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Novel Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Although the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, it is important to remember that an individual’s risk is currently based on their travel history, or history of close contact with a confirmed case. The virus does not recognize an individual’s racial or ethnic background. A person’s racial or ethnic background does not change their risk of getting the virus.
All of us can do our part to protect our own health and the health of the community by reminding each other that discrimination is both unacceptable and counterproductive to protecting the public’s health.

About Novel Coronavirus

What do we know about novel coronavirus?

There has been an outbreak of a new virus called novel coronavirus, which began in December 2019. While the illness started in China, people with the virus have been confirmed in several countries including the United States.

Since this virus is new, health authorities are carefully watching the situation and learning more about how this virus spreads. This situation is quickly changing and the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) provides updated information as it becomes available:

What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus?

Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, cough, or shortness of breath. Some people may have pneumonia or more serious illness.

How is novel coronavirus treated?

There is no vaccine for novel coronavirus, and no specific cure for illness caused by the novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated, depending on the patient’s clinical symptoms.​​​

Public Health's Role

What is the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department doing?

Public health officials are taking action to protect the public by evaluating risks and taking appropriate action to prevent any spread of the novel coronavirus to protect the health of the community. This may include quarantining people who came into close contact with confirmed cases of novel coronavirus.

Is the Public Health Department prepared for more cases?

Cases in Santa Clara County are not unexpected given that our residents travel frequently, including to China. Based on what we are learning from China and other areas, we anticipate that we may have additional cases, including close household contacts. Spread between close contacts does not increase the risk to the general public.​​

Help Us Protect Others From Discrimination

While we understand that people are concerned about the new coronavirus, it is disturbing to hear that discrimination is happening against people of Asian descent.

Although the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, it is important to remember that at this time, an individual’s risk is based on their travel history, or history of close contact with a confirmed case. The virus does not recognize an individual’s racial or ethnic background. A person’s racial or ethnic background does not change their risk of getting the virus.

We are focused on protecting the community from any potential harm from this new virus, but we need your help in protecting people from discrimination, which ultimately harms our efforts to protect the public’s health. We cannot do this alone. Please share Dr. Sara Cody’s Video Message:​​​​

I Am Concerned About Novel Coronavirus

Should I be concerned about novel coronavirus?

It is appropriate to have some level of concern because this is a new virus that we all are still learning about. At this time, it appears that most people who are infected with novel coronavirus have relatively mild symptoms and recover without needing medical care. However, some people do have more severe illness and require hospitalization, and these people tend to be older adults, particularly those with chronic medical conditions.

What actions can I take?

Some actions that you can take are to stay informed and practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands, covering your cough, avoiding touching your face, and staying home when you are sick. It’s unnecessary to wear masks if you’re not ill. You should continue going about your regular activities.

Although this virus started in mainland China, do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have this virus. So please, do not show prejudice, avoid, or discriminate against people of Asian descent. That includes not discriminating against Asians who run businesses, go to your school, live in your neighborhood, work at your clinic, or shop at the same grocery store. We are focused on protecting the community from any potential harm from this new virus, but we need your help in protecting people from discrimination.​

Transmission of Novel Coronavirus

Do I need to be concerned about transmission of novel coronavirus?

We know that everyone is concerned about the novel coronavirus. There is currently no evidence to suggest that novel coronavirus is circulating in our community, which means you can go about your normal activities without worrying about getting the virus. Even though we have confirmed cases, the public is still at low risk.

What about transmission by people who have no symptoms?

While spread from a person who does not yet have symptoms (pre-symptomatic transmission) to others has been documented, we do not know how often or easily this happens. Since there is currently no evidence to suggest that novel coronavirus is circulating in our community, the risk to Santa Clara County residents remains low.

What does “no evidence of circulation” mean?

Currently we are able to trace all of our confirmed cases to people who have traveled to mainland China. If in the future we find a case who did not travel to China or did not come into contact with someone who had traveled to China, then we would be concerned about where they got the virus. This could indicate that the virus was spreading in our community. Then, we would let the public know and make new recommendations to protect everyone’s health.​​​​

The Difference Between Quarantine and Isolation

What is quarantine and when is it used?

Quarantine is used when someone has been exposed to a communicable disease, but they are still well. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of exposed people during the period of time when they may become ill. It lasts as long as needed to make sure the person does not have the disease.

People under quarantine for the new coronavirus are given legal and specific instructions to stay home and stay away from others. They are regularly contacted by the Public Health Department to make sure they are home and to see if they have gotten sick. If needed, additional legal measures can be taken to ensure they stay home and stay away from others.

What does it mean to when someone is in isolation?

Isolation is used to separate people who are sick with a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of disease. People may be isolated at their home, or in a hospital, or in another location, as long as it enables the ill person to be separated from those who are well. The period of isolation lasts until the ill person has recovered and is no longer contagious.​​

Protect Yourself and Your Family From Viruses

How can I best protect myself from getting a virus?

  • Use proper hand hygiene including washing hands with soap or using hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue, sleeve, or arm. Do not use your hands.

What should I do if I don’t feel well?

  • If you have a fever, go home immediately and stay there until at least 24 hours after the fever goes away naturally without the use of fever-reducing medicine. For example, if your fever lasts for three days, you should stay home for at least four days.
  • Consider not attending or hosting large gatherings. This is where cold, flu, and other respiratory viruses are often spread.

Should I avoid going to public events?

We know that viruses spread easily in large groups people, so if you can, you should avoid large gatherings, especially if you do not feel well. Take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and viruses like colds and flu.

Do I need to wear a mask?

You may see some people buying and wearing face masks, but you should know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not currently recommend that healthy people wear a mask to prevent novel coronavirus. Masks are not foolproof and just because you’re wearing one, it does not mean you’re in the clear from getting sick.

Facemasks can be helpful for sick people to wear so that they do not spread germs to others. We do not recommend healthy people wear facemasks during flu season or as a way to protect yourself from novel coronavirus.​​

Schools and Parents

Please note that there have been reports of people being stigmatized and discriminated against as a result of novel coronavirus. All of us can do our part to protect our own health and the health of the community by reminding each other that discrimination is unacceptable and counterproductive to protecting the public’s health.

Visit our homepage for more information for Businesses and Schools.

After returning from China, when can people return to their normal activities?

Anyone returning from mainland China should stay at home for 14 days and not go to school or work, or other public places such as the grocery store, or use public transit. They should also self-isolate from others in the same household.

If a returning traveler has questions, they should call our call center between 8 am - 5 pm at 408-885-3980.

  • Travelers from Hubei province will be quarantined and not able to leave the quarantine facility for 14 days.

Do I need a doctor’s note to return to work or school?

Employees and students who are not ill do not need a doctor’s note to return to work or school after staying home for 14 days.

Do I or my family need to stay home if we traveled?

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance for schools and school districts. At this time, this guidance does not apply to Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, or any other place outside of mainland China. If you are a parent, teacher, or student who has been to mainland China within the last 14 days, please review the Novel Coronavirus Guidance for Students and Schools and Novel Coronavirus Guidance for Childcare and Preschool Settings.

When should I keep my child home from school?

If anyone is ill with fever, cough or other symptoms, they should stay home from work or school and other public activities until at least 24 hours after they have recovered.

Should children whose parents traveled to China stay home from school?

If a child has not traveled to mainland China (this does not include Hong Kong), and they are not ill, they can continue their everyday activities. But if a child is ill, they should be kept home until at least 24 hours after they have recovered.

Can a school send a student home if they recently returned from China and have cold-like symptoms?

Any student with a fever or respiratory symptoms can be sent home by the school.

How are travelers from China being screened when they enter the United States?

Currently, American citizens, documented permanent residents, and their family members (as specified in the Presidential Proclamation) who have been in mainland China in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States. Those travelers will be funneled to one of 11 U.S. airports and will undergo health screening upon their arrival in the United States and be asked questions about their travel in China. Those travelers will have some level of restriction on their movement depending on their health and travel history. Anyone showing symptoms will be immediately separated from others and isolated.

What if I recently traveled to China and got sick?

If you were in mainland China and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing within 14 days after you left, you should:

  • Seek medical advice – be sure to call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.

Should I cancel my international travel because of novel coronavirus? 

The novel coronavirus outbreak has been concentrated in mainland China, and the CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to mainland China. For travel advice for other countries, please visit that country’s Destination Page or the Travel Health Notice website (link:

Should I cancel my trip to China? 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to mainland China. In addition, the US Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory asking people to not travel to mainland China due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The travel recommendation and advisory are only for mainland China and do not apply to Hong Kong, Macau, or the island of Taiwan.​​​

I’m Feeling Sick

I'm sick. How do I know if it is coronavirus or something else, like flu?  

If you did not travel to mainland China (does not include Hong Kong) in the last 14 days or come into close contact with someone ill who did travel to mainland China recently, you have little risk of having coronavirus.  

The flu and other virus are circulating in our community. So, if you are sick with a fever (including chills or night sweats), cough, or shortness of breath, you should stay home until at least 24 hours after you have recovered.​​

Healthcare Provider

I'm a healthcare provider. Where can I find information? 

We have information about novel coronavirus for clinicians on our provider page:​​​

Who Can I Call?

Who can I contact if I have questions?    

We have a call center available open Monday through Friday, from 8 am - 5 pm at 408-885-3980.​​

Last updated: 2/19/2020 10:57 AM