Frequently Asked Questions
Information regarding this outbreak is changing rapidly. Check back frequently for updates.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new virus strain that was first discovered in December 2019 in in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, meaning you generally must be within six feet of someone who is contagious and come into contact with these droplets. It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?
Data shows that virus can survive on certain surfaces for a number of hours or days, depending on the material. WebMD posted an article listing how long coronaviruses can survive on various types of surfaces.
Do mosquitoes or ticks spread COVID-19?
Probably not. Right now, the CDC has no data that would suggest this particular virus, or any similar coronaviruses are spread by ticks or mosquitoes. It's mainly spread from person-to-person. However, we continue to learn more about this virus every day.
Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?
At this time, there is no evidence that pets or other animals can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States. The thousands of worldwide cases have been human-to-human transmission.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can include tiredness, aches, runny nose, and sore throat and some people have experienced the loss of smell or taste.
How long does it take for COVID-19 symptoms to appear?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure
What is the criteria for ending isolation for those who have tested positive?
Adapted from CDC guidance released May 3, 2020FOR PEOPLE WHO TESTED POSITIVE AND HAD SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19: Remain in isolation until:
If you have been tested and the laboratory results show that you are positive for COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms, you must remain in isolation until you are no longer infectious.
- 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.
- After returning to work, they should wear a facemask until all symptoms are resolved.
FOR PEOPLE WHO TESTED POSITIVE AND HAD NO SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19: Remain in isolation until:
- 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test and they have not developed symptoms since their positive test.
- If they develop symptoms, then they should follow the above guidance.
- While there are no indicators that guarantee 100 percent safety, the above indicators are considered the best way to know when a person is no longer infectious.
- Retesting is often not reliable as some people will continue to test positive for weeks after they are able to transmit the virus to others. If someone develops new symptoms 4 to 6 weeks after a positive diagnosis, the decision to retest can be made on a case by case basis.
- Retesting everyone is not an optimal use of our limited testing supplies and does not accurately indicate if a person is still shedding the virus. The Kent County Health Department chooses to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention symptom-based strategy regarding when a person can discontinue isolation.
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If I have symptoms, why am I not able to get a test?
While the State is receiving more tests, there are still not enough tests for everyone who needs one. If you have a fever, along with a cough or trouble breathing, call your doctor. They will let you know if you need to be tested. If your symptoms are mild, you will likely be told to treat your symptoms at home.
Who should be tested?
According to the CDC guidance, the priority levels for COVID-19 testing are:
- Tier 1: hospitalized patients and symptomatic health care workers
- Tier 2: people at high risk of complications who also have symptoms, including people in long-term care facilities, people ages 65 and older, people with underlying conditions and first responders
- Tier 3: critical infrastructure workers with symptoms, health care workers and first responders without symptoms, people with mild symptoms in communities with high COVID-19 hospitalizations, other people with symptoms
- Tier 4: people without symptoms
How long does it take to receive test results?
Results are generally available within 24 hours. Your health care provider may ask you to isolate yourself during this time to limit possible spread of the virus.
How is the Health Department involved in positive cases of COVID-19?
When we are notified of a positive case of COVID-19, a member of our staff contacts the patient to identify individuals with whom the patient has been in contact during the time they were symptomatic (including the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms) to determine who is a high-risk contact. In order for a person to be considered a high-risk contact to a person with COVID-19 and thus require a 14-day quarantine from the date of their exposure to the positive case, they must meet one of the following criteria:
- Live in the same household as a person with COVID-19
- Have direct physical contact with a COVID-19 case (e.g. shaking hands)
- Have unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g. infected person coughed or sneezed on them)
- Spend at least 15 minutes within six feet of a person with COVID-19.
Our staff collects the telephone number for those individuals identified as a high-risk contact and will call these individuals to notify them of their contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19 and provide instructions for the recommended 14-day quarantine period. A high-risk contact will be instructed to stay at home and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and take their temperature twice a day if a thermometer is available.
After the initial notification, our staff will touch base with the high-risk contact on day seven (7) and 14 of their quarantine period to ensure the individual is free of symptoms. Once the high-risk contact has completed the 14-day period and they are free of symptoms, they will receive verbal notification of their release from quarantine and a quarantine release letter will be sent to the individual.
If a high-risk contact develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will be treated as a case requiring isolation (see below) and their close contacts will be treated in the same manner as described above.
In addition to identifying high-risk contacts, the positive case is also instructed to isolate themselves in their home until the following three criteria are met:
- The patient is fever free for 72 hours (three days) without the use of fever-reducing medications
- The patient’s other symptoms (e.g. cough) have improved without the use of symptom-reducing medication
- It has been at least seven (7) days from the first onset of the patient’s symptoms.
Is antibody testing being done?
Labs across the country and the world are currently working on antibody testing. There are various types of coronaviruses; therefore, someone could potentially could test positive for a coronavirus antibody but it may not necessarily be a COVID-19 antibody. The research is ongoing and once a reliable method is determined and enough supplies are available, antibody testing will be implemented.
Fully recovered from a verified COVID-19 diagnosis? You may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma to help current patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections. Learn more: RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid
Where can I find the number of COVID-19 cases in Kent County?
You can find information about positive tests and deaths on Kent County’s COVID-19 website.
Where can I find statewide data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, recovered cases, availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies?
You can find information on daily new case counts, lab testing and amounts of PPE and other medical supplies by region on the State of Michigan’s website.
Has a vaccine been developed for COVID-19?
Currently, there is no vaccine available. .
How can I best protect myself?
Practice the following:
- If you are sick, even with very mild symptoms, stay home.
- Take reasonable measures to stay at least 6 feet apart from other people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Should I wear a mask in public?
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public, especially in places where it is hard to maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and another person. Cloth face masks are being recommended because we now know individuals with COVID-19 could have mild or no symptoms, while still spreading the virus to others.
Wearing a cloth mask does not replace the need for social/physical distancing. Also, the CDC’s guidelines recommend cloth face coverings not surgical masks or N-95 respirators which should be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.
Is COVID-19 disproportionately impacting populations of color?
In Kent County, early data suggest COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the African American and Asian communities. As of April 9, 2020, the positive COVID-19 cases in Kent County were:
- 55 percent Caucasian
- 19 percent African Americans
- 5 percent Asian,
- 8 percent Hispanic or Latino, and
- 20 percent Other/Unknown
To review updated data, broken down by race, ethnicity and gender, visit our dashboard.
While the early data is showing COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting groups of color, additional data by race and ethnicity is needed to fully understand the impacts of COVID-19 across racial/ethnic groups. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently formed a task force that will be responsible for providing recommendations on how to address racial disparities in health care during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Should I be avoiding ibuprofen if I have tested positive for COVID-19?
The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring this situation, but says that at present, it does not see a reason to stop using ibuprofen. The WHO states, “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen. We are consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen, beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations.”
What strategies can I use to cope with this pandemic?
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety and grief during and after an infectious disease outbreak. It is important to take care of your emotional health during this pandemic by following these steps:
- Maintain exercise and physical activity - Be creative with your workouts. Check out YouTube, fitness apps or your local gym for free online classes. Get outside when you can while maintaining social distancing. With that said, get plenty of sleep.
- Balance nutrition - Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Connect with others – Use Facetime, Zoom and other tools to reach out to friends and family, and schedule times to connect with them.
- Take breaks – Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths and do activities you usually enjoy.
- Set boundaries for social and traditional media consumption. While it is important to stay informed from reliable sources, it can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
- Seek help when needed – Network180, Forest View and Pine Rest are open 24/7 and ready to provide services to anyone in crisis during this time. Each agency is available to conduct services via phone or tele-health. Help begins by picking up the phone:
- Network180: (616) 336-3909
- Forest View: (800) 949-8439
- Pine Rest: (800) 678-5500 or (616) 455-9200
Food and Grocery Shopping
Is it safe to go grocery shopping?
It is best not to make unnecessary trips, but if you need to go to a grocery store, you should take precautions. Make sure to stay six feet away from other shoppers and wipe down your cart before you use it. Also, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering and cleaning your hands often while shopping and as soon as you get home.
Can I buy fruits and vegetables?
Prior research from a different coronavirus suggested that virus could survive for multiple days on the surface of foods like lettuce and strawberries. So, make sure to rinse your fruits and veggies thoroughly with fresh water. You can also buy frozen fruit or vegetables as an alternative.
Is safe to order take-out?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there have not been any cases of COVID-19 known to be caused from eating food or handling food packaging. Here are some steps you can follow to help protect yourself when ordering groceries or carryout:
- Before ordering take-out, check to see if you can pay online or over the phone.
- Ask the delivery person to leave your packages at the door or on the porch.
- Because carryout bags and containers have been touched recently by others, it is important to wash your hands after handling these items.
- Dispose of all packaging and wash your hands again before eating.
How do I know if I am an essential worker/business?
As defined by Executive order 2020-21, critical infrastructure workers are health care and public health, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, public works, communications and information technology (including news media), other community-based government operations and essential functions, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical supply chains and safety, defense industrial base.
How do I report a business that is violating an Executive Order?
To report a potential violation, do not call 911. Rather, contact the non-emergency number of the local police jurisdiction where the business is located.
Will I be fined/arrested for driving to the grocery store?
No, individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary to purchase groceries, take-out food, gasoline, needed medical supplies, and any other products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of their residences. However, individuals should secure such services or supplies via delivery to the maximum extent possible.
Can I still go outside to walk/exercise?
You may leave your home or place of residence and travel as necessary to engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside your household. Additional information can be found at the Governor’s website.
When will we see if “Stay Home” Executive Order is slowing the spread of the virus?
COVID-19 has a six-day incubation period; therefore, it takes approximately one week to see if our “shelter-in-place” actions are slowing the community spread of the virus. However, lack of tests and delays in reporting impact the assessment of the situation as accurately as possible.
To date, Kent County is averaging 11 to 12 new cases per day which is lower than other areas in Michigan and the United States. Also, Kent Count has an average of 7.9 “days to double,” meaning it is taking approximately eight (8) days for our cases to double which demonstrates a slow progression of the virus. Comparatively, the “days to double” average for Michigan is 4.6 and 5.7 for the United States. Dr. Adam London talks more about flattening the curve in one of his daily update videos.
Who can I talk to if I need assistance with food or utilities?
You can call 2-1-1 for assistance with food, rent utilities and much more.
Where can I donate medical supplies/masks?
Donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) can be delivered to the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services at 1632 Linden Ave SE in Grand Rapids, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. PPE includes items such as disposable examination gloves, disposable isolation gowns or single use/disposable coveralls, any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e. N-95 or higher-level respirator) or face masks, and eye protection (i.e. goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face). You may also donate homemade cloth masks which will be donated to health care workers, homeless shelters, etc. To maintain social distancing while dropping off donations, you can leave the items in your trunk and a Salvation Army volunteer will remove them.
How can I help my community?
You’re doing a lot for your community when you stay home, take care of your family, and connect remotely with your friends and colleagues. United Way 2-1-1's website has a list of local organizations needing financial assistance or volunteers. Also, our local blood banks are critically low so you can also help by donating blood if you are capable.