Frequently Asked Questions related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Information and support
How do I prevent the spread of COVID-19 if I am sick?
When can isolation be discontinue with a COVID-19 positive person?
Based on evidence suggesting a longer duration of culture-positive viral shedding, the CDC has extended the duration of isolation of persons with COVID-19 to at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or initial positive test for those without symptoms).
Symptomatic patients with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 can be released from isolation when the following criteria have been met:
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Asymptomatic persons with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 may be released from isolation, barring the development of symptoms, 10 days after the initial positive PCR test. The CDC has named this the time-based strategy. Note that the CDC’s test-based strategy for discontinuing isolation/return to work is unchanged and still requires a combination of resolution of fever, AND improvement of symptoms, AND at least two negative consecutive results from nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected ≥24 hours apart using an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 molecular assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. This strategy is not encouraged by LAC DPH due to limited testing capacity as well as reports of prolonged detection of RNA without direct correlation to viral culture.
What is a close contact of COVID-19?
A person is considered to be a close contact of a person with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 if, within 48 hours before that person’s symptoms began and until that person is no longer required to be isolated, they (a) were within 6 feet of a person with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes or (b) had unprotected contact with the body fluids and/or secretions (such as being coughed on/sneezed on, shared utensils, or saliva or provided care without wearing protective equipment) of a person with presumed or confirmed COVID-19.
How are close contacts managed?
Close contacts must self-quarantine for 14 days after the last time they were in contact with the case. They may return to regular activities after the 14 days have passed, if they have remained asymptomatic, and have had no further contact with the case. If they continue to live with, have contact with, and/or care for a person with COVID-19, then see additional details in the Home Quarantine Guidance.
Return to work criteria for HCP with suspected or confirmed COVID-19
Symptomatic HCP with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (Either strategy is acceptable depending on local circumstances):
- Symptom-based strategy. Exclude from work until
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
- Test-based strategy. Exclude from work until
- Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and
- Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 molecular assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA from at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens). See Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Of note, there have been reports of prolonged detection of RNA without direct correlation to viral culture.
HCP with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms (Either strategy is acceptable depending on local circumstances):
- Time-based strategy. Exclude from work until:
- 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test. If they develop symptoms, then the symptom-based or test-based strategy should be used. Note, because symptoms cannot be used to gauge where these individuals are in the course of their illness, it is possible that the duration of viral shedding could be longer or shorter than 10 days after their first positive test.
- Test-based strategy. Exclude from work until:
- Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 molecular assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA from at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens). Note, because of the absence of symptoms, it is not possible to gauge where these individual are in the course of their illness. There have been reports of prolonged detection of RNA without direct correlation to viral culture.
Note that detecting viral RNA via PCR does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present.
Consider consulting with local infectious disease experts when making decisions about discontinuing Transmission-Based Precautions for individuals who might remain infectious longer than 10 days (e.g., severely immunocompromised).
If HCP had COVID-19 ruled out and have an alternate diagnosis (e.g., tested positive for influenza), criteria for return to work should be based on that diagnosis.
Footnotes: 1 All test results should be final before isolation is ended. Testing guidance is based upon limited information and is subject to change as more information becomes available. In persons with a persistent productive cough, SARS-CoV-2-RNA might be detected for longer periods in sputum specimens than in upper respiratory tract specimens.
What is the difference between a cloth face covering, a facemask, and a respirator mask?
Cloth face covering: Textile (cloth) covers are intended to keep the person wearing one from spreading respiratory secretions when talking, sneezing, or coughing. They are not PPE and it is uncertain whether cloth face coverings protect the wearer. CDC has guidance available on design, use, and maintenance of cloth face coverings.
Facemask: Facemasks are PPE and are often referred to as surgical masks or procedure masks. Use facemasks according to product labeling and local, state, and federal requirements. FDA-cleared surgical masks are designed to protect against splashes and sprays and are prioritized for use when such exposures are anticipated, including surgical procedures. Facemasks that are not regulated by FDA, such as some procedure masks, which are typically used for isolation purposes, may not provide protection against splashes and sprays.
Respirator: A respirator is a personal protective device that is worn on the face, covers at least the nose and mouth, and is used to reduce the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles (including dust particles and infectious agents), gases, or vapors. Respirators are certified by the CDC/NIOSH, including those intended for use in healthcare.
What do I do if I have symptoms of an upper respiratory illness?
Patients with symptoms of a viral respiratory illness (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath) should be presumed to have COVID-19. Per the LA County Public Health Officer isolation order, individuals must self-isolate immediately if they have one of the following:
- Laboratory-confirmed COVID-19,
- Signs or symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath/trouble breathing),
- Physician has informed them that they are likely to have COVID-19
If molecular (PCR) testing resources are available, healthcare providers are encouraged to test symptomatic patients, particularly those in highest priority groups or those at higher risk for severe disease, see LAC DPH testing priorities. Clinicians should use their clinical judgement to determine if patients presenting with other less common symptoms may have COVID-19.
What should I know about COVID-19 to protect myself and those around me?
The risk of developing COVID-19 depends on your personal health, the destination, and how long you were there. Note that International travel for all university business has been canceled until further notice.
For more information related to travel, number of positive cases in the USA and internationally go to US State Department Travel Advisories, Cases in the USA according to the CDC and Cases Worldwide according to WHO for up-to-date information.
Any travel for University business will require approval from your Dean/Director. If approved, the request will be sent to University Administration where it will be reviewed. If the travel is approved by Administration, the traveler must complete the Travel History Survey form.
University business would include conference, training, meetings only held in the USA.
For current information on Domestic Travel, go to COVID-19 and the Domestic Traveler
- Any contact with an infected person during travel: 14-days mandatory self-isolation
- Any signs of illness upon return: 14-days mandatory self-isolation
- No signs of illness: Watch-and-Wait with 14-days mandatory isolation if any signs of illness appear
I had a layover at an airport that was designated by the US State Department as a Level 3 or Level 4. I never left the airport. What do I do?
- If you are without symptoms, you can return to work or class as scheduled. However, we recommend that you monitor symptoms.
- If you develop symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should stay home and contact your healthcare provider for further guidance.
Students whose clinical rotation schedules require traveling are advised to check the COVID-19 infection rate for the area where they will be going. Students are advised to adhere to all infection prevention and control measures, e.g., face covering, hand hygiene, social distancing, and monitor for signs/symptoms of COVID-19. Depending on the country, state, and local COVID-19 safety requirements, students may need to factor in quarantine period mandates as part of their rotation schedules. For example, if a state requires a 14 day quarantine period, students will need to adjust travel arrangements to abide by the 14-day mandate.
What do I do if I know of someone returning from a location that was impacted by COVID-19?
If someone you know is travelling back from a community or country impacted by COVID-19, please review the guidance below and take the necessary precautions to protect your family, friends, school, and community. If they are ill, please tell them to call their healthcare provider. Be prepared to provide information about symptoms, general health conditions, and any travel or exposure information.
Please see the links below for guidance:
The health and safety of our communities is our priority. We work closely with our local, state and federal partners and will continue to actively monitor the situation and provide updates as the situation evolves.
Sick contact at home (Suspect or confirmed COVID-19 patient)
What should I do if I am experiencing acute respiratory symptoms and may have been in contact with a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 person?
Stay home and contact your healthcare provider for further guidance.
I have been exposed to a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 patient, and currently not experiencing any symptoms. What do I do?
Stay home for 14 days
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience fever, cough or shortness of breath
If you do develop symptoms, do not return to work/class until you have been fever-free, without medication, for at least 24-hours.
What are the clinical features of COVID-19?
Clinical presentation among reported cases of COVID-19 varies in severity from mild respiratory illness to severe illness such as severe pneumonia with respiratory failure and septic shock. Fever, cough, myalgia (muscle aches), fatigue, and shortness of breath are symptoms frequently reported at illness onset. At this time, public health officials believe that many people with COVID-19 have mild, self-limited disease.
When is testing for COVID-19 recommended?
It is recommended that providers test persons with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 where a diagnostic result will inform clinical management or public health response. See Laboratory Testing for commercial clinical laboratories currently performing COVID-19 testing and when testing is recommended through the LAC DPH Public Health Lab.
When is testing for COVID-19 not recommended?
Unless confirming a diagnosis of COVID-19 will impact patient management, DPH recommends against COVID-19 diagnostic testing for persons with mild febrile respiratory illness who can be safely managed at home. This minimizes possible exposures to healthcare workers, patients, and the public and will reduce the demand for personal protective equipment. A symptomatic patient is presumed to have COVID-19 regardless of test result and must comply with home isolation.
Key Education for Persons with Presumed or Confirmed COVID-19
- Duration of isolation:
All symptomatic persons, regardless of test status must stay home until at least 7 days have passed after their symptoms first appeared AND at least 3 days after they have recovered. Recovery means that their fever has been gone for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and their respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) have improved.
You likely were instructed not to leave your home during this time, except for urgently needed medical care, by your healthcare provider.
- What to do if seeking medical care:
If you need to be seen in person for medical care, you are advised to call ahead if possible to alert the medical facility that you have COVID-19. If you believe that you may have life-threatening symptoms, you should call 9-1-1 and to tell the dispatch personnel of your COVID-19 status.
- Prevent transmission in the household:
You should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home as much as possible. It is particularly important that you stay away from people who are at higher risk of serious illness. It is extremely important that you perform hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and not share personal household items. Instructions for cleaning the home are available in multiple languages.
- Monitor for severe disease:
Review the warning signs of more severe disease including shortness of breath, weakness, and confusion. For persons at high risk for severe illness, make a plan for what to do if their symptoms worsen, including when to call 9-1-1. If you live alone or do not have another adult in the house, determine who could do virtual daily check ins to ensure you are okay.
- Management of close contacts:
Household members, intimate partners, caregivers, as well as any additional people who were within 6 feet of you for 10 minutes while you were symptomatic or who have had unprotected contact with your body fluids, and/or secretions (such as sweat, saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit, urine, or diarrhea) are considered to be “close contacts”. All close contacts should be quarantined at home for 14 days beyond their last contact with you. Think about who you may have exposed, contact them via phone, text or some other electronic means and instruct them to give home quarantine instructions to all close contacts.
If I tested positive for COVID-19, when is it okay for me to return to work?
Employees should not return to work until at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without use of fever-reducing medications and improvement of respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) AND at least 7 days since symptoms first appeared.
Timely conveyance of this information to the employee’s supervisor will allow the University to make necessary staffing changes, take appropriate measures regarding potential workplace exposure, and, if necessary, provide the employee with the appropriate forms for benefits.