Frequently Asked Questions & Answers about COVID-19
This is a rapidly evolving situation and information is likely to change.
Cases and Transmission
Q: How many confirmed cases are in my county?
A: We provide an updated case count for each county every day after 3 p.m. on the home page of this site. To see the number of cases across the state, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website at dph.ga.gov. The case counts are updated daily at 3 p.m. For a national case update, visit the website of the CDC.
Q: How can I protect myself from getting sick?
A: We all have to do our part to prevent further spread of illness. There is widespread transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 throughout Georgia.
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water. If you don’t have soap, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Limit interactions with persons outside your household.
- When you leave your home, wear a mask or cloth face covering in public places around other people.
- Regularly clean commonly-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, computer keyboards, and light switches.
- Cover your cough with a tissue and throw the tissue away or cough into the crook of your elbow.
Q: Who can get tested and where?
A: The Department of Public Health offers free testing for anyone who would like to be tested, regardless of symptoms. Most of our sites require an appointment. Visit our testing information page to get information about a testing site near you.
Q: I was just tested. Do I need to stay at home in quarantine or isolation until I get my results?
A: You should remain at home as much as possible until you receive your test result. If you do have to leave your home, wear a mask or face covering and keep your distance from other people. We recommend you keep a log of all the places you have visited and the individuals with whom you had contact. This information will be useful if you test positive for COVID-19.
If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and know you had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you must isolate at home.
Q: I tested positive. What should I do?
A: If you test positive for COVID-19, you should stay home except to get medical care. Separate yourself from other people, stay in touch with your doctor, get rest and stay hydrated. Our epidemiologists or your doctor can help you know when it’s safe to be around people again.
Q: If I test positive, do I have to self-isolate even if I don’t have symptoms?
A: Yes. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms, must self-isolate to prevent the spread of disease. Guidelines for discontinuing isolation is different for those with and without symptoms. Get details on the Georgia Department of Public Health website.
Q: If I test positive, when can I go back to work?
A: That depends on several factors. The guidance is different for people with and without symptoms, for healthcare workers, and for critical infrastructure workers. You can get more information about isolation and return-to-work rules on the Georgia Department of Public Health website. Our epidemiologists will help you understand how the rules apply to your specific situation.
Q: I tested negative. Does that mean I am not infected?
A negative test usually means you do not have a COVID-19 infection, but there are exceptions. If you are very early in your infection, you may not have enough of the virus in your system to test positive. If you have symptoms of illness, you should continue to stay home and away from others. If your illness doesn’t go away or gets worse, consider calling your healthcare provider.
Even if you don’t have symptoms, remember that the test only shows you a snapshot in time. A negative test does not mean you won’t get the virus the next time you are exposed to it. This is why we continue to urge everyone to take common sense public health precautions like wearing a mask or cloth face covering, washing your hands often, and following social distancing guidelines.
Q: What is antibody testing?
A: Antibody testing is a type of serology (blood) test that checks for antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19. These antibodies are produced when someone has been infected, so a positive result from this test indicates that person was previously infected with the virus.
Q: Is antibody testing available in our area?
A: Currently, antibody testing is not available through the Coastal Health District, but some private healthcare providers may offer antibody testing. Please be aware: we do not yet know if a positive antibody test means you have immunity to the illness. Scientists are conducting studies to answer those questions.
Also, antibody tests may not be able to tell you if you are currently infected because it typically takes 1 to 3 weeks after infection to develop antibodies to this particular coronavirus. To tell if you are currently infected, you would need a test that identifies the virus in samples from your upper respiratory system, such as a nasal swab.
Q: How many people have been tested in our area?
A: We do not have comprehensive data on the number of tests that have been performed since the beginning of the outbreak. In addition to our testing program, private healthcare providers also offer testing. Click here for data about public health testing in the Coastal Health District.
Q: Can you tell me if my neighbor/coworker/friend/a healthcare worker has tested positive for COVID-19?
A: No, we cannot disclose any personal information about individuals who have been tested for COVID-19. The only information we release about confirmed cases is county of residence. Rather than focusing on your exposure to a specific individual, it may be more helpful to take appropriate social distancing precautions with everyone right now to lessen your risk of exposure.
Q: How many people have recovered from COVID-19?
A: Recovery status is not data we collect. Our investigation focuses on activity histories and contact tracing to limit further spread, and we provide recommendations for patients moving forward, but we do not track patients throughout their clinical presentation.
Q: Are there ever false positive or false negative test results?
A: A positive diagnostic test means that the virus is present. So, positive = positive. Unfortunately, false negative results sometimes happen. There could be many reasons that, but most false negatives can be attributed to a an incomplete specimen sample or mishandling of the specimen either during the testing process or at the lab. Also, it’s possible to get a negative result if it’s early in the infection process and you don’t have very much of the virus in your system.
Q: What is contact tracing?
A: Contact tracing is a tool used by Public Health to quickly identify people who have been exposed to an infectious disease (COVID-19, measles, Ebola, TB, STDs) and alert their contacts of their exposure.
Q: Why is contact tracing done?
A: The goal of contact tracing is to help prevent the further spread of infection, to identify hot spots of infection, and to protect friends, families and communities from potential infection.
Q: Is contact tracing confidential?
A: Contact tracing is confidential. The identity of the person who tests positive and the information about others who may have been exposed is kept confidential per HIPAA. (HIPAA is the law that protects an individual’s personal health information.)
Q: Do you use technology to track my movements?
A: No, Georgia’s contact tracing does not use GPS or Bluetooth technology to track movements.
Q: How is contact tracing done?
A: Trained public health staff work with people diagnosed with COVID-19 to help them recall everyone who they have had close contact with while they were infectious. Public health staff then alert these exposed individuals (contacts) as quickly as possible to prevent additional spread of the disease.
Q: How will contacts be notified?
A: A trained DPH staff member will notify the contact by phone that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, and instruct them to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease.
Q: What are contacts asked to do?
A: Contacts must stay at home and maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet) from others they live with, including animals, until 14 days after their last known exposure. Contacts should check their temperature twice daily and monitor for symptoms:
- Fever / chills
- Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing
- Muscle / body aches
- Sore Throat
- New loss of taste / smell
- Congestion / runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
DPH will work with contacts to schedule a COVID-19 test before their 14-day quarantine period ends.
Q: How do contacts report their symptoms?
A: Once a contact has been notified that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, they can report their symptoms either by text or phone call. Individuals who do not report daily will be contacted by DPH reminding them to report their symptoms.
Q: How has contact tracing been used previously?
A: Contact tracing was used during the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak, as well as in the SARS outbreak in 2003. Contact tracing is also used to combat sexually transmitted disease, measles and tuberculosis.
Q: I still have questions about contact tracing. Where can I get more information?
A: For more information about contact tracing, call Georgia’s Contact Tracing Hotline 1-888-357-0169.
Q: What is social distancing?
A: Social distancing means minimizing contact with people. It also means that if you are near someone in public, try to stay at least 6 feet away and wear a mask in public. The less contact people have with one another, the less opportunity for the virus to spread. Slowing the spread of the virus means we can keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
Q: Should I wear a facemask?
A: CDC recommends the use of cloth face coverings in community settings (for example, grocery stores and pharmacies) to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. People who are infected can spread the virus before they develop symptoms or in the absence of symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering or face mask may help prevent the spread of the virus by people are infected and do not know it.
Q: Should I go to my house of worship?
A: Online, call-in, or drive-in worship services are still the safest option. However, faith communities can hold in-person services if they follow social distancing protocols. Participants should keep at least six feet of distance from other people who are not from their same household. Face masks or cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged.
Please do not go to church if you are not feeling well, have a fever, or have had direct contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you’re medically fragile or older than 65, you should continue to shelter in place and utilize remote services instead of in-person services.
Q: Should I go out at all?
A: We still encourage residents to limit contact with people outside their home when possible. If you do go out, wear a mask or cloth covering over your nose and mouth. Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others as much as possible.
We especially urge those at high risk of complications from COVID-19 to stay home and away from others. That includes those 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, or diabetes, or those who are immunocompromised.
Q: Is it safe to travel?
A: If you are planning to travel, there are several things you can do to help limit your risk from COVID-19: Travel Recommendations
Q: Can COVID-19 be spread through water?
A: The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water, and there is no evidence that it can spread to people through water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.
While there is ongoing community spread of the virus, it is important to follow the state guidelines for health and safety around community pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. More details are available on our page with Reopening Information for Community Pools.
Q: How does it spread?
A: It’s thought that the main way COVID-9 spreads is from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes in close contact with someone else – within about 6 feet, in fact. That’s why social distancing and staying at least six feet away from others is so important.
It is important to note that a person can still spread the virus even if they have no symptoms.
Q: Can I get coronavirus if I touch something that an infected person has touched?
A: It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Q: How long can the virus live on surfaces?
A: The virus may be able to live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. That’s why it’s important to clean high-touch areas such as counters, doorknobs, light switches, and key boards.
Q: Is there a treatment?
A: Currently there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. However, drugs previously developed to treat other viral infections are being tested to see if they might also be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
Q: I heard there is something that can help treat COVID-19.
A: There are no drugs approved to prevent or treat the coronavirus. Be aware that some people may try to sell you a treatment that is unauthorized and not appropriate, and could even be dangerous.
Click here to read more about COVID-19 scams
Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death. READ MORE.
Q: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
A: There is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation but it will be some time before a viable vaccine is developed and adequate safety studies have been done.
Q: Can I go outside?
A: If you do go out, wear a mask or cloth covering over your nose and mouth. Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others as much as possible.
Q: Isn’t it mainly older people who get really sick?
A: While older people are at higher risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19, younger adults can also get sick from the virus and develop serious complications.
Q: How does COVID-19 affect children?
A: While children typically have milder illness, they can still become very sick and even die. A recent CDC study suggests that young infants (<1 year of age) and children with underlying health conditions may be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 compared with older children and those with no underlying conditions.
Even if a child has mild symptoms or no symptoms of COVID-19 infection, children can still spread the virus to others. Everyone should take precautions to protect themselves from this new coronavirus.
Q: I still have questions. Where can I get more information?
A: If you have a question about COVID-19 testing, call our COVID-19 Testing Call Center at 1-912-230-9744 or visit our testing information page. For other COVID-19 questions, there is a state of Georgia hotline at 1-844-442-2681.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has the most current and accurate information on COVID-19.