Frequently Asked Questions

Scientists are still uncovering information about the novel coronavirus. The answers below are based on expert advice from UCI Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other reliable sources. The information will be updated if the scientific consensus changes. 

If you have a question about the virus that isn’t covered below, send it to info@oc-covid19.org and we’ll do our best to get an answer.

Can I catch the virus from grocery packaging, Amazon delivery boxes or mail?

As long as you wash your hands and don’t touch your face after handling such items, the risk of infection is negligible, according to a Washington Post article written by a public health expert from Harvard University. And the Food and Drug Administration reports no evidence of food packaging being associated with transmission of the virus.

Can I catch the virus from food?

The FDA reports no evidence of food being associated with transmission of COVID-19. The CDC calls the risk of transmission from food “unlikely” but says additional investigation is needed.

Does smoking or vaping increase the risk for COVID-19?

Many experts say yes, according to The New York Times. It’s long been known that smoking weakens a person’s immune system, but a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that Chinese smokers were twice as likely as nonsmokers to suffer severe coronavirus infections. Doctors are urging people to stop smoking or vaping tobacco and marijuana.

Can someone who has recovered from COVID-19 still pass the virus on to others?

No. According to the CDC, a person who has been released from isolation “is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.”

Are people who have been exposed to the virus and quarantined for 14 days without showing symptoms contagious?

No. The CDC says that such people are “not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.”

What are the odds of catching the virus and becoming seriously ill and/or dying?

Definitive answers are elusive, partly because of limited testing. The people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus are over age 65 and/or have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease or compromised immune systems. Overall, 80 percent of cases are mild to moderate and people recover within two weeks. An estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of those who contract COVID-19 will die, but that rate could drop as more people are tested.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms. In late April, the CDC added six other symptoms to that list: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.

Where and how can I get tested for COVID-19?

Tests are available at multiple locations in Orange County, including UCI Health, but only when recommended by a physician. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, contact your doctor. For information on screening and testing (by appointment only) at UCI Health, call 714-456-7002 or visit http://www.ucihealth.org/patients-visitors/pricing-transparency/covid-19-test-billing.

For additional testing sites, visit https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing-and-screening

How can I safely help others in the community deal with the virus?

You can find a list of ways to help – from delivering meals to checking on vulnerable neighbors – here: https://californiavolunteers.ca.gov/get-involved/covid-19

Should I wear a mask outside the house?

Experts disagree on this, but the CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where it’s difficult to stay 6 feet away from other people. However, the CDC recommends against members of the general public wearing surgical masks or N95 respirators, which are in short supply and “must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.” The CDC has posted guidelines for making, using and cleaning cloth face coverings.

When shopping for groceries or other essentials, what’s the best way to protect myself?

Wear a cloth face covering, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid touching your face, use hand sanitizer after you leave the store, and wash your hands with soap and water when you return home.

What should I do if I think I have the virus?

If you or someone close to you has a fever, cough or shortness of breath, contact your doctor’s office in advance. They will direct you on next steps. UCI also has a new 24/7 telemedicine service, UCI Health OnCall, that allows you to seek care and evaluation from home. Anyone who has COVID-19 should stay isolated in a specific room. Clean the sick person’s space as needed to avoid unnecessary contact and exposure to the virus. Ill people should also eat in the room they’re staying in to minimize spreading the virus. Always handle nondisposable food items such as utensils and plates with gloves and wash them with soap and hot water. Be sure to clean your hands after handling these items and after disposing of trash. If you share a bathroom, clean and disinfect all surfaces after each use by the ill person. Always wear gloves when cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19. And be sure to clean your hands immediately after removing gloves.