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Coronavirus (COVID-19): check here for visitor policy, what to do if you're sick, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19


Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses. There are many common human coronaviruses that cause symptoms of the common cold.

What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

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.

How does COVID-19 spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 virus is spread much like influenza: person-to-person through close contact (within about 6 ft.), via respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, and to a lesser extent through contact with infected surfaces. Learn how to protect yourself and others.

What are the symptoms to watch for?

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.

What is the difference between COVID-19 symptoms and the flu?

COVID-19 symptoms can often be confused with influenza. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and aches.

Is there a cure?

Currently, there aren’t prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines that have been proven effective for specifically treating COVID-19, but medication trials are underway. There is no vaccine yet for COVID-19, but researchers are working as quickly as possible to achieve this goal.

How can I protect myself and loved ones?

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (especially before you eat, prepare food, or feed your children, and after diapering an infant or using the bathroom).
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available

Learn more

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 you do if you come in contact with someone with COVID-19?

If you are have been in close contact of someone with COVID-19 and 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

What is the status of testing for COVID-19 at Baystate?

For now, we are partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on patient testing. Talk with your primary care provider if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Should I wear a mask?

As of April 3, the CDC recommends "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings." This is especially important in areas where it is difficult to socially distance yourself (standing at least six feet from other people), such as grocery stores and pharmacies. The CDC does not recommend using surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as this depletes the supplies available to healthcare workers and first responders. Learn more about the face covering recommendation and how to make your own face covering from items in your house.

How can I get tested?

Call your doctor's office if you have a fever and respiratory symptoms and are concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19. 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.

What if someone I live with has symptoms?

Symptomatic people should:

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

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

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces every day.

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

Is it okay for a mother with symptoms to breastfeed her infant?

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. However, much is unknown about COVID-19. Whether to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her healthcare provider. A mother with confirmed or symptoms of COVID-19 should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.

If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

Can I visit the hospital?

As we continue to look at the visitor policy to protect our patients, community, and employees, our policy has been updated to NO VISITORS IN THE HOSPITAL.

Exceptions are as follows and are at the discretion of Baystate Health:

  • One parent or guardian for a patient under the age of 18
  • One birthing partner for a woman in labor
  • One person at a time for a hospice or end of life patient
  • One clergy member for an end of life patient
  • One caretaker for a completely dependent patient

If you are experiencing symptoms of fever and/or cough, please don’t visit.

Those meeting exceptions will be screened prior to visitation. More information and exceptions.

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

The status of COVID-19 is changing constantly. Be sure to check reliable sources for information.