Coronavirus FAQs for the General Public

Updated 1/13/2021

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 first discovered in December, 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is very contagious and has quickly spread around the world. COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia, but COVID-19 can also harm other parts of the body. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people can become severely ill. Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate the surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to become infected.

COVID-19 spreads in three main ways:

People are most likely to spread the disease when they have symptoms, but some people may spread the virus before they show symptoms.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

How soon after exposure do symptoms start?

In general, symptoms appear 2 – 14 days after exposure.

How long can a person spread COVID-19?

Someone with COVID-19 may be contagious from two days before they show symptoms until 10 days after symptom onset or 72 hours after symptoms stop, whichever is longer.

What are severe complications from this virus?

In severe cases, infection can cause bronchitis (swelling of the tubes into the lungs), pneumonia (infection in the lungs often with fluid build up), kidney failure, and even death.  People over 60 years old and those with other underlying health conditions are more likely to have severe complications.

When should I seek emergency medical attention?

You should seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing:

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

How can I help protect myself and my family?

You can prevent infection by doing the following:

Is it safe to touch delivered items like packages or food delivery?

The risk of getting sick from a package is low. Early experiments suggests the new coronavirus is stable on some surfaces for hours to days; however, the risk of getting a virus from a delivery is lower than the risk of getting the virus from going to the store. Washing your hands after handling delivered items and avoiding touching your face will lower the risk even more.

Is there a vaccine?

At this time, there are three vaccines for COVID-19 in the United States:

  1. Comirnaty (Pfizer)
    1. Two-dose vaccine given 21 days apart
    2. Fully approved for use in individuals 16 and older, under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use in individuals 12 to 15
  2. Moderna
    1. Two-dose vaccine given 28 days apart
    2. Under EUA for use in individuals 18 and older
  3. Johnson and Johnson (J&)
    1. One-dose vaccine
    2. Under EUA for use in individuals 18 and older

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit

To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit or

Is there a treatment?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one drug, Remdesivir, to treat COVID-19 in certain situations. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some people have developed pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization.

Can I take ivermectin to treat COVID-19? 

No. The FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral drug (a drug for treating viruses). Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm. There's a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it's okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong.

What should I do if I recently traveled?

Please check the KDHE website for the most up-to-date travel restrictions. If you have traveled to one of the places on the dates mentioned, self-report travel by calling (316) 660-7300. If you have questions about recommendations, please call the Sedgwick County Health Department.

What does home quarantine or self-isolation mean?

Home quarantine or self-isolation means that you should remain at home and not attend school, work, or any other setting where you are not able to ALWAYS maintain a 6-foot distance from other people such as stores.

Testing for COVID-19

A laboratory test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is performed by the state health department laboratory in Topeka or through commercial laboratories.  A small swab from a person’s nose or throat or the person’s saliva is used for the test.

Please check the most up-to-date quarantine and isolation guidance, here

For COVID-19 testing through the Sedgwick County Health Department and a list of other testing clinics around Sedgwick County, click here.

Who should be tested?

After infection with a virus, the level of virus in a person’s body increases over time and then decreases when your immune system fights it off. The COVID-19 test will be positive if the amount of virus in your body is high enough to be detected by the test.

A negative COVID-19 test could mean that you do not have the virus OR it could mean that you don’t have enough virus in your body for it to be detectable.

Knowing your risk of exposure and your symptoms on the day of testing are important for the lab to properly interpret your results.

What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19?

Follow the most up-to-date guidance located, here.

The Health Department will help identify your close contacts, who will be referred to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) for follow-up. This only occurs if you give permission. Close contacts should complete the modified in-home quarantine as described below or as recommended by KDHE.

How do we test for COVID-19?

A healthcare provider obtains swabs deep in a person’s nose or throat for the test. The provider sends the swabs to a commercial laboratory or the state health department (Kansas Department of Health and Environment). Another option is through saliva testing, where the person being tested spits into a tube for the test.

Antibody and antigen tests are not confirmatory for COVID-19; therefore, the SCHD is not offering these types of tests.

How long do test results typically take?

Results are generally available by the afternoon of the next weekday (see table below). These testes are not antibody tests, but show if you have a current infection.

Clients Sampled On:  Test Results Available Online Afternoon Of:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Next weekday (excluding County holidays)
Friday by 1 p.m. Saturday
Friday after 1 p.m., Saturday, Sunday Monday 

What is a close contact?

You are considered a “close contact” if any of the following situations happened while you were with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 – even if they did not have symptoms:

Modified Disease Investigation

  • The Health Department has prioritized COVID-19 case investigations based on the level of risk for the spread of disease.
    • Disease investigators will investigate positive cases in the following order of priority: cases tested by the Health Department, cases reported from clusters and potential clusters, cases reported from schools, cases in school-aged children (not reported by schools), and other cases as resources allow. 
  • To help contain the spread of disease, if you test positive, you should reach out to your own close contacts and let them know of their potential exposure and about the 5 day in-home quarantine with 5 additional days wearing a mask under the guidance above. If they have questions, they can call the Health Department at 316-660-1022.

When can a person who tests positive resume normal activities?

Please review the isolation and quarantine guidance located, here

Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?

To date, CDC has only a few reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. If you are sick, limit contact with pets and other animals. Though the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 is low, animals can spread other diseases to people. Wash your hands after being around animals.

Should I avoid animals or animal products imported from China?

CDC does not have any evidence to suggest that animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

I'm having trouble finding child care services and I need to go back to work. What are my options? 

You can contact Child Care Aware of Kansas at 1-877-678-2548 if you need help finding licensed child care options. Additionally, the following child care arrangements do not require a license from KDHE:

Online Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

Sedgwick County Health Department