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Key Points

The virus spreads when a person with COVID-19 releases respiratory droplets into the air. The virus also spreads by touching a surface with droplets on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth but this is less common.

The best protection is to:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Wear a mask that fits and filters well. 
  • Get medicine to prevent COVID-19 if you are eligible
  • Avoid places where COVID-19 spreads more easily
  • Improve air flow
  • Choose outdoor spaces
  • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should get a test.

COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms,
but some people become severely ill, get hospitalized, and even die. Some people are at higher risk of
becoming severely ill
 and hospitalized if they get COVID-19. This includes people who are not vaccinated,
older, or have certain medical conditions. Some people with COVID-19 suffer from post-COVID conditions —
or “long COVID”. This can happen even in people who had mild or no symptoms when they got infected.

COVID-19 can cause a rare but serious illness called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS). This is a
condition where different parts of the body become inflamed. It can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain,
skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. MIS may begin weeks after a person is infected with COVID-19. MIS is
more common in children (MIS-C) but has also been diagnosed in adults (MIS-A).

Even healthy young people with no medical conditions can require hospitalization, have long-term
complications that can affect their mental and physical health and quality of life, or die from COVID. There is
no way to tell in advance who will get severely sick from COVID-19, MIS, or long COVID. But we do know that
getting the vaccine reduces the risk of getting these complications.

What are post-COVID-19 conditions or “long COVID”?

Post-COVID conditions are new, returning, or lingering symptoms that can last for weeks or months after
having COVID-19. People with long COVID-19 do not have the live virus in their body and they can no longer
spread COVID-19 to others. They may experience different types and/or combinations of symptoms than can
happen over different lengths of time. Symptoms often include fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain and/or
chest pain. Most people’s symptoms slowly improve with time. Some people may develop or continue to have
symptoms that are hard to explain and manage and continue for many months, and potentially years.

Long COVID is more common in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but even people who had mild or no
symptoms can get long-COVID. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine helps reduce the risk of getting long COVID.

Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child has long COVID or a post-COVID condition.

See the CDC webpage Post-COVID Conditions and the California Department of Public Health Post-COVID
Conditions Q&A
for more information.

What are coronavirus variants?

Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 constantly changes through mutation. These mutations add up and create slightly
different versions of the virus, called “variants”. Sometimes, a mutation will result in the virus spreading more
easily, making people sicker, or making it resistant to treatment or vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines used in
the U.S. help to prevent serious illness and death from variants, including the Omicron variant. For more
information, see the CDC webpage Variants of the Virus.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets and tiny particles that are
released into the air from the mouth and nose of a person who has COVID-19. These droplets/particles are
then breathed in by other people or land in their nose, mouth, or eyes. 

A person’s risk of getting infected goes up the closer they are to someone with COVID-19. This is especially
true if the infected person is speaking, singing, coughing, shouting, sneezing, or breathing heavily. A person’s
risk of getting infected is also higher if they are in enclosed spaces with poor air flow. This is because the tiny
particles that have the virus can concentrate and spread in the air. They can even stay floating in the air for
several hours after an infected person has left the room if there is poor airflow.

It is also possible, but less common, for the virus to spread by touching a surface with droplets on it and then
touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

For more information, see the CDC webpage How COVID-19 spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include one or more of the following: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or
trouble breathing, feeling tired, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea,
stuffy or runny nose, or new loss of taste or smell. Some people with COVID-19 infection never get symptoms.

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home away from others and get a COVID-19 test right away. Talk to
your doctor about any symptoms that worry you. Visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidcare to learn more about what to
do if you are sick. For information on how to get a COVID-19 test, visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests/how. If you
need help finding a doctor, call the 24/7 helpline at 2-1-1 or visit 211LA.org.

When should I get tested for COVID-19?
It is important to get a COVID-19 test, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines:

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • If you are a close contact to someone with COVID-19 (see the definition of close contact below)
  • It is also a good idea to test before and after attending a gathering or event and before and after travel.

Visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests for more information on when to get tested and how to get a test.

What if I test positive for COVID-19?
This means the test detected the COVID-19 virus. It is very likely you have COVID-19 and could spread it to
others. You must isolate (stay away from others) for at least 5 days. You are required to wear a highly
protective mask if you must be around others while you are in isolation. Follow the isolation instructions
closely at ph.lacounty.gov/covidisolation.

Tell all your close contacts that they have been exposed. They could be infected and must take steps to reduce
the risk of spreading COVID-19. Give them the instructions for close contacts, available in multiple languages
at ph.lacounty.gov/covidcontacts. Close contacts must follow the instructions even if they feel well or are
vaccinated.

Learn more about tests results at Understanding Your Viral Test Result at ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests.

When am I considered to be a close contact to someone with COVID-19?
You are a “close contact” if you shared the same indoor airspace with someone with COVID-19 for a total of 15
minutes or more over a 24-hour period while they were infectious*. Examples of indoor airspaces are homes,
waiting rooms, and airplanes. An example of ‘a total of 15 minutes or more’ is being in the same airspace with
the person for 5 minutes at least 3 different times in 24 hours. Note: workplaces or schools may use a
different definition of “close contact”.

*A person with COVID-19 is considered to be infectious (meaning they can spread COVID-19 to others) starting
2 days before their symptoms began until their isolation ends. If they tested positive for COVID-19 but did not
have any symptoms, they are considered to be infectious from 2 days before their test was taken until their
isolation ends.

What should I do if I am a close contact to someone with COVID-19?
In LA County, if you are a close contact to someone with COVID-19 and you have no symptoms, you do not
need to quarantine. You are required to get tested for COVID-19 and to monitor your health and wear a highly
protective mask for 10 days. Follow all instructions for close contacts at ph.lacounty.gov/covidcontacts.

If you work or live in a high-risk setting, there are extra requirements for certain people. You may need to
follow different rules regarding your return to the workplace or school. Also, a different definition of close
contact may be used in these settings. See Close Contacts: High Risk Settings, Workplaces, Schools to learn
more.

Can I get medication to prevent COVID-19?
Yes, if you cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination for medical reasons or if you are moderately or severely
immunocompromised
. The medication, called Evusheld, is used before you are exposed to COVID-19. It is
given to prevent you from getting infected. It is given by injection to people ages 12 and over who weigh at
least 88lb. For more information, see the FDA Evusheld Fact Sheet and talk to your doctor.

How can I protect myself and others from getting COVID-19?

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Get all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses including the most recent booster dose recommended for you by the CDC. It is the best way to protect yourself from getting seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. The vaccines also reduces the risk of long COVID-19.
  • Wear a mask that fits and filters well. See ph.lacounty.gov/masks for more information.
  • Get medicine to prevent COVID-19 if you are eligible (see above).
  • Avoid places where COVID-19 spreads more easily, including crowded indoor places, closed spaces with poor air flow, and settings where people are talking close together.
  • Improve air flow. Open windows and doors and avoid indoor spaces with poor air flow. See the California Department of Public Health’s Tips for Reducing COVID-19 Risk Indoors and CDC’s Improving Ventilation in Your Home webpage for more information.
  • Choose outdoor spaces for social and fitness activities when possible.
  • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often. Especially after being in public spaces where surfaces are touched by many people. Stay home when you are sick.

See ph.lacounty.gov/reducerisk for more tips to reduce the risks from COVID-19.

I’m still feeling stressed about COVID-19 – what can I do?
As the world continues to combat COVID-19, you may feel concerned, worried, and fearful for your health and
the health of your loved ones. Financial troubles, lifestyle changes and other factors may also cause added
stress. Be sure to watch for signs of distress, engage in regular self-care, and seek out help when needed.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time coping, help is available 24/7 by calling the LA County
Department of Mental Health’s Helpline 1-800-854-7771. You can also text “LA” to 741741 or talk to your doctor.
The webpage dmh.lacounty.gov/resources includes tips to help manage stress and improve your
emotional health.

LA County residents have free access to iPrevail.com, an online mental health resource to help with life's
everyday stressors. After a short assessment, you are connected to customized support which may include ondemand chat with peer coaches, self-paced lessons to improve wellbeing, and community support groups.
iPrevail is available 24/7 and offered in English and Spanish.

Where can I get reliable information about COVID-19?
There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19. Check trusted sources for accurate information about COVID19, including the following:

Call the DPH Call Center 1-833-540-0473 8am to 8:30pm daily or 2-1-1 (open 24/7) if you have questions or
need help to get vaccines, treatment, or resources.
 

Adapted from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
0916/2022 FAQ (English) public health logo