Social Distancing Requirements and all PHOs currently in effect to the greatest extent possible and will be held accountable for doing so. Critical Businesses do NOT include health clubs as defined in C.R.S. § 6-1-102(4.6), fitness and exercise gyms, and similar facilities, or any of the other businesses required to close by PHO 20-22. 
  • Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Guidance on Critical vs. Non-Critical Business Professions.
  • Please review the materials on our site https://covid19.colorado.gov/stay-home-except-essential-needs.