Frequently Asked Questions

Texas Case Counts microscopic example of a coronavirus

Below are frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory disease spreading worldwide.

On this page:


How to Avoid Getting Sick

How does COVID‑19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, especially between close contacts (people within about 6 feet of each other). When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, droplets from their mouth can spread through the air and land in the mouths or noses of nearby people. COVID‑19 can also spread from the hands to the mouth, nose, or eyes. Sick people are the most contagious but people who don’t have symptoms can also spread the virus.

How can I help protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. Take the following precautions to avoid exposure:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • When you must go out, practice social distancing.

What is social distancing, and does it help?

Social distancing involves staying at least 6 feet away from other people to avoid catching or spreading a virus. It's a fancy term for avoiding crowds and minimizing physical contact. The safest thing to do during an outbreak is stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with others. When you must go out, such as to shop for groceries, stay at least 6 feet away from others.

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID‑19?

If you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days after the last day you were exposed to protect your health and those around you. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, chills, headache, runny nose, abdominal pain/discomfort, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you are 65 or older or have a medical condition (such as heart, lung, or liver disease, diabetes or cancer), or are on kidney dialysis, and you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19—call your doctor.

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How to Avoid Infecting Others

Does staying home really help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

By staying home and only going out into public for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or picking up medications, you will minimize your exposure to COVID-19, and fewer exposed people means fewer cases of the disease. At this time, slowing the rate of infection, or flattening the curve, remains very important. Flattening the curve means fewer people are sick all at the same time. This helps our hospitals from becoming overrun and unable to treat everyone who needs care.

Should I wear a cloth face covering in public?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends members of the general public wear a cloth face covering in light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads. The virus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the person who is wearing it. But, wearing a cloth face covering may prevent the person wearing it from spreading COVID-19 to the people around them. Sometimes infected people don’t have symptoms. So even if you don’t feel sick, wearing a cloth face covering may help prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to those around you.

To be effective, the cloth face covering should cover your nose and your mouth.

When should I wear a cloth face covering?

Wear a cloth face covering whenever you are out in the community, such as when getting groceries, medication or medical care. These face coverings help when you can’t avoid being in the same space as others.

Wearing a cloth face covering does not mean you don’t need to stay away from others. Social distancing, or staying at least 6 feet from others, is still necessary to keep you and others safe.

Do I still need to stay at least 6 feet away from people if wearing a cloth face covering?

Yes. Wearing a cloth face covering is just a part of your overall protection plan to keep you and others from spreading and getting COVID-19. That plan includes:

  • Social distancing, or staying at least 6 feet away from other people
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Disinfecting high-touch surfaces often, such as buttons, handles, and knobs

Wearing cloth face coverings is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19, not the only measure.

Why is the CDC recommending wearing cloth face coverings instead of medical-grade facemasks?

Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply. So, do your part to protect our healthcare workers. Save medical-grade equipment for healthcare workers and first responders. Wear a cloth face covering, not a medical-grade mask.

Are there people who shouldn’t wear a mask?

Yes. Children under 2 years old should not wear cloth face coverings. Also, anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the cloth face covering without help should not wear one.

Is there a correct way to put on, adjust or remove a cloth face covering?

Yes. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you put on, adjust or remove your cloth face covering. Always wash your hands immediately after putting on, adjusting or removing your cloth face covering, because you can pick up the virus on your hands by touching it.

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High-Risk Populations

Who’s at high risk for serious illness from COVID‑19

While everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19, some people are at higher risk for getting very sick from the virus. People 65 years old and older and those with medical issues, such as heart, lung, or liver disease, diabetes, cancer, those on kidney dialysis, those who are severely obese and those with a weakened immune system, are at a higher risk.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere. If you can’t breathe or have severe chest pain, call 911 and/or immediately go to the ER.

Some people who become infected may not show symptoms; yet they can still spread the virus to others. Therefore, everyone should take precautions to avoid becoming infected and infecting others.

If you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick, you can use the COVID-19 Self-Checker on the DSHS Texas Health Trace application to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

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What to Do If You or a Loved One Is Sick

I feel sick. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, chills, headache, runny nose, abdominal pain/discomfort, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms appear 2–14 days after exposure.

If you are generally in good health and get sick, you should stay home and manage your symptoms. Call your doctor only if symptoms get worse.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere.

What are the emergency warning signs, and when should a sick person call 911?

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 911 and get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to wake up
  • Bluish lips or face

Should I be tested for COVID-19? Will it help?

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Your doctor will help make the decision whether you need to get tested, based on your symptoms and risk category.

Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?

Test results reflect the state of illness at the time when you are tested. Someone can test negative one day, then get exposed, and test positive on a later day. If a person is in the early stages of infection, it is possible the test will not detect the virus and come back negative.

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Caring for Yourself or Someone Else at Home

How do I treat COVID-19?

There is no cure for COVID 19 yet. There is also no vaccine available yet. The best you can do is treat symptoms. Only the very sick will need hospitalization.

If you are generally in good health and get sick, you should stay home and manage your symptoms like you would for a cold or the flu. Call your doctor only if symptoms get worse.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor as soon as you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home.

If you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick, you can use the COVID-19 Self-Checker on the DSHS Texas Health Trace application to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

How do I care for someone at home who is sick?

  • Have them care for their symptoms like they would if they had the flu. Make sure they stay hydrated and get good nutrition.
  • Monitor them for worsening symptoms, especially shortness of breath. Call your healthcare provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
  • Disinfect objects you pass back and forth, and then wash your hands. Practice good hygiene.
  • Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible).
  • Provide your sick household member with a cloth face covering to wear at home to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others. Wash it as you would normally wash laundry.
  • It the sick person can’t wear a cloth face covering, you should wear one while in the same room with them.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as utensils, food, and drinks.
  • You can wash their laundry with yours. Here are some tips for how to handle their laundry:
    • If you have them, wear disposable gloves when handling their dirty laundry, then throw the gloves away. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands afterward.
    • Don’t shake dirty laundry if you can avoid it.
    • Wash items using the warmest possible water, and dry items completely.

When do I call 911 or go to the hospital?

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 911 and get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to wake up
  • Bluish lips or face

I was sick, but now my symptoms are gone. When can I stop self-isolating?

You can stop self-isolating when you meet the following criteria:

  • You are fever-free for three days (72 hours) without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Your symptoms have significantly improved, and you no longer have a productive cough.
  • It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first appeared.

Do home remedies help?

Home remedies and therapies are not proven to help alleviate symptoms nor ensure you won't get it. That's why it is important to focus on prevention: always practice good hygiene and stay away from sick people. Eating healthy, regular physical exercise, good sleep, and lowering stress levels are great ways to keep your immune system healthy.

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Pregnant Women & Children

Are pregnant women at greater risk from COVID-19?

According to the CDC, we do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, pregnant women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

How can pregnant women protect themselves?

Pregnant women should do the same things as everyone else to avoid COVID-19 infection, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • When you must go out, practice social distancing.

Can COVID-19 be passed from mother to child?

According to the CDC, it is unlikely that COVID-19 can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. However, it is possible for a baby to become infected after birth. For more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, visit the CDC’s Pregnancy and Breastfeeding webpage.

Are there special needs for children?

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. In most cases, children who become sick experience mild illness.

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Cleaning & Disinfecting

How long does the COVID-19 virus live on surfaces?

The virus is new, and much is being learned about it. Current evidence suggests that it may remain for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection with EPA-approved disinfectants is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. See the CDC’s recommendations for household cleaning and disinfection.

Does cleaning frequently-touched objects and surfaces really help?

Yes. COVID-19 may live on surfaces for different lengths of time. We all touch certain things frequently: doorknobs, light switches, faucets, countertops, and more. If you touch something that was just touched by someone with the virus on their hands, you could pick up the virus on yours. That’s why we recommend you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and disinfect high-contact surfaces often.

What cleaning products should I use?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a list of products to use against coronavirus. Refer to it to learn about cleaning products that help slow the spread of COVID-19. Be sure to check manufacturer's guidelines about cleaning electronic equipment, such as cell phones, laptops, touch screens and keyboards.

How do I deal with grocery shopping?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is currently no evidence that foodborne exposure to this virus transmits the disease. Wash your fruits and vegetables as you normally would before putting them away or eating them. Also, wipe down packaging and canned goods with disinfectant wipes or a household cleaner. Afterward, disinfect countertops and surfaces your groceries touched.

How should you clean a cloth face covering?

Wash your cloth face covering after each use how you would normally wash laundry. Have a few on hand to reduce washing.

How do I handle the laundry of a sick person?

You can wash their laundry with yours. Here are some tips for how to handle their laundry:

  • If you have them, wear disposable gloves when handling their dirty laundry, then throw the gloves away. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands afterward.
  • Don’t shake dirty laundry if you can avoid it.
  • Wash items using the warmest possible water, and dry items completely.

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Pets & Livestock

Should I be concerned about pets or other animals getting or spreading COVID‑19?

Currently there is no known risk that pets or livestock can get sick from COVID‑19. However, animals do spread disease, so always wash your hands after being around them. If you are sick, limit contact with animals to minimize risk to them.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick?

Do not handle pets or other animals while sick. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, several types of coronaviruses can cause illness in animals and spread between animals and people. Until we know more, avoid contact with animals and wear a cloth face covering if you must be around animals or care for a pet.

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Travel

What are travelers entering Texas from other states advised to do?

Travelers entering Texas from several other states are under orders to self-quarantine for 14 days. For the most up-to-date information, see DSHS’s Information for Travelers.

What are international travelers entering the United States advised do?

The CDC advises that anyone who has traveled internationally in the past 14 days stay home for 14 days and monitor their health. For the most up-to-date information, visit the CDC’s Travelers Returning from International Travel webpage.

Should I cancel my international travel because of COVID-19?

The CDC advises that travelers avoid all nonessential international travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most up-to-date information, visit the CDC’s Travel webpage.

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Other Questions about Safety

Is it safe to give blood?

Yes, those who are well can donate blood, according to the CDC.

It is still important to practice social distancing and wash your hands. Contact your local blood donation sites for information about giving blood during COVID-19. Call ahead to the donation center to make an appointment, in case they are no longer taking walk-in donations.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?

The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods used in most municipal drinking water systems should remove or inactivate COVID-19.

Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or product shipped from China?

The risk of COVID-19 spreading from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks is likely to be low. Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 has been spread from imported goods.

I don’t have any cases in my county yet. Does that mean there’s no risk?

Since January of 2020, COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world. In Texas, community spread was first confirmed in March. Since then, COVID-19 has spread to more than half of Texas counties, and is expected to eventually spread to all Texas counties. Everyone should consider themselves to be at risk and take precautions to avoid becoming infected and infecting others.

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This page is being updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated May 5, 2020