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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Basics

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. The new 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”.

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice for naming of new human infectious diseases.


  • Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
  • Multiple variants are circulating globally and within the United States.
  • There is currently one variant of concern in Oklahoma:
    • B.1.617.2 (Delta)
  • The widespread of variants in Oklahoma reinforces the importance of seeking out testing if you are symptomatic. We urge Oklahomans to get tested if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated.
  • Identifying and tracing new variants is critical to our ability to mitigate community transmission of the virus.  

  • FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines protect against Delta and other known variants.
  • These vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19, getting very sick and dying.
  • People who are vaccinated are also less likely to spread COVID-19.
  • As we continue to monitor and learn about variants of COVID-19, we will keep the public updated on our findings.
  • Medical professionals advise that we continue to follow the 3 W’s (wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance), limit your exposure to others and consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine.  

  • As variants emerge and the virus continues to spread, we may see breakthrough cases of COVID-19.
  • Breakthrough cases are cases of COVID-19 that occur after someone has been fully vaccinated.
  • They happen in only a small percentage of vaccinated people, but it’s possible for them to occur.
  • The more people that get vaccinated, the less the virus will be able to spread from person to person, reducing the likelihood of breakthrough cases.

How It Spreads

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 is spread 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.  

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

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.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

Learn more about CDC quarantine recommendations.

How to Protect Yourself

Anyone infected with COVID-19 can spread it, even if they do NOT have symptoms.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and the people around you is to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can.

It is also important that people continue to follow the 3 W’s:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Watch your distance

In addition to the 3 W’s, we’re encouraging Oklahomans to consider a checklist when assessing personal health risk and taking precautions against COVID-19: who you are, where you are and what you’re doing.

  • Who you are – Consider your personal health circumstance.
  • Where you are – Are you indoors or at a crowded event?
  • What you’re doing – Are you with other vaccinated people or doing a physical activity?

Asking yourself these questions about your individual situation can help guide your decision about which mitigation strategies make the most sense for you and your family.  

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions (comorbidities) like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, and people who are immunocompromised.  

If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should: take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others; when you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick; limit close contact and wash your hands often; and avoid crowds, and non-essential travel.

If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor.

  • The FDA has given emergency use authorization to "Monoclonal Antibody Therapies" as a treatment option for COVID-19 positive patients, especially high-risk patients, with mild to moderate symptoms, but treatment needs to begin quickly after testing positive. Please ask your doctor more about this treatment if you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19. This two-hour treatment may help boost your immune response and avoid time in the hospital.  

With the increasing body of research showing that asymptomatic transmission occurs and that a significant portion of persons with COVID-19 lack symptoms, OSDH recommends that people wear a mask when out in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. This practice, in addition to adhering to social distancing measures as much as possible, helps individuals protect themselves and others from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are recommended rather than surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which are critical supplies for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items at low cost. This practice can help slow the spread among your community from people who may have the virus and not know it.

Properly Wearing a Mask

  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face but ensure you can breathe easily.
  • Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead.
  • If you touch the covering, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

Removing a Mask

  • Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops.
  • Handle the mask only by the loops or strings.
  • Fold the mask together.
  • Place the mask in the washing machine and wash your hands following removal.

People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months or who are fully vaccinated – should quarantine per CDC Guidance.  

  • The FDA has given emergency use authorization to "Monoclonal Antibody Therapies" as a treatment option for COVID-19 positive patients, especially high-risk patients, with mild to moderate symptoms, but treatment needs to begin quickly after testing positive. Please ask your doctor more about this treatment if you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19. This two-hour treatment may help boost your immune response and avoid time in the hospital.

Symptoms & Testing

Oklahomans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, even if they’ve already been vaccinated. 

  • Common symptoms include:
    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
  • Getting a COVID-19 test can help us detect and track the presence of more transmissible variants, like the Delta variant.

If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.

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