COVID-19 FAQ

Credit to: Austin Texas Gov

Symptoms and Testing Information

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Q: What should I do if I have symptoms?

A: Healthcare providers are encouraging all patients experiencing flu-like symptoms to first use mobile apps or visit websites that have been set up for COVID-19 response. For your safety and convenience telehealth resources are available. 

Before scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider or walking into a clinic, urgent care center or hospital it is recommended that you use one of these or similar services listed below. 

  • Telehealth with Baylor Scott & White.
    • Visit their website or to install the app on your mobile device, simply text BETTER to 88408 to have it sent to your phone. No appointment is needed. 
  • Telehealth with Ascension.
    • Visit their website to download the app. Use the code HOME for a $20 cost per visit, and no appointment is needed.  
  • Telehealth with MDLive.
    • Visit their website to sign-up for a free account.
  • Telehealth with TelaDoc.
    • Visit their website to set-up an account or download their app. The cost of a Teladoc visit depends on your health plan, with everyday care costing less than $49.
  • Telehealth with HeyDoc.
    • Visit their website to download the app. A visit on HeyDoc costs the patient between $10 and $50.
  • Telehealth with Televero Health.
    • Visit their website to schedule a consult with a Critical Care M.D or Behavioral Health professional. Consult takes place from the safety and convenience of your home on a computer or mobile device.
  • Drive-Thru Testing. We are not doing on-demand drive up testing at this point.  Currently, you have to be screened and directed there before this kind of testing is recommended. 

Central Health-funded CommUnityCare Health Centers launched a hotline staffed with medical professionals to triage uninsured Travis County residents experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms (COVID-19).

People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who are uninsured and do not have an established doctor can call the COVID-19 Hotline at 512-978-8775 for guidance. Starting today, medical professionals will answer the phones and triage callers – specifically people who are uninsured – to prevent them from going directly to a clinic, urgent care, or emergency department. For now, the hotline is available 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Q: How is COVID-19 testing conducted? Is any testing being conducted for Austin/Travis County individuals?

A: A Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) lab in Austin is now capable of completing COVID-19 testing. APH currently has one or more Persons Under Investigation, which means testing is in-progress.

Individuals who experience symptoms of lower respiratory illness (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) should consult with their health care provider who will determine if there is another plausible diagnosis (i.e. influenza). Your local health care provider will consult with Austin Public Health to collect specimens for testing by the CDC or a Texas DSHS lab if it is deemed the patient meets the case definition.

Q: Why don’t you report the number of tests or people under investigation?

A: Austin Public Health investigates approximately 80 communicable diseases every day which includes investigating people and various testing. When a positive case is confirmed, we will alert the public with more information and details. In regards to COVID-19 tests:

  • The number of tests and people under investigation rapidly changes, by the time of publishing the total would be already outdated
  • Private health organizations are now doing their own testing. Obtaining an accurate total number on the tests is more difficult
  • We are following the guidance of DSHS in not releasing PUI numbers
  • Commercial labs are now online, obtaining an accurate total number on the tests is more difficult

Q: Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the period during which people have developed the illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

Q: Are some people at higher risk for severe infection?

A: Yes. Similar to influenza, those who are over the age of 70 and/or have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, chronic lung disease, and diabetes are at greater risk for severe disease and complications from COVID-19.

Austin Public Health has developed guidance for older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions.


Prevention Information

Q: What are steps to help prevent the spread of illnesses such as flu and COVID-19 if you are sick?

A: Austin Public Health has developed guidance to help prevent spread from those who are sick to others.

  • Stay home except to get medical care 
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor 
  • Monitor your symptoms 
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home 
  • Avoid sharing personal items 
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes 
  • Clean your hands often 
  • Clean all high-touch surfaces every day 

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low.

Click here for more information for those who are sick.

Q: How can I protect myself?

A: You can protect yourself by:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Q: Does the use of facemasks in the community help prevent COVID-19?

A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Q: What is social distancing?

A: The Centers for Disease Control defines social distancing as a strategy used to help prevent a widespread influenza pandemic. Global efforts to combat this influenza pandemic will rely on both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions. Community infection control measures comprise a variety of non-pharmaceutical strategies designed to limit the transmission of pandemic influenza. These measures work by reducing the opportunity for people to come in contact with infected persons and thus for the virus to spread, reducing the total number of persons affected.


Situational Information

Q: What is a novel coronavirus? 

A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing COVID-19, is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Q: Am I at risk for COVID-19 in Austin?

A: The overall risk of COVID-19 in Texas to the general public is elevated at this time due to the growing evidence of person-to-person spread in the United States.

APH has received multiple cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Austin-Travis County. For updated case counts visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19. For the latest on the number of confirmed cases in Texas visit Texas DSHS.

Q: How does the virus causing COVID-19, spread?

A: This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. Currently, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

Q: What is community spread?

A: Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Q: Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why the CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials. This decision involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.


Additional Information

Q: How can people help stop stigma related to COVID-19?

A: Health officials emphasize that Asian individuals are not at greater risk of carrying the coronavirus than any other individual. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop the stigma.

Q: Is my school or my child’s school closing?

A: School closures and class modifications will be determined per district or university.

Child care facilities can operate so long as NO MORE THAN 10 people are present in any single space at the same time. For example, a facility may be able to accommodate placing people in multiple, separate enclosed spaces in a single building such as school classrooms or different floors of a multi-level building, with no more than 10 people in each separate/single space.

Governor Abbott issued an executive order for the State of Texas, effective March 20 through April 3, mandating that all Texas schools must close temporarily. School superintendents will work with the Texas Education Agency to assess alternative education options.

For information for your child, visit your respective district or university website: 

K-12 School DistrictsUniversities/Colleges
Austin ISD Eanes ISD Lake Travis ISD Lago Vista ISD Leander ISD Del Valle ISD Manor ISD Pflugerville ISD Elgin ISD Coupland ISD Round Rock ISD Marble Falls ISD Johnson City ISD Dripping Springs ISD Hays Consolidated ISD University of Texas St. Edwards University  Huston-Tillotson University Concorida University Austin Community College   

For more FAQs, visit CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html.

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