Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates for UC San Diego Health patients and visitors. Learn More


Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

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Getting Care at UC San Diego Health

How is UC San Diego Health keeping patients and visitors safe?

Be assured that we have stringent infection-prevention protocols and systems in place — including universal masking, health screening protocols and physical distancing practices. Learn more about:

I think I have symptoms of COVID-19. Should I see a doctor or get tested?

  • If you think you might have COVID-19 or if you have symptoms such as fever, new cough, new shortness of breath or a recent loss of taste or smell: Please call our COVID-19 Nurse Line at 800-926-8273 to discuss your symptoms before coming to any of our hospitals or clinics. A nurse will ask questions to evaluate your potential risk for infection and identify the best course of action, including whether you should get tested. Do NOT walk in without an appointment or use online appointment scheduling.
  • If you’re an older patient (ages 65 and above), have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised: Please contact your doctor early in the course of even mild illness.
  • If you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing: Seek care immediately.

For more information, see COVID-19 Testing and Screening.

What happens after a COVID-19 test? What if I test positive?

  • If you are tested at a UC San Diego Health location, a health care professional will call you with your test results, usually within 24 hours.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms, you will be offered a referral to our COVID-19 Telemedicine Clinic, where you can schedule video visits or telephone consults with infectious disease specialists. These providers will monitor your health and refer you to other specialists you may need. Hospitalization is usually not required unless you develop severe symptoms.
  • While waiting for your test results, you should avoid contact with people, including those sharing your residence. Stay in your room alone and wear a mask if you enter common areas. Practice hand hygiene before leaving your room.
  • If you were tested before a medical procedure or surgery and were negative for COVID-19, it is still advisable to minimize contact with others to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 while recuperating.

For more information, see COVID-19 Testing and Screening.

Should I keep my routine appointment or scheduled procedure at UC San Diego Health? Is it safe to go to ER?

Our hospitals and clinics have strict infection-prevention protocols and systems in place to keep patients, visitors and health care workers safe at all times. You should feel confident in accessing our services for medical appointments and procedures. We are screening everyone for COVID-19 symptoms at the entrances of our clinics and hospitals. Any visitor or employee with those symptoms isn't allowed to enter.

We also have taken extra steps to protect your safety and provide care for you and the community during this pandemic. In addition, keep the following in mind:

  • If you have an upcoming appointment and have symptoms including fever, new cough, new shortness of breath or a recent loss of taste or smell, or if you fear that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please call our COVID-19 Nurse Line — 800-926-8273 — to discuss your symptoms before coming to your scheduled appointment. If you have these symptoms and arrive to see a specialist or for a procedure without calling first, we may ask you to reschedule your appointment.
  • We have resumed necessary surgeries, medical procedures and clinic visits that were delayed during the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Take a look at the new and improved safety measures in our clinics and hospitals.
  • We are also converting some appointments to MyUCSDChart video visits to reduce exposure risk. We will make every effort to ensure this is a smooth and easy experience for you to follow.

If you have a life-threatening injury or severe illness, please go to an Emergency Department or call 911. Don't delay getting emergency care. Our ER locations in San Diego County are open 24 hours every day.

Protecting Yourself and Others from COVID-19

What can I do to protect myself?

To protect everyone's health and well-being, we encourage you to follow any stay-at-home order in your region and stay home, except to go out to take care for essential needs — such as grocery shopping or a vital doctor’s appointment — or for exercise, to an essential job or a reopened business.

If you go out, take the following precautions:

  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wear a mask — a bandana, scarf or homemade face covering.
  • Avoid crowded places and close contact with unmasked or sick people.
  • Be especially vigilant with your safety in indoor locations.

You should also:

  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (for 20 seconds) or hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces — like keyboards, phones, remote controls and door handles — and thoroughly wash utensils and glasses.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze — or use the crook of your arm — and throw the tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Get a flu shot soon. Your flu vaccination is even more important this season with COVID-19 raging on.
  • Limit or avoid non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, and don’t travel if you or sick or have been around someone who is sick. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Get reliable information from the federal COVID-19 travel guidelines issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Practice healthy habits to boost your immunity: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, protect your mental health, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
  • Read more tips from the CDC on how to avoid being exposed to this coronavirus.

Video: How Does Social Distancing Work?

Should I wear a mask?

Yes, masks are a simple, but critical tactic, in slowing the spread of the virus, so it’s crucial we wear masks to protect ourselves and others. Masks can protect you from getting exposed to the virus. They can also prevent you from spreading the virus to others — this is particularly important if you're asymptomatic.

UC San Diego Health requires patients, visitors and staff in our facilities to wear face coverings or masks that cover the nose and mouth.

San Diego County health officials have mandated that people must wear masks in public settings when they're within 6 feet of other people. Businesses also must require their employees and others to wear a face covering at the workplace.

The CDC recommends that anyone who leaves their home for any purpose should wear a facial covering — such as a bandana, scarf or homemade mask — while maintaining social distancing and proper hand hygiene. This can help decrease the overall infection rate.

See more information on masks and tips for achieving a proper fit.

These videos may help, too:

Video: How to Properly Wear a Face Mask

Video: Tests prove masks don’t cause oxygen deficiency & CO2 intoxication

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?

Currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent the novel coronavirus infection. There are, however, vaccines under development. Learn more about UC San Diego Health's vaccine trials to prevent COVID-19.

Can I volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial?

Yes, all of our COVID-19 vaccine trials are open to the community and we encourage to you to volunteer for a trial or study. Sign up to get on a COVID-19 volunteer screening registry and see if you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial.

How can I protect my mental health and manage my anxiety?

It is normal to feel anxious and unsettled during this crisis. You are not alone. Have compassion for yourself.

Free online mindfulness and compassion sessions are provided by UC San Diego’s Sanford Institute, Center for Mindfulness, and the Compassion Institute.

These videos may help, too:

Video: 5 Tips to Protect Your Mental Health During Coronavirus Outbreak

Video: Managing Anxiety: Breathing Exercise Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

What kinds of disinfectants and cleaners are effective against the novel coronavirus?

The CDC offers several tips to clean and disinfect your home. Some ways to remove the virus from surfaces including using:

  • Soap and water
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol
  • Bleach solutions and bleach-based cleaners
  • Hydrogen peroxide and hydrogen-peroxide-based cleaners
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats), commonly found in disinfectant wipes and sprays

Video: What Cleaning Supplies Will Help Combat COVID-19?


COVID-19 Basics

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses, like the common cold and pneumonia. Learn more about coronaviruses.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 infographic

Most people infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have mild to moderate cold and flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recent loss of taste or smell

For a complete and updated list, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 symptoms page.

Some people, often those with other medical complications, may develop more severe respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia. Other people could be asymptomatic. This means they are infected with the novel coronavirus, but they feel fine and have no symptoms, so they may never know they are infected. Nonetheless, these asymptomatic patients can shed and spread the virus and infect others.

If you suspect you have COVID-19 or its symptoms, please call our COVID-19 Nurse Line at 800-926-8273 to discuss your symptoms before coming to any of our hospitals or clinics. If you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, seek care immediately.

How long does it take for the symptoms to appear?

The respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear an average of 5-6 days after exposure to the virus, but may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

How does the virus spread?

Based on what is currently known, SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, spreads from person to person like other respiratory viruses, mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Transmission is more likely when people are close to one another and unmasked.

You can also get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth.  Learn more on how the virus spreads and about community spread.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Most people with mild symptoms and no underlying health conditions can recover at home, as they would with the flu or a cold. Others may need hospitalization for supportive care to help relieve symptoms and prevent potentially serious complications, such as respiratory failure.

In early May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization to use the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat people hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19. UC San Diego Health is studying the efficacy and safety of remdesivir and working on developing other new therapeutics and treatment approaches.

Can you share any COVID-19 survivor stories?

In the video below, watch Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Padilla talking about his treatment and recovery from COVID-19 at UC San Diego Health. After being admitted to ICU with severe symptoms, he was intubated and put on a ventilator for 11 days.

Video: What It's Like to Survive COVID-19


How long will this pandemic last?

We don’t know yet. UC San Diego Health has been caring for COVID-19 patients at our Hillcrest and La Jolla locations in San Diego County and is well-prepared to treat more as needed.

COVID-19 Resources and Other Information

What can I do if I have more concerns?

If you have questions about an upcoming appointment, please call your doctor’s office. You can also read frequently updated COVID-19 information about UC San Diego Health care and services.

If you have general questions about UC San Diego Health and the novel coronavirus outbreak, please call our Patient Experience team at 619-543-5678.

You can watch coronavirus videos to learn more about the disease and the issues surrounding it.

If you have a life-threatening injury or severe illness, please call 911 or go to an Emergency Department. Our ER locations in San Diego County are open 24 hours every day.

You can also find more information about COVID-19 from these websites:

For Specific Patient Populations or Conditions