Frequently Asked Questions for the Public About Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
There are many questions surrounding COVID-19. Below you will find answers to commonly asked questions. Click on the plus (+) sign to the left of the question to read the answer.
This information was updated on 3/19/2020.
For information related to social distancing, health officer orders, or schools, visit the San Francisco Department of Public Health Coronavirus Page for the Public.
Health Care Questions About COVID-19
Information about testing is currently being updated. Anyone in San Francisco seeking COVID-19 testing will need to work with a health care provider to get a clinician referral for testing. More information is available in the Mayor’s Press Release (Friday, March 27th, 2020):
It is cold and flu season now, and many people have symptoms of illness that are not related to COVID-19. If you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath, contact your medical provider right away and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. Be sure to call ahead before you visit the office, clinic, or hospital, so that the medical provider can prepare for your visit.
The treatment right now is to take care of the symptoms. There is no specific treatment for novel coronavirus. Patients who are confirmed to have novel coronavirus will be cared for by health care professionals, working closely with the Department of Public Health.
You can go to Urgent Care at 50 Ivy Street (also called Whole Person Integrated Care – Urgent Care) during these hours:
- Monday-Thursday 8:00AM – 6 :30PM
- Friday 8:00AM – 5:00PM
- Saturday 9:00AM – 5:00PM
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, seek care at any emergency department.
You can stop home isolation when ALL of the following are true:
- At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since you have had a fever (without taking fever-reducing medication)
- Your other symptoms (for example: cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) started to improve at least 3 days ago
*If you are still coughing at the end of your home isolation, please continue to wear a facemask when you are around others
San Franciscans can call 415-682-1740 for new patient appointments with the San Francisco Health Network.
General Questions About COVID-19
As of March 20, 2020 there have been 76 positive cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco residents. The circumstances of these cases indicate community transmission of COVID-19 in San Francisco. The Department of Public Health is working with the patients and their families to ensure that their health is monitored, and all precautions are being taken to protect their health and the health of the public. San Francisco case count information is updated at 9:00AM daily .
The best way for all San Franciscans to reduce their risk of getting sick, as with seasonal colds or the flu, still applies to prevent COVID-19:
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover your cough or sneeze.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Try alternatives to shaking hands, like an elbow bump or wave.
- If you have recently returned from a country, state or region with ongoing COVID-19 infections, monitor your health and follow the instructions of public health officials.
- There is no recommendation to wear masks at this time to prevent yourself from getting sick.
Good hand washing techniques are the most effective ways to prevent yourself from getting sick. This means washing your hands often with soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds. If you have a fever or cough, a face mask is recommended to prevent spread of germs to others around you. If you are not ill, there is no recommendation to wear masks at this time to prevent yourself from getting sick. However, if you choose to wear a face mask, it is important to understand that face masks are not a substitute for hand washing which is the priority.
To prepare for the possible disruption of an outbreak, you should:
- Prepare to work from home if that is possible for your job, and your employer.
- Make sure you have a supply of all essential medications for your family.
- Make a child care plan if you or a care giver are sick.
- Make arrangements about how your family will manage a school closure.
- Make a plan for how you can care for a sick family member without getting sick yourself.
- Take care of each other and check in by phone with friends, family and neighbors that are vulnerable to serious illness or death if they get COVID-19.
- Keep common spaces clean to help maintain a healthy environment for you and others. Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned regularly with disinfecting sprays, wipes or common household cleaning products.
Workplaces and Businesses, recognizing that some people need to be at work to provide essential services of great benefit to the community, should take steps in their workplace to minimize risk, including:
- suspend nonessential employee travel
- minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, (including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences)
- urge employees to stay home when they are sick
- maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits
- do not require a doctor’s note for employees who are sick
- consider use of telecommuting options
Also see CDC guidelines for businesses
- Stay home, do not go out in public, do not go to work, do not go to school.
- Do not go to public places where close contact with others might occur such as public gatherings, shopping centers, movie theaters, and stadiums.
- Do not use public transportation (bus, train, Muni, BART, taxi, ferry, Uber or Lyft)
- Monitor your health
- Take your temperature with a thermometer 2 times a day and monitor for fever (100.4oF/38oC or higher)
- Look out for symptoms such as cough, fever and shortness of breath
If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:
- Seek medical care. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room.
- Tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
Novel coronavirus is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. It has now spread to many other countries, including the USA. Technically, the virus is named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes is called COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). See information about 2019 Novel Coronavirus on the CDC website
In confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms of a cold to severe illness and death. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different types of animals including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. The animal source of COVID-19 is not known right now.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. See How Coronavirus Spreads.
No. Efforts to develop a vaccine are underway, but currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against novel coronavirus.
The City and County of San Francisco, led by the Department of Public Health, is working on preventing the virus, containing its spread, and reducing harm in the community. We are focused on the most vulnerable groups, including those over the age of 55, people in congregate living settings, and those with chronic medical conditions. However, every sector has a role to play to ensure community health and safety. The health care system, schools, businesses and individuals can all do their part.