Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

What happens if the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads here?

https://publichealthinsider.com/2020/02/24/what-happens-if-the-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-spreads-here-a-conversation-with-our-health-officer/

How Can I Be Prepared For a COVID-19 Outbreak?

https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus (Scroll to bottom of the page for FAQs)

Should I wear a mask?

Thomas Locke, MD, MPH, Jefferson County Health Officer, addresses this important question in his April 4th press release here:  COVID-19 Update for Jefferson County, April 4, 2020

How do I safely handle my groceries?

The Washington Department of Health and the FDA have said there is no evidence that Coronavirus is spreading through food or food packaging at this time. The very best practice is to make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before eating or handling food. Disinfecting food is not recommended. For the guidance from the FDA please visit this link: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions#food .

Here is guidance from the Department of Health on how to best protect yourself from Coronavirus: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/NovelCoronavirusFactSheet.pdf

Why can’t you tell me more about the cases or about the people being tested?

Social distancing is what will work to protect you. Additional information about existing cases will not tell you if people you encounter or things you touch could potentially expose you to COVID-19. 

Public health case investigation of a confirmed case is very thorough and identifies persons or settings when and where significant exposure may have occurred. Identified contacts are informed and given guidance on what to do and symptoms to look for. 

There are multiple diseases that are circulating in the community that have symptoms similar to COVID-19. In addition, there continue to be cases in the community that exhibit mild illness and never seek care, or are unable to get confirmatory tests. Even a person who tests negative one day might be infected the next, with or without symptoms. 

It is safest for everyone to protect themselves by social distancing.  Limit exposure to other people (6 ft distance is recommended), avoid contact with people who are ill, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. Guidance is available for persons who are caring for sick loved ones at home. 

It is also important to know that Jefferson County Public Health and Social Services must comply with Washington State laws protecting medical confidentiality. By law, we can only release limited information about cases. 

Why aren’t more people being tested?

Testing for COVID-19 will continue to be limited until we have adequate resources to protect our health care workers.

The issue with testing resources is that everyone wants to be tested and resources are not available to accommodate those requests. If a person has, or thinks they have COVID, they are asked to self-isolate. If they get sicker, they may be hospitalized, and testing is done at that time.

Other than prevention by washing hands, not touching face, staying home when you are sick, and self-isolation, there is nothing that is done differently when a person has COVID, unless they need respiratory support in a hospital. There is no treatment. This is why prevention methods are so important. 

People seeing doctors may get tested for the flu because, for some people, they can be treated for the flu. 

How will my workplace/business/organization be notified if an employee, student or someone else connected tested positive for COVID-19?

Because of Washington State legal requirements requiring confidentiality, Public Health does not notify an employer, business or organization if there is a confirmed case of any infectious disease that is reported to us, including COVID-19. 

The process Public Health follows is: 

  • If a case is laboratory confirmed, the lab will notify Public Health’s Disease Control and Prevention staff. 
  • Public Health contacts the individual who is confirmed to have COVID-19 and works with them to identify anyone they came in to close contact with. Public Health then contacts each of those individuals to notify them of potential exposure. 
  • Public Health will ask the individual who is confirmed to have COVID-19 to notify their employer, if they are in the workforce, and notify Public Health when that has been done.

    • If the workplace is a school, Public Health staff will then work with the school to identify close contacts and determine next steps for the school.
    • If the workplace is an agency or organization, the agency or organization often contacts Public Health and works with us to determine next steps and to notify other employees or others who may have come in close contact.

What does close contact mean?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines ’close contact’ as being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (10 minutes or more); close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case OR having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

People I know are feeling anxious and worried about COVID-19, is there any help for them?

Events and rapid changes happening around COVID can be stressful. There are a few resources that can help. 

  • In situations like this the national Disaster Distress Helpline is operating. 

    • Phone 1-800-985-5990
    • Text: TALKWITHUS to 66746
    • TTY: 1-800-846-8517