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 cases do we have here?
A: There are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 11 counties of the East Central Health District. We provide an updated case count every day at 7 p.m. on the home page of this site.
It is important to keep in mind that lab-confirmed case numbers may not show an accurate picture of the presence of COVID-19 in our community. Some people who have the virus do not have symptoms and would not be tested. It’s also possible that people with mild illness will not get tested. There are likely many more cases of infection than are reflected in the report.
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.
- Stay home as much as possible and limit interactions with persons outside your household.
- 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: Is the virus in my community?
A: Yes. Whether a county has one confirmed case or several, the virus is here. Testing has been limited, so the confirmed case counts aren’t an accurate picture of the level of infection. Also, because the virus can be spread by someone with no symptoms, it’s difficult to know who is and is not a carrier of the virus. Rather than focusing on case numbers to assess your risk of exposure, it’s better to accept that the virus is spreading locally and take precautions to prevent getting sick.
Q: Who can get tested and where?
A: The Department of Public Health now offers screening and testing for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath). Certain individuals without symptoms can also be tested – click here for more details. You are no longer required to have a physician’s referral for testing through the local health department. Call our COVID-19 Testing Center at 706-721-5800. Residents of Richmond and Columbia counties should dial 311.
Important note: the testing does not occur at the health department, so please do not come to a clinic in person to request a test. Call our COVID-19 Call Center at 706-721-5800. Residents of Richmond and Columbia counties should dial 311, and if you are approved for testing, you’ll be given an appointment at one of our drive-through specimen collection sites.
Some doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, and hospitals also do their own testing. Other physicians may send patients to a drive-through specimen collection facility nearby. You are still welcome to call your primary care physician to request testing.
Q: Why hasn’t there been more testing?
A: We have been limited by laboratory capacity, the number of specimen collection kits, and shortages in the protective clothing medical professionals must wear while performing a test. However, much progress has been made and now the state has much greater capacity for testing. We expect many more tests to be performed now.
Q: Do we have drive-through testing in our area?
A: The East Central Health District has set up a drive-through specimen collection center, but these centers are not open to the public. You must have an appointment for a test at one of these centers. To be screened for an appointment, please Call 706-721-5800. Residents of Richmond and Columbia counties should dial 311
Q: What should I do while I wait to be tested?
A: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s very important that you remain under home isolation and away from other family members until you can be tested and you get your test results. This will reduce the risk that you could spread the virus to others while you wait for those results.
The CDC website has information about how you can stay safe and protect your family while isolating at home. Visit the CDC’s web page, “What to do if you are sick.”
If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor, or if you have a medical emergency like difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1. Be sure to let them know you are being tested and may have COVID-19; this will help them take the necessary precautions to protect themselves while helping you.
Q: What if I don’t qualify for a test?
A: If you still think you need to be tested, you can call your physician’s office or an urgent care center, because they may be using different testing criteria.
Even if you do not have symptoms, remember that social distancing is still very important because it’s possible to be infected and contagious even if you don’t feel sick.
Q: Are there tools to help me decide if I need medical care?
A: Yes. The CDC and Apple have developed an online Coronavirus Self-Checker. The purpose of this tool is to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. This system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19.
Q: How many people are being tested in our area?
A: We do not have county-level data on the number of tests being ordered or pending results. Statewide information about confirmed cases, deaths, and the number of completed tests in Georgia can be found at dph.ga.gov.
Q: How will we know if people in our area are positive for COVID-19?
A: Laboratories must report positive tests to public health. Every day at noon and 7 p.m., the Georgia Department of Public Health releases updated case counts for each county, and we post them on the home page of this site.
Please be mindful that the “lab-confirmed” case numbers likely don’t show a completely accurate picture of the presence of COVID-19 in our communities.
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: Are there home testing kits available?
A: At least one at-home testing kit has been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. The commercial laboratory LabCorp is offering the kits to healthcare workers and first responders who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or may be symptomatic, and expects to have the kits available to consumers in the coming weeks.
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: 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. 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 now recommends the use of cloth face coverings in community settings (for example, grocery stores and pharmacies) to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. There is a growing body of evidence that 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: Gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed. We understand this is a time when faith communities need to stay connected so we certainly support any efforts to provide the opportunity to worship online or electronically.
Q: Should I go out at all?
A: Residents throughout the state of Georgia are being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, and only go out for essential trips like the grocery store or pharmacy. Governor Brian Kemp has issued a shelter-in-place order through April 30th.
Q: Can COVID-19 be spread through water?
A: Click here to find out more about drinking water, recreational water, wastewater and COVID-19:
COVID-19 and Water Transmission
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: There is no specific antiviral treatment for 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: The guidance right now is for people to stay home if at all possible. If you go outside to take a walk or ride your bike, social distancing is still important.
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. About 60% of Georgia’s cases are in adults ages 18-59.
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: There is a state of Georgia hotline people can call with questions or if they think they may have been exposed: 1-844-442-2681
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has the most current and accurate information on COVID-19.