Frequently Asked Questions

Texas Case Counts microscopic example of a coronavirus

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

On this page:


Basics & Prevention

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected.

COVID-19 spreads in three main ways:

  • Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
  • Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
  • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.

Find the most up-to-date information on How COVID-19 Spreads (CDC).

How can I help protect myself and others?

Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect people and communities from COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information page on this website.

Like any vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines do not stop 100% of cases. But people who are up to date on their vaccines are less likely to be infected. They are also better protected from severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

Masks Protect Everyone.

DSHS encourages the voluntary use of masks, along with other actions, as prevention against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Under Governor Abbott’s Executive Order, mandatory masking for COVID-19 is not authorized. Please review the Executive Order for more specific information.

Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of your vaccination status, can help protect you and everyone close to you.

DSHS recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID 19:

  • Consider wearing a well-fitting mask, especially in indoor public places if you are not up to date on your vaccines, you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19, or you live in an area where many COVID 19 cases are being reported.
  • Practice social distancing and avoid close contact with others:
    • Outside your home: Stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid crowded places.
    • Inside your home: Avoid close contact with household members who are sick. Avoid sharing personal items and use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members, if possible.
  • 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. The FDA urges consumers not to use certain sanitizers that contain methanol or 1-propanol. These substances can be harmful when absorbed by the skin.
  • Clean frequently-touched objects and surfaces daily. If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces. Use a household disinfectant on List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
  • 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.

Can someone get COVID-19 more than once?

Yes. Getting COVID-19 (or any infection) more than once is called reinfection. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 may have some immune protection from reinfection for a few months, but it is possible that the recovered person could get COVID-19 again if exposed after that time.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a safer way to gain immunity than getting the infection itself. So, it is important for everyone to stay up to date and get all recommended COVID-19 vaccines (CDC).

What are COVID-19 variants, and do we have them in Texas?

Variants are different strains of a virus. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

Some variants are more contagious than others. Some variants can also cause more severe illness than others. This is why we need to continue to take prevention steps and precautions against COVID-19, including getting vaccinated.

For more information about variants in Texas, visit the COVID-19 Variant FAQs and Variants and Genomic Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in Texas pages on the DSHS website.

What is social distancing, and does it help?

Social distancing, also called physical 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. Yes, it does help. At the beginning of the pandemic, social distancing was one of the primary methods we had available to help protect ourselves and others. And it continues to work today.

However, unlike the beginning of the pandemic, we now have safe, powerfully effective vaccines and plenty of them. Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect people and communities from COVID-19. Texans who are up to date on their vaccines are much less likely to die or get severely ill from COVID-19.

Additionally, you can consider wearing a well-fitting mask, especially in indoor public places if you are not up to date on your vaccines, you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19, or you live in an area where many COVID‑19 cases are being reported.

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Masks

When should I wear a mask?

Wearing a well-fitting mask may prevent the person wearing it from spreading COVID-19 to the people around them. A mask also offers some protection to the person who is wearing it. Sometimes infected people don’t have symptoms (sometimes referred to as asymptomatic). So even if you don’t feel sick, wearing a well-fitting mask may help prevent you from getting COVID-19 and spreading it to those around you.

To be effective, the mask should cover your nose and your mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face.

Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect people and communities from COVID-19. But vaccinated or not, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces can help protect you and everyone close to you. DSHS encourages the voluntary use of masks and face coverings, along with other actions, as prevention against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Under Governor Abbott’s Executive Order, mandatory masking for COVID-19 is not authorized. Please review the Executive Order for more specific information.

How do I best ensure my mask protects me?

To get the maximum protection, wear a well-fitting mask. This means that the mask covers your nose and mouth, can be secured under your chin, and fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Masks should use at least two layers of material. You can use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric. Or you can wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask. Do not touch the mask when wearing it. If you have to touch/adjust your mask often, it doesn’t fit you properly, and you may need to find a different mask or make adjustments. For the most up-to-date information, see Your Guide to Masks (CDC).

Are there people who shouldn’t wear a mask?

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

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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 aged 65 years and older have an increased risk of developing serious illness if they get sick with COVID-19.

Available evidence also suggests that people of any age with certain medical conditions have an increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Those conditions include cancer, COPD, and diabetes. Find more information for People with Certain Medical Conditions (CDC).

Certain groups of people, such as people living in rural communities, racial and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and others, may also be at increased risk and/or require extra precautions. For more information about these populations, see the Communities & Other Specific Groups page of the DSHS COVID-19 website, as well as CDC’s page, COVID-19 Information for Specific Groups of People.

If you are in a high-risk category, call your doctor if you get sick and get their advice before you go anywhere. If you can’t breathe or have severe chest pain, call 9‑1‑1 and/or immediately go to the ER.

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If You or a Loved One Is Sick or Had Contact with Someone Sick

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

If you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should follow the latest national public health recommendations on when and how to quarantine (CDC). What you may need to do depends on whether you have received all recommended vaccines or if you recently had COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date guidance, see the Quarantine and Isolation page of the CDC site. This guidance is meant for the general public. If you have questions about when a student can return to their school campus after coming into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, please contact the school.

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

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms reported with COVID-19 include chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Symptoms appear 2–14 days after exposure.

If you are generally in good health and get sick, consider getting a COVID-19 viral test and then stay home and manage your symptoms. Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse.

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

What are the emergency warning signs, and when should a sick person call 9-1-1?

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 9-1-1 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 or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

These are not all possible symptoms. Call your medical provider or 9-1-1 for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

You should get tested for COVID-19 if you:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19. You should get tested at least 5 days after you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

You should also get tested if you have been asked to or referred to be tested by your school, workplace, healthcare provider, or local health official.

For the most up-to-date information, see the Testing for COVID-19 section on the CDC website and the DSHS COVID-19 Testing Information page.

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

Yes. 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.

I tested positive for COVID-19. When can I stop self-isolating?

For the most up-to-date information, see the Isolation section of the CDC website.

The information above is meant for the general public. If you have questions about when a student can return to school after having COVID-19, please contact the school.

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Caring for Yourself or Someone Else at Home

How do I treat COVID-19?

At Home

If you are generally in good health and get sick, you should consider getting tested and then stay home and manage your symptoms like you would for a cold or the flu. Manage your symptoms, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest and good nutrition. Call your doctor 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.

Outside the Hospital

If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized but may be at high risk of disease progression, call your doctor and get their advice before you go anywhere. Your doctor may recommend treatment to prevent severe illness and hospitalization. See the COVID-19 Therapeutics Information page or talk to your healthcare provider if you are in a high-risk category.

In the Hospital

Only the very sick need hospitalization. If you are admitted for COVID-19, your attending doctors will decide what approach to take for your treatment.

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 rest, stay hydrated, and get good nutrition. See if over-the-counter medicines for fever help the person feel better.
  • Monitor them for worsening symptoms, especially shortness of breath. Call their healthcare provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning. See the question above for treatments that may be available.
  • Disinfect objects you pass back and forth, and then wash your hands. Practice good hygiene.
  • Limit contact with the sick household member as much as possible. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from the sick person. Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible). Eat in separate rooms or areas.
  • Wear a mask and ask the sick person to wear a mask before entering the room.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as utensils, food, and drinks.
  • Caregivers should review public health guidance on whether they need to quarantine or isolate. Up-to-date guidance is available on the Quarantine and Isolation page of the CDC site.

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Pregnant People & Children

Are pregnant people at greater risk from COVID-19?

Pregnant people do have a greater chance of developing severe illness with COVID-19 than the general public. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 may be more likely to have adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. For more information, see the Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People section of the CDC website.

How can pregnant people protect themselves?

COVID-19 vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and is recommended for people who are pregnant. Also, everyone who is eligible, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, should get a booster shot. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talk with your healthcare provider.

If you are pregnant or were recently pregnant, you should also:

  • Consider wearing a well-fitting mask, especially in indoor public places if you are not up to date on your vaccines, you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19, or you live in an area where many COVID 19 cases are being reported.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from people who are outside of your immediate household if you are not up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines (CDC).
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick or who have been recently exposed to COVID-19.
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. The FDA urges consumers not to use certain sanitizers that contain methanol or 1-propanol. These substances can be harmful when absorbed by the skin.
  • Clean frequently-touched objects and surfaces using soap or detergent.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • When you must go out, practice social distancing. Stay 6 feet from others outside your immediate household.

Pregnant people should also continue to seek health care throughout their pregnancy. Visit your healthcare provider for all recommended appointments during and after pregnancy.

Can COVID-19 be passed from birth parent to child?

Infections causing COVID-19 in newborns born to mothers with COVID-19 are uncommon; however, some newborns have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 shortly after birth. It is unknown if these newborns got the virus before, during, or after birth from close contact with an infected person. However, current evidence suggests that the risk of a newborn getting COVID-19 from its birth parent is low, especially when they use appropriate precautions before and during care of the newborn, such as wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene.

Pregnant people and birth parents of newborns who are diagnosed with COVID-19 should discuss with their healthcare provider the risks and benefits of having their newborn stay in the same room with them.

For more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy, caring for newborns, and breastfeeding, visit the Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People and Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns pages of the CDC website.

Are there special needs for children?

Children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Some children can get severely ill with COVID-19. In rare cases, severe illness in children might lead to death. Also, children with certain underlying conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and sickle cell disease, may be more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19. So, it is important for children to stay up to date and get all recommended vaccines (CDC).

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in adults and children and can look like symptoms of other common illnesses such as colds, strep throat, or allergies. Call your child's healthcare provider to discuss whether to get your child tested or to seek medical care for severe symptoms.

In some cases, children with COVID-19 might develop a rare but serious complication called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS‑C). Contact your child’s healthcare provider if your child has symptoms of MIS-C: fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, bloodshot eyes, or dizziness or lightheadedness (signs of low blood pressure). Seek emergency care if your child shows any of these warning signs of MIS‑C: trouble breathing; pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion; inability to wake or stay awake; pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds; or severe abdominal pain. For more information and resources, see the MIS-C Info for Parents section of the CDC website.

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Cleaning & Disinfecting

Does cleaning frequently-touched objects and surfaces really help?

It can. 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. This is not thought to be the most common way that the virus is spread, but it is possible to spread it this way. That’s why we recommend you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and clean high-contact surfaces often.

In most situations, cleaning alone removes most virus particles on surfaces. Disinfection of surfaces at home is likely not needed unless someone in your home is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a list of products to use against coronavirus.

How do I disinfect my home after caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19?

You should disinfect your home when someone is sick or if someone who is positive for COVID-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours. Use a disinfectant product from EPA List N that is effective against COVID-19. Always follow the directions on the label. For more information, see the When Someone is Sick: Disinfect Safely section of the CDC website.

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Pets & Livestock

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

Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. A small number of animals have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19. If you are sick, limit contact with animals to minimize risk to them. For more information, see the Animals and COVID-19 page on the CDC website.

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

It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. If possible, have someone else in your household care for your animals while you are sick. 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 and wear a mask when in close contact with them.

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Vaccines

See the COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccines in development and their distribution across Texas.

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This page is being updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated March 1, 2022