What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, which is a member of the coronavirus family. It can be very contagious, meaning it can easily spread from person to person. For example, someone can have and spread the virus 2 to 3 days before they even show symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild or no symptoms to severe illness or even death.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
COVID-19 can affect people in many different ways. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, but it is also possible for someone to be infected and not show symptoms.

People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If someone is showing any of the emergency warning signs listed below, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ongoing pain or pressure in the chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Confusion

How does the virus spread?
COVID-19 is spread from person to person when someone coughs, sneezes, or breathes out respiratory droplets like saliva and mucus. The virus can spread when in close contact with someone who is infected by breathing the same air as them. The virus can also spread when you touch a surface with the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

What do I do if I feel sick?
If you start to feel sick, it’s important to take the right steps to protect yourself and others.

  1. Take an at-home test if you have one available. This is especially important if you have had close contact with someone who had recently tested positive for COVID-19. If you have already been referred to get tested by your healthcare provider, make sure to test as soon as possible and follow the next steps while you await your results.
  2. If the test result is positive, try to contact your healthcare provider to determine if you are eligible for any treatment options.
  3. Stay at home and avoid contact with others to prevent spreading germs.
  4. Monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical attention if you experience any emergency warning signs.

What are some things I can do to avoid spreading the virus to others while I’m sick?
If you are sick with COVID-19, below are some recommendations to avoid getting others sick.

  • Avoid going out in public except to receive medical care. If you do go out, avoid public transportation, taxis, or ride-sharing.
  • Let people close to you know if you are sick with COVID-19 or may have been exposed.
  • Distance yourself as much as possible from other people and pets to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Reschedule any appointments you may have.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use your elbow or a tissue, throwing away tissues immediately after use.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items such as dishes, utensils, cups, towels, or beds with other people. Wash these items thoroughly after use.
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day (like doorknobs, light switches, countertops, remote controls, and touchscreens or handheld electronics). If possible, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom while wearing disposable gloves. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas to avoid spreading the virus.

What do I do if someone in my household gets sick?
If someone in your household gets sick, keep your distance as much as you can. If possible, use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members. The person who is sick should also wear a clean disposable mask at home if these are available. If possible, their caregiver should not be someone who is at elevated risk for severe symptoms due to COVID-19.

When should I seek emergency care if I have COVID-19?
Some individuals may need emergency medical care. Monitor symptoms and watch for emergency warning signs* such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This is not a complete list of all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Notify the healthcare provider or emergency responder ahead of time that the individual has or may have COVID-19.

What should I do if I have a disability?
Some people with disabilities may be at higher risk of contracting or experiencing severe illness from COVID-19 due to underlying medical condition(s). Speak with your healthcare provider regarding questions you may have about your health and the management of your health condition(s). If you have a direct service provider, tell them to wash their hands before and after touching you. Also, request that they clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces, including countertops, wheelchairs, toilets, phones, oxygen tanks, etc.

Will a flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
The flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, which is why a flu vaccine will not protect you from contracting COVID-19. However, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as your flu vaccine to help protect you from both viruses.

Who is at most risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19?

Anybody can get COVID-19, but some people have a higher risk of severe illness or even death. People who may be at greater risk, include:

  • Older adults
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • Individuals living with underlying medical conditions such as:
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Asthma or chronic lung disease
    • Sickle cell disease
  • Racial and ethnic minority groups
  • Pregnant individuals and those who plan to breastfeed
  • People with disabilities
  • People with developmental and behavioral disorders
  • People with drug use and substance use disorder
  • People who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community

What underlying health conditions may increase my risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19?
While experts continue to study what can increase someone’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness, several medical conditions have been identified as putting people at higher risk. People with the following conditions should take special care to avoid getting severly sick with COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Heart conditions
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Obesity
  • Severe obesity
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Thalassemia
  • Type 1 diabetes

How have racial and ethnic minority groups been disproportionately affected by COVID-19?
Long-term systemic and social inequities experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups have put many people at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. Inequities in social determinants of health, such as poverty and access to care, affect these groups and influence several health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Risk factors that contribute to this inequity include:

  • Discrimination. Discrimination exists in systems such as health care, housing, education, criminal justice, and finance. Discrimination can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shape social and economic factors, resulting in racial and ethnic minority populations being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Access to Health Care. Racial and ethnic minority groups experience lower access to health insurance, decreasing access to treatment and testing for COVID-19. Access to care is also worsened due to racial and ethnic discrimination, which may affect the quality of care and increase distrust among racial and ethnic minority groups. Language barriers and cultural differences may also result in lower access to quality health care.
  • Occupation. People from some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in essential work settings, leaving them at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. Other factors include lower access to paid sick days, close contact with others in the workplace, or the inability to work from home.
  • Education and economic status. Inequity in education access and socioeconomic status often results in lower-paying or less stable jobs among racial and ethnic minority populations. This often leaves racial and minority populations at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. People in these situations often cannot afford to miss work even if they are ill, contributing to lower health outcomes and higher spread rates of the virus.
  • Housing. In some cultures, multi-generational living arrangements are common. Some people from racial and ethnic minority groups may live in crowded living conditions as well, which can interfere with following prevention guidelines. The risk of unemployment may also result in eviction, which can result in homelessness or shared housing.

How has the LGBTQIA+ community been impacted by COVID-19?
The LGBTQIA+ community has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. COVID-19 poses risks to the LGBTQIA+ population due to various reasons, such as:

  • Less access to health services. Stigma and discrimination often occur when LGBTQIA+ individuals seek health care, leading to lower access to quality care. This discrimination can elevate the risk of LGBTQIA+ people from COVID-19.
  • Lower prioritization of required health services. Overloaded health systems have resulted in the interruption and lower prioritization of treatment of LGBTQIA+ for other illnesses, including HIV treatment and testing or hormonal treatment for trans people. The access to health services for the LGBTQIA+ community may be worsened due to stigmatization and discrimination.
  • Domestic violence and abuse. Due to social distancing and, at times, stay-at-home restrictions, LGBTQIA+ people are at higher risk for exposure to mistreatment from unsupportive family members and cohabitants. This can increase the exposure to violence as well as mental health difficulties.
  • Low access to employment or socioeconomic stability. LGBTQIA+ people experience unemployment and poverty at elevated rates, leading to lower access to necessities such as food and medicine, lower access to paid sick leave, and the inability to obtain unemployment compensation and healthcare coverage.

How has the deaf and blind community been impacted by COVID-19?
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the deaf and blind community by reducing their ability to communicate with others and safely travel to access essentials such as groceries, medicine, or household supplies. The unintended consequences of masking requirements have further limited the ability of certain communities to communicate. Face coverings don’t just affect those who lipread; studies have shown that 60-70% of communication is based on non-verbal cues from lip patterns and facial expressions, which are essential for anyone with communication disability. Furthermore, touch is a significant risk for contagion but is critical to daily functioning for the deaf and blind community.

The lack of alternative support for interpretation or mask with a clear window in medical, work, and school settings has made it increasingly difficult for this community to be accommodated.