Last Updated: Friday, January 22, 2021
According to the World Health Organization, Coronavirus Disease 2019 or SARS-CoV-2—also referred to as just “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” or “COVID”—is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms and illness, from asymptomatic and mild, to grave and even fatal. Symptoms can include fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, severe weakness, and pneumonia.
The following Frequently Asked Questions—many of which are from the CDC website (denoted with an asterisk*)—provide a brief overview of COVID-19.
Frequently Asked Questions About 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
*How does COVID-19 spread?
- The virus that causes COVID-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet, or 2 arm lengths).
- It spreads through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.
- These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch. A person may get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.
*When is someone infectious?
The onset and duration of viral shedding and the period of infectiousness for COVID-19 are not yet known with certainty. Based on current evidence, scientists believe that persons with mild to moderate COVID-19 may shed replication-competent SARS-CoV-2 for up to 10 days following symptom onset, while a small fraction of persons with severe COVID-19, including immunocompromised persons, may shed replication-competent virus for up to 20 days. It is possible that SARS-CoV-2 RNA may be detectable in the upper or lower respiratory tract for weeks after illness onset, similar to infections with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. However, detection of viral RNA does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present. Based on existing literature, the incubation period (the time from exposure to development of symptoms) of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses (e.g., MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV) ranges from 2–14 days.
*How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- It’s especially important to wash:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your mask
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact.
- Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
- You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
- The mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Do NOT use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and disinfect.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Monitor your health daily.
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Especially important if you are running essential errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
Protect your health this flu season.
- It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever.
- While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, such as:
- Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.
- Free Flu Vaccines are available to all currently enrolled students with the SHWC.
*What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as it learns more about COVID-19.
*What should I do if I have had close contact with someone who had COVID-19?
- The best way to protect yourself and others is to stay home for 14 days if you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Check your local health department’s website for information about options in your area to possibly shorten this quarantine period.
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
If I am a student experiencing respiratory illness or COVID-19 symptoms what should I do?
If you start to develop any COVID-19 symptoms or other concerning questions, please do not go out in public, self-isolate, and contact the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) immediately at 310-846-5738 during regular business hours (Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.). Please call for further instructions before coming into the center.
What should I do if I have an Otis friend/roommate with any respiratory illness or COVID-19 symptoms?
The first thing to do is to recommend that person to reach out to the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) for evaluation of their symptoms at 310-846-5738. The second thing is to care for your own health while being supportive to your friend/roommate. Make sure to continue to wear face coverings when around others and remember to practice physical distancing.
This is a stressful time, what can I do if I am worried about myself, my family, and friends?
Any student who needs emotional support at this difficult time should contact Student Counseling Services, which is offering virtual support services. An appointment can be made by calling 310-846-5738. Staff and faculty can get assistance in finding counseling support through the Employee Assistance Program, or by contacting Human Resources. The Community Health Announcements page that the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) has created also lists a variety of helpful resources for the Otis community.
I want to get tested for COVID-19, can I come to the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC)?
The SHWC has adopted an approach to testing that is in line with the guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American College Health Association (ACHA), and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH). The SHWC offers COVID-19 testing for all currently enrolled students. The SHWC will be testing students with signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as well as testing asymptomatic students with recent known or suspected exposure to the coronavirus.
Does my flu shot protect against COVID-19?
As it is strongly recommended to get the yearly flu shot, the flu shot will not protect you against COVID-19.
What is the status of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Currently, three vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19 in the United States. To help guide decisions about how to distribute limited initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine, CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have published recommendations for which groups should be vaccinated first. Supplies will increase over time. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. However, a COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed.
*How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine will be needed?
Two authorized vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in the United States both require two shots to be effective, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The newest vaccine on the market, from Johnson & Johnson, is a one-shot vaccine against COVID.
*Why would a vaccine be needed if we can do other things, like social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading?
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
*Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
*When can I stop wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others after I have been vaccinated?
There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.