COVID-19 updates, including vaccine information, for our patients and visitors Learn More


Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

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COVID-19 Vaccines

For all questions about vaccination, please see COVID-19 Vaccine Information.

Getting a COVID-19 Test at UC San Diego Health

I am a UC San Diego Health primary care patient with symptoms of COVID-19. Should I see a doctor or get tested?

  • If you get your primary care at UC San Diego Health and think you have COVID-19 symptoms or may be infected: Please talk to your primary care physician or call us at 800-926-8273. We can evaluate your risk factors and, if a COVID-19 test is warranted, help ensure that the test is covered by insurance.
  • 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.

Do you offer COVID-19 testing for the public? Do I need a doctor's order to get tested?

  • Yes. We offer drive-up testing for COVID-19 to everyone, including the public and our patients — by appointment only. This includes testing for people who don't have symptoms but need a test for school or other personal reasons. A doctor’s order is not required.
  • Results are typically available within 48 hours.
  • The cost of testing or insurance coverage for testing depends on whether you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and whether you receive your primary care at UC San Diego Health. To learn more or to make a testing appointment, see COVID-19 Testing.

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

  • If you are tested at a UC San Diego Health location, your results will be available in your MyUCSDHealth account, usually within 48 hours.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, we will call the phone number you provided to offer initial care and isolation instructions. After that:
    • If you are an existing UC San Diego Health patient: Your primary care provider (PCP) or another provider will check in on you during the next 10 days of isolation. Depending on your symptoms, this could include a referral to our COVID-19 Telemedicine Clinic, where you can schedule video visits or telephone consults with infectious disease specialists. Hospitalization is usually not required unless you develop severe symptoms. We also offer post-COVID care for "long haulers," or those who have long-term chronic problems from the disease.
    • If you are NOT an existing UC San Diego Health patient: After our initial call with care and isolation instructions, you will be advised to check in with your own PCP. If you don't have a PCP, you will be offered choices, including signing up with UC San Diego Health for care (depending on your health plan) or calling San Diego County’s 2-1-1 phone line (free 24/7 service) to understand your options.
  • 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.

Getting Care at UC San Diego Health

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

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

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

Yes. 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.
  • Take a look at our improved safety measures in our clinics and hospitals.
  • We are also scheduling more appointments as 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?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus. To protect everyone's health and well-being, we encourage you to follow local and state protocols:

  • Practice social distancing — stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms' length) from other people.
  • Wear a mask — a bandana, scarf or homemade face covering — to help prevent yourself from getting or spreading the virus.
  • Avoid crowded places and close contact with unmasked or sick people.
  • Be especially vigilant with your safety in indoor locations.
  • If there's a stay-at-home order in your region, don't go out except 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.

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.
  • Limit or avoid non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t travel if you're sick or have been around someone who is sick. Get reliable information from federal COVID-19 travel guidelines issued by the 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 effective tactic in slowing the spread of COVID-19. So, it’s crucial we wear masks to protect ourselves and others from getting exposed to the virus. Masks can also prevent you from spreading the virus to others — this is particularly important if you're asymptomatic. Please remember:

  • UC San Diego Health requires patients, visitors and staff in our facilities to wear 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 mask 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 Hinder Breathing

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 October 2020, the FDA approved the use of 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.

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 Pandemic

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?

The respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.

Most people infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 have mild to moderate cold and flu-like symptoms, including a new fever, cough, shortness of breath or 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.

Not everyone experiences symptoms, though. Some 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.

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 (within 6 feet) to one another and aren't masked.

Learn more about how the virus is transmitted and about community spread.

COVID-19 Resources and Other Information

What can I do if I have more concerns?

  • Appointments: If you have questions about an upcoming appointment, please call your doctor’s office.
  • Resources: You can read frequently updated COVID-19 information about UC San Diego Health care and services.
  • General questions: If you have general questions about UC San Diego Health and the pandemic, please call our Patient Experience team at 619-543-5678.
  • Videos: You can watch coronavirus videos to learn more about the disease and the issues surrounding it.
  • Emergencies: 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