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Information about COVID-19

The status of COVID-19 is changing constantly. Below, we've collected common questions and answers. 

What are the best sources of up-to-date information?

As always, be sure to check reliable sources for information:

What is COVID-19 and what are the symptoms?

What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses. There are many common human coronaviruses that cause symptoms of the common cold. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory (breathing) illness caused by a coronavirus that was first identified during an outbreak in China.

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 for naming of new human infectious diseases.

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.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may include fever or cough or shortness of breath 2-14 days after exposure. Symptoms can be mild to severe illness, and result in pneumonia. Learn what to do if you're sick.

In 80% of patients, COVID-19 causes only mild cold symptoms. The elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be more vulnerable to the virus. Preventive actions can help protect those most vulnerable.

How does COVID-19 spread?

We know that the virus spreads the following ways:

  • It travels on droplets when someone sneezes or coughs.
  • It also can be spread when an infected person touches their face and then shakes hands.
  • It may also be transmitted from frequently touched surfaces.

Learn more about preventing virus spread.

How long is a COVID-19 patient contagious?

Most people are infectious starting 2 days before the onset of symptoms and stop being infectious 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

For people who are critically ill with COVID or immunosuppressed
period of infectiousness begins 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and ends 20 days
after the onset of symptoms.
Critically ill: >6L O2 requirement, ICU, or mechanical ventilation
Immunosuppressed: untreated HIV, receiving chemotherapy, prednisone 20mg daily x >3
weeks or equivalent immunosuppressive medication
For those who are asymptomatic:
Consider the date of symptom onset as 2 days prior to the date of the positive test.

Is it safe to see my doctor?

Your safety is always our priority. We are taking extra safety precautions including limiting visitors, expanding testing, cleaning rigorously, and screening patients and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms.

We have expanded telehealth for virtual visits with your providers. If you do need to come in person to the hospital or one of our other facilities, know that we taking special measures to keep you safe:

  • We are restricting visitors and limiting certain services.
  • Your caregivers will be wearing masks and personal protective equipment.
  • We are testing all hospitalized patients.
  • The ED continues to follow strict infection control practices: Patients are separated from each other, with specific areas designated for treating COVID-19 patients.

Please note that it is important to attend routine physicals. According to the World Health Organization and partners, many families have delayed vaccines for dangerous diseases including measles, polio and cholera. Missed vaccinations could put the lives of nearly 80 million children under the age of 1 at risk.

Learn more about service changes and safety measures.

What should I do if think I've been exposed to COVID-19?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.

Learn more about what to do if you're sick

See the latest updates and information from the Centers for Disease Control

How can I get tested for COVID-19? What kinds of tests are available?

Talk with your primary care provider or call an urgent care center if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

We have opened five outpatient testing centers, and we are offering viral testing for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. A viral test checks for current infection.

In order to be tested, you must have an order from your doctor or urgent care provider. Medical staff can help to make decisions about whether, when, and where you should be evaluated. This will avoid spreading the virus further to people in waiting rooms and other areas at these locations.

We are now also testing all patients admitted to Baystate Medical Center for any reason and hope to soon expand this to our community hospitals. We are also testing many patients entering our emergency departments. We continue to test all symptomatic Baystate employees and selected first responders at two distinct sites.

Finally, to help our community and to try to identify potential ‘hot spots’ of COVID-19 transmission, we have partnered with community stakeholders to offer expanded testing in nursing homes and other post-acute facilities, group settings, jails, and in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in our area.

How can we know whether someone has immunity to COVID-19?

“Immunity” to infectious agents, like viruses or bacteria, means that a person is protected from infection or illness caused by these agents. Immunity usually results from either previous infection with the agent or from vaccination. In both of these circumstances, the body’s internal defense system is activated and produces antibodies and other protective responses that can last for either brief or extended periods of time.

Read our Testing FAQ

How should I clean my house?

For cleaning use:

  • Soap & water

For disinfection use:

  • Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
  • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol
  • Diluted bleach: 1 tsp bleach, 1 cup of water

What should I do if I live with someone who is infected?

Symptomatic people should:

1. Stay home

  • In an area apart from family and pets
  • With a separate bathroom if possible
  • Restrict activities outside your home except for medical care

2. Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your elbow (discard tissue immediately).

3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces every day.

4. Avoid sharing personal household items: food, drink, dishes, utensils, towels, and bedding.

Should I avoid the emergency room if I have another urgent condition?

No. In a medical emergency, you should call 9-1-1 and go to the emergency room. Safety is our highest priority, and many procedures and precautions are in place. Learn more.

For non-life-threatening situations that are still urgent, we are still here to care for you at our urgent care centers and through telehealth visits

Can I visit the hospital?

We have resumed allowing visitors in Baystate hospitals (with some exceptions). Please note that there are restrictions to our visitation policy which are necessary to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff.

Go to the Visitor Policy