Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is COVID-19 and how can we help prevent the spread?

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that usually cause mild symptoms, like a common cold. Two coronaviruses — Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) —  have caused more severe illness. COVID-19 disease is caused by a new strain of the virus that has not previously been seen in humans. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

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. 

The virus spreads like the flu, when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes close to another person. "Close" means about 6 feet. A person is more likely to make another person sick when they have symptoms like a cough.

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.

Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread it to others?

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 Centers for Disease Control (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.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation  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.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Illness develops 2 to 14 days after someone got infected with COVID-19.

Symptoms may include fever, sore throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, body aches and fatigue. Fever may not be present in the very young, very old, immunosuppressed, or people taking antipyretics.

Gastrointestinal symptoms have been reported by some patients prior to developing fever and lower respiratory symptoms. Some patients have also reported a loss of smell or taste prior to developing fever and lower respiratory symptoms.

Seniors and people with underlying health conditions would be at greater risk of severe disease.

What should I do if I believe I have been exposed to COVID-19?

If you have symptoms like a cough, fever or breathing problems and you might have been exposed to COVID-19, please contact your health care provider. Your provider will ask you about your symptoms and will decide whether you should be seen in the office. 

If the doctor asks you to come in to the clinic, they will likely create a plan for you to enter the facility in a way that avoids being around others, to prevent the spread of illness.

There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online at the CDC website.

How can I avoid getting sick?

Steps you can take to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold can also help prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if you don't have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw used tissues in the trash promptly.
  • Take care of your health by eating well, getting adequate sleep, exercising and managing stress will also help your body stay resilient.
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Should I use a face mask to prevent COVID-19?

There are detailed recommendations for healthcare providers to protect themselves using special types of masks and other equipment.

At the beginning of this pandemic, the strong message to the public from the CDC and WHO was not to wear masks unless you were already infected and needed to interact with others. The assumption was that people didn’t spread the disease without symptoms, and that droplet spread occurred with coughing and sneezing. If sick people wore masks, the rest of us didn’t need to. Also, with a shortage of masks for healthcare workers, “wasting” that resource wasn’t a good idea.

There are a number of reasons to reconsider wearing a cloth mask:

  • We now know that some people are contagious before they ever get symptoms and some never feel sick. They might spread the disease before they would ever consider masking up.

  • Droplets do indeed transmit the disease, but they can be generated from talking as well as coughing. Just standing next to someone talking could spread the disease if neither of you are masked.

  • Wearing a mask while sick is stigmatizing for those who wear them. Universal use wouldn’t identify who was sick and who wasn’t.

  • You are less likely to touch your mouth and nose while wearing a mask.

  • DIY masks can possibly provide protection to the public without impacting the supply of manufactured masks currently prioritized for healthcare workers. If the medical community accepts the use of these masks in the healthcare setting, then these masks will be available and ready to go.

  • There is data that suggests that in countries where masking is encouraged for all citizens, the rate of disease transmission may be reduced by their actions.

Volunteers are making these masks locally using various patterns. The principle is the same regardless of design.

Having a physical barrier to prevent droplets from landing on others, discouraging the wearers from touching their faces, and possibly reducing large droplets from landing on mucous membranes are the goals for wearing masks in public.

Here is a link about how to make a simple, DIY mask in a matter of minutes:


How can we help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community?

The CDC has provided guidance for how individual households, schools, childcares, colleges/ universities, community- and faith-based organizations, and workplaces can participate in keeping our community healthy. Everyone has a role to play! 

Because COVID-19 is a new (novel) virus, there is no vaccine available to prevent it, or specific medicine to treat it. That is why it is important to be prepared and practice these methods (sometimes called "non-pharmaceutical interventions") to prevent the spread of the illness.

What cleaning products and procedures can help limit the spread of COVID-19?

What cleaning products are effective against the COVID-19 virus?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided guidance on what disinfectants can be used to kill the COVID-19 virus on surfaces. The list is available at the end of the linked EPA page - it will be updated regularly as more products are identified. 

How does testing for COVID-19 work?

What are the testing requirements?

Clinical and private laboratory options for COVID-19 testing continue to expand. Clinicians can order COVID-19 testing at their discretion through such laboratories, including Oregon hospital labs and commercial labs such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics. Public Health approval is not needed for this testing. Factors to consider include patient symptoms, underlying medical conditions, and contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Patients with new onset of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are recommended for testing according to the guidelines detailed below. Symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are:

  • Cough or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • OR

  • At least two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills,

  • muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell

Oregon Health Authority recommends that people with mild COVID-19 symptoms call their provider to discuss their symptoms and whether they need to be evaluated. People without symptoms who have had an exposure to a person with COVID-19 are encouraged to discuss their risk with their healthcare provider.

Read more about the State's testing guidance.

In the United States, every medical laboratory test must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and that usually happens after years of development. Because COVID-19 is so new in humans the tests are also very new and have not yet been granted full FDA approval. The FDA has granted an emergency use authorization for COVID-19 tests only for people who meet the minimum requirements above.

How is Lane County Public Health monitoring people who have traveled outside the United States recently?

We are working closely with the CDC’s Office of Global Migration and Quarantine to understand who may have traveled outside the United States and to areas of concern recently.

It is important to understand that Lane County Public Health follows all patient privacy guidelines and does not share patient information with other governmental agencies unless there is a direct medical need and legal authority to do so.


Patient privacy is a priority of Lane County Public Health.

How will Lane County Public Health investigate positive COVID-19 cases to see if it spread?

A Communicable Disease Investigation begins with what we call a contact investigation, which includes establishing a timeline for when the patient started feeling sick, any traveling they might have done, who they might have had contact with in the days before they got sick, and who they may have come into contact with after they got sick.

Contact investigations are conducted by a trained communicable disease nurse.


The first step involves establishing an open line of communication between our disease investigator and the actual patient who is sick. If a patient is too sick to communicate, or has passed away, the investigator will work with the next of kin or a close friend to gather that critical information.


Once the information is gathered about the patient, the investigator will then reach out to all the individuals with whom the patient may have had contact.


The investigator will inform those individuals that they have had exposure with a known case of COVID-19, and try to determine whether they have developed any symptoms.


If there are places where the patient had prolonged, close contact with the public, we will then share the date, time and place with the community and ask that people who were at that place call Lane County Public Health.


If they have not developed symptoms, they will be asked to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. They will then be designated as a person under monitoring, or PUM.  Each day during those 14 days from the last time they had contact with the patient, a communicable disease nurse will call them to check and see if they have developed symptoms.


If a PUM does not develop symptoms during those 14 days, they will be taken off the PUM list and will be able to go about their normal routine.


If a PUM develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will then be reclassified as person under investigation, or PUI. At that time, a COVID-19 test will be ordered for that individual through their provider and an investigator will contact them to gather information regarding additional contacts they might have had.


This process helps keep our community safe by making sure those people who need to be quarantined do so and helps us understand the way the disease behaves and how it is moving through the community.

Are there certain people who are more likely to get COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

No. COVID-19 shows no preference in how it spreads and it can be contracted by anyone regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity.


People with weakened immune systems, people over 65 and children under 2 years old may experience more severe symptoms and consequences if they contract COVID-19 because their immune systems are not fully functional.

Information for employers and employees

When can I return to work if I have been sick but didn't get tested for COVID-19?

Employees should wait for 72 hours after their cough and fever have subsided (without the use of medical suppressants - decongestants, fevers reducers, etc.) before returning to work.

My employer said that I need clearance to return to work.

Lane County Public Health does not recommend back to work verification for any employee in Lane County.

Employees should wait for 72 hours after their cough and fever have subsided (without the use of medical suppressants - decongestants, fevers reducers, etc.) before returning to work. This will help reduce the strain on our medical and hospital systems.

Lane County Public Health cannot provide clearance for return to work. Only your medical provider can order testing for COVID-19. 

You can find more information from the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) regarding sick time laws and other employer and employee resources.

I’m an employer. Will I be notified if my employee is being monitored or tested for COVID-19?

Patient privacy laws severely restrict the amount of information that public health officials can share about individual patients.


If a patient under investigation for potential COVID-19 transmission was found to have reported to work within the potential window of transmission their place of employment would become part of the investigation. In that case, Lane County Public Health would reach out to the business owner/operator.


If, during the course of a Communicable Disease Investigation (see FAQ above), it is determined that your business or place of work is a possible public contact exposure location a wider community notification with the date, time a place would occur.


In both cases, the employer may not know or have confirmed which employee is under investigation.


We ask that everyone respect patient privacy and refrain from sharing personal details even if the information is shared by non-Public Health sources. Providing personal details can compromise the safety of the person being investigated.

Information for residential and commercial renters

Can I be evicted for non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an Executive Order (20-11) on March 22 that places a temporary moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment. The Executive Order is effective for 90 days.

On April 1, Governor Brown expanded the moratorium on evictions to commercial properties.

The Executive Order places a temporary hold throughout Oregon on law enforcement actions relating to residential evictions for not paying rent.

Recognizing that landlords and property owners face their own costs if tenants are not able to pay rent, the Governor and her Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council are engaging lenders to find potential solutions and are exploring various state and federal policy options that might be available to provide assistance to borrowers or other options for relief. Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Department of Consumer and Business Services are also pursuing relief options at the direction of the Governor.

Local legal resources for renters include:

Access the Law

Oregon Law Center

Additional questions

Are there measures I should take when shopping for or preparing food?

The Food and Drug Administration has created resources to help consumers shop for and prepare food during COVID-19.

FDA’s Perspective on Food Safety and Availability during and beyond COVID-19:

Shopping for Food during the COVID-19 Pandemic Information for Consumers:

Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

How will Lane County Public Health address COVID-19 in our unhoused population?

Lane County Public Health has protocols in place to care for unhoused individuals should the need arise. We are in active communication with our social service partners regarding additional planning, as well as sharing information and planning resources with other agencies around the state.

If you have a specific question about planning for the unhoused community, please email us

I’m concerned about recent travel.

The following is based on the information we have at this time and will be updated if we learn more. 

If you have returned from an area with widespread transmission of COVID-19 (as of March 3, 2020, locations include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea), and you develop symptoms like a fever, cough or breathing problems within 14 days, please call your doctor. They will ask questions about your travel history and your symptoms and will determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Some areas of the United States, including on the West Coast, have reported cases of COVID-19, however, there is no evidence that the coronavirus is spreading widely in those communities. Therefore, recent travel to Portland, Seattle, or other areas of Washington State do not significantly increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. 

I'm concerned about upcoming travel.

The CDC is monitoring the spread of COVID-19 worldwide and how countries are responding to it. Check the CDC travel information for guidance on international travel. 

As of March 3, 2020, the CDC has not issued any travel notices for any parts of the United States. The best way to protect your health while traveling is to avoid sick people and to wash your hands frequently. 

If you are traveling to attend a conference, concert or other large gathering, please contact the event organizer for information about the status of the event. 

Has Lane County declared an emergency?

On March 17, the Board of Commissioners declared a local emergency.

You can find the material and discussion online.

The local emergency declaration is a statement to the state and federal governments that additional resources are required for us to continue to fight the spread of COVID-19. The declaration also creates additional flexibility in responding to the local community needs, and allows the County Administrator to allocate additional resources in response to community needs.

What are other trusted sources of information related to COVID-19?

What do I do if I have concerns about a business or individual not following State guidelines?

Business Complaints Through The State

If you have concerns that a business is not properly adhering to the State guidance regarding social distancing of employees in the workplace, you can submit a form through Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is the lead agency related to grocery and convenience stores. Consumer complaints regarding customer behavior or a lack of customer social distancing in the retail environment should be directed to:

Violations of the order can be treated as a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.

Local Compliance

Once you have reached out to these state agencies, if you would like to continue to pursue your business-related concern locally, you can contact the Lane County Non-Emergency COVID-19 Call Center at 541-682-1380 or email We strive to be responsive with a strong emphasis on education.

Community members should refrain from calling 9-1-1 if they have non-emergency needs. If you have a complaint about failure to follow the State guidance that is not related to a business, please contact your local city government or law enforcement provider using their non-emergency phone numbers. If you live in unincorporated Lane County, please call the call center number during business hours.

How can I help?

The most important thing that people can do is to follow the guidance to stay home and only leave home to conduct essential business (grocery store, pharmacy, etc.)

If you can, please check in with elderly neighbors or those who may not be able to conduct essential business safely right now. Consider picking up groceries or other necessary items for them.

If you can safely volunteer, United Way of Lane County is maintaining a volunteer list at

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) -

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