FAQs About Coronavirus
Q: Do I have to quarantine after I travel out of state?
A: Completing a 14-day quarantine after traveling to states with a high number of COVID-19 cases is recommended by the DOH. DOH will update the list of states with a high number of cases with frequency, so it should be consulted regularly by those traveling. Residents should stay in their quarantine location for the full 14 days and avoid interacting with anyone including those in their household.
Q: Is this a recommendation or requirement?
A: At this time, quarantine related to travel is a recommendation, not a requirement. Quarantine is recommended because it is one of the most effective methods in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Quarantining helps keep you, your family, your friends, and your community safe.
Q: Does this apply to health care, agriculture, professional sports, or other life-sustaining businesses?
A: This recommendation applies to all people in Pennsylvania. Life-sustaining businesses, as defined by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), should carefully consider how this recommendation may impact their delivery of services. Healthcare workers should follow their healthcare facility’s policy and procedure, and healthcare facilities should inform their policy and procedure through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and PA-HAN-513 or its successor.
Q: If I am going to a remote area of a listed state and, after arrival, I do not leave the property, do I still have to quarantine upon my return to Pennsylvania?
A: When considering whether to quarantine after travel one should consider the types of behavior that occurred while traveling to or through a listed state. For example, attending a gathering is an activity that poses more risk than stopping for fuel. Also consider if other public health precautions were taken during travel, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.
Q:Can I get tested instead of quarantining? If I test negative, do I still have to quarantine for 14 days?
A: Individuals should consider getting tested four to seven days after they may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or if they are exhibiting symptoms after they return from out of state travel. A test only shows an individual’s infection status at the time of the test. An infected person generally exhibits symptoms between 2 to 14 days after exposure; therefore, a person should quarantine for the entire 14 days even if they have had a negative test during this time.
Q:How is this recommendation enforced?
A: As the administration issued a recommendation, voluntary compliance is the key to successful implementation. Using techniques such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and quarantining after travel to the listed states limits the spread of COVID-19 for the benefit of family, friends, and fellow Pennsylvanians. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interest that all Pennsylvanians comply with this recommendation.
Q: What is a novel coronavirus?
A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.
Q: Why is the disease causing the outbreak now being called coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19?
A: On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.
Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice external icon for naming of new human infectious diseases.
Q: What is the name of the virus causing the outbreak of coronavirus disease starting in 2019?
A: On February 11, 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, charged with naming new viruses, named the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to SARS-CoV-2. As the name indicates, the virus is related to the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, however it is not the same virus.
Q: What is the source of COVID-19?
A: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus.
Q: Was the new coronavirus deliberately created or released by people?
A: Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.
Q: Will ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick?
A: Researchers are studying the new coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing, scientists note that most viruses like this one do not stay alive for very long on surfaces, so it is not likely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for days or weeks. The illness is most likely transmitted by droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, but more information is emerging daily.
A: None of these recommendations protects you from getting COVID-19, and some of these practices may be dangerous. The best ways to protect yourself from this coronavirus (and other viruses) include:
- Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing.
- In addition, you can avoid spreading your own germs by coughing into the crook of your elbow and staying home when you are sick.
Q: Does a face mask protect you from COVID-19?
A: We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Q: How can I help protect myself?
A: Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.
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. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.
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 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 and 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.
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, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed 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: What is the incubation period of the coronavirus disease?
A: The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.
Q: How do outbreaks normally end?
A: There are several ways that an outbreak can come to an end. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak was controlled through close coordination between public health officials and clinicians who were able to diagnose cases, isolate infected patients, trace their contacts and implement strong infection control policies. An outbreak can dwindle once the virus has infected most of the people who are susceptible to it, because it has fewer targets, as was the case with the Zika virus outbreaks in recent years. If COVID-19 behaves like other respiratory viruses, including flu, it could abate as the weather gets warmer and may become part of the annual cold and flu respiratory season.
Q: What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
A: There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.
A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever1, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read about COVID-19 Symptoms.
Q: Should I be tested for COVID-19?
A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact. If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
Q: Is St. Luke’s offering centralized testing sites and can I get tested there?
A: Yes, St. Luke’s has set up centralized testing sites at the following locations: St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, St. Luke’s West End Medical Center, St. Luke’s Health Center – Brodheadsville, St. Luke’s Quakertown Medical Office Building, St. Luke’s West Penn Medical Center and a location near St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus in the parking lot behind Central Catholic High School. The centralized testing stations are being offered to minimize our community’s exposure to COVID-19. By offering drive-thru testing, we are reducing people’s risk of exposure to coronavirus in a busy waiting area, as well as protecting others from exposure if the patient does have COVID-19. The centralized sites are not for use by individuals who simply want to be tested and have not met the testing requirements. Patients must be pre-screened by and have a referral from their primary care doctor or the Coronavirus hotline team by dialing 1-866-785-8537, option 7, prior to arriving at the testing sites.
Q: Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?
A: Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.
For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.
Q: Will my child be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine when available?
A: The vaccines that will be available early on are for people 18+. More research is needed to make sure the vaccine will be safe and effective for infants, kids and teens.
Q: Does getting a vaccine make you immune to COVID-19?
A: Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, known as immunity. But experts don't know how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness.
Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.
Q: Is it really true that the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective?
A: This information comes from a press release from Pfizer, the vaccine manufacturer, and not the FDA itself. All vaccine studies are clinical trials, and data from these trials are submitted to an impartial Data Safety Monitoring Board that periodically analyzes the results. These analyses are “secret” and not released to the FDA or the public until there are enough data to conclude that the vaccine is either a) effective, b) completely ineffective, or c) harmful. These official analyses of the COVID vaccine have not been released yet. Hopefully we will have official word from the FDA soon.
Q: Is the vaccine safe?
A: So far the clinical trials have not identified any immediate safety concerns. We will all remain optimistic, but there are several caveats to remember. First, some adverse effects can occur long after a drug or vaccine is administered so it might be too early in the trial to detect them. Second, some adverse effects are very rare, like 1 in 100,000 or even lower. Given that the current trial has enrolled 44,000 people, we may not be able to detect these more rare adverse effects. That’s not to say that we expect there to be issues, but it is too early to conclude that it is 100% risk-free.
Q: How does the Pfizer vaccine work?
A: Unlike other vaccines on the market that use either weakened virus or viral proteins, this vaccine is a Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. That is, it contains genetic material that is introduced into our own cells and causes them to make viral proteins that stimulate the immune system. mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.
Q: How long will the vaccine last?
A: This is unknown at this time. We need more time and research. It is unclear if this will be a once-and-done vaccine or one that will need to be given annually like the influenza vaccine.
Q: How must the Pfizer vaccine be stored?
A: The vaccine must be stored at -70°C which requires special ultralow temperature freezers that are not commonly used or available in many health care settings. This obviously provided logistical challenges with shipment, storage, and administration.
Q: Is the Pfizer vaccine approved?
A: The Pfizer vaccine is being released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under emergency use authorization (EUA). An EUA may be issued by the FDA to allow access to critical medical products that may help during a public health emergency. An EUA is different from approval/licensure. The following criteria must be met for an EUA to be issued:
- The product will be used for a serious or life-threatening disease or condition.
- Based on the totality of scientific evidence available, it is reasonable to believe the product may be effective.
- The known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.
- There is no adequate FDA-approved alternative available.
Q: Will St. Luke’s get the vaccine?
A: Yes. The first allocations of the vaccine will be provided by the federal government to individual states. St. Luke’s has applied for several of our facilities to serve as designated vaccine distribution sites in both PA and NJ. We anticipate our first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive the week of December 14.
Q: Who will be able to get the first doses of the vaccine?
A: At this time, the first allocation of vaccine will be designated for frontline health care workers and first responders as well as those that are high risk for complications of infection. The exact details of these groups is still being finalized by federal and state governments.
Q: Given that the vaccine seems pretty effective, does this mean once it is released we can stop all masking?
A: Probably not. At least not right away. Remember it will take time to manufacture and distribute hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine to all Americans. And some recent polls reveal that only about half of people in the U.S. are even willing to get the vaccine at this time. So while the vaccine will undoubtedly help stop the spread and potential severity of COVID-19 it won’t make it magically disappear. We will still likely need to follow masking and social distancing measures for some time.
Q: Where can I learn more about vaccine development?
A: Another good summary article:
Information about the vaccine and it’s development:
Vaccine information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health:
Q: What is bamlanivimab?
A: Another new COVID treatment recently got Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). It’s called bamlanivimab and it’s a monoclonal antibody (MAB) to COVID.
Q: What is a monoclonal antibody and how does it work?
A: Monoclonal antibodies are simply laboratory-made proteins that mimic natural antibodies made by the immune system. Bamlanivimab is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and is designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.
Q: How effective is bamlanivimab?
A: So on an anecdotal level, this is one of the medications that President Trump and Chris Christie received as part of their VIP “COVID cocktail”. It has been shown in more formal clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization and emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo.
Q: Why is bamlanivimab being released under EUA and not as a fully approved medication?
A: An EUA enables the expedited authorization and use of an unapproved medication that "may be effective" against a certain medical condition in times of a public health emergency. While a medication does not need to go through the usual rigorous approval process to get EUA, several criteria must be met:
- Evidence of a serious or life-threatening condition
- Evidence of effectiveness
- Evidence of safety
- Lack of alternatives
Q: Who can bamlanivimab be used on?
A: This medication is authorized for patients who have COVID but are not yet hospitalized or requiring oxygen, and are at high risk for progressing to severe disease. This includes those individuals who are 65 years of age or older, or those who have certain chronic medical conditions.
Q: How is bamlanivimab administered?
A: This medication must be given as an IV infusion and administered in a setting that has IV infusion capabilities where patients can be monitored during and after the infusion. While many hospitals have infusions centers (e.g. our Cancer Center) that could fit the bill, it is obviously important to keep COIVD patients needing this mediation separate from our other vulnerable patients.
Q: Will St. Luke’s be getting it?
A: The current federal plan is to provide regular allocations of this medication to the states who will then subsequently allocate it to individual healthcare systems. St. Luke’s is currently planning to receive some of this allocation. How much? We don’t know, but our supply will likely be limited, at least at first. We have a multidisciplinary group working on the logistics of how the who, how, and when details of how to best get this to patients.