COVID-19 FAQs

What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus first identified in Wuhan, China. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has fact sheets (ENGLISH, SPANISH, SIMPLIFIED CHINESE) and also a list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS available to learn more about COVID-19.

For the latest information on the virus from the CDC, visit the CDC information page here.

NC 2-1-1 is available 24/7 to answer COVID-19 questions. Simply call 211 or 888-892-1162. Sign up to receive text updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina by texting COVIDNC to 898211. The Wayne County Health Department can be reached at 919-731-1000 (medical questions only.) In the event of an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

How is COVID-19 spread?

Coronaviruses, like COVID-19, are most often spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact (including touching and shaking hands) or through touching your nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands.

To help prevent the spread, the best thing you can do is stay home as much as possible – especially if:

  • You are sick with COVID-19
  • You think you might have COVID-19 and have mild symptoms
  • You believe you might have COVID-19

You should also follow these common-sense measures to help protect yourself and others from spreading COVID-19 and other viruses:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Practice social distancing when you can, staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Learn more from the CDC about how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect yourself and your community from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are similar to the flu and typically cause mild to moderate respiratory illness. Common symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath.

What should I do if I feel sick?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness with symptoms similar to the flu. Symptoms are typically mild to moderate, but there have been cases of severe illness and death due to the virus. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

For people who think they might have COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends they stay home and call their doctor if you need medical care. 

When people with mild illness leave their homes to get tested, they could expose themselves to COVID-19 if they do not already have it. If they do have COVID-19, they can give it to someone else, including people who are high risk and health care providers who will be needed to care for people with more severe illness. In addition, because there is no treatment for COVID-19, a test will not change what someone with mild symptoms will do. 

If you don’t have health insurance and need medical care, call your nearest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or local health department. 

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. Learn more.

There is limited information so far about COVID-19 in pregnant women. Pregnant women are at higher risk from influenza and other respiratory viruses, so they are encouraged to be extra vigilant. There is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19.

How can you protect yourself?

The steps to preventing coronavirus transmission are similar to the steps to preventing other respiratory illnesses, like the flu. These include:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

The actions listed above will also protect people against influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory infections that are common in North Carolina and the U.S. this time of year.

Who is considered high risk?

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have heart disease with complications
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [(BM]I)≥40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

There is limited information so far about COVID-19 in pregnant women. Pregnant women are at higher risk from influenza and other respiratory viruses, so they are encouraged to be extra vigilant.

Should I wear a mask?

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

For more information on face coverings, click here.

Symptoms and Testing for COVID-19

Most people who get COVID-19 will recover without needing medical care. The CDC recommends that you stay home if you have mild symptoms, such as fever and cough without shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

For people with mild symptoms who don’t need medical care, getting a test will not change what you or your doctor do. Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19. 

Only those who meet the following criteria should ask their doctor or local health department about being tested for COVID-19: 

  1. Have fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days; OR
  2. Have fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test 

For people with mild symptoms who don’t need medical care, getting a test will not change what you or your doctor do. Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19. 

Only those who meet the following criteria should ask their doctor or local health department about being tested for COVID-19: 

  • Have fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days; OR
  • Have fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test

Treatment for COVID-19

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Most people with illnesses caused by coronaviruses like COVID-19 will recover on their own. However, there are some things you can do to relieve your symptoms, including:

  • Taking pain and fever medications (caution: do not give aspirin to children).
  • Using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to ease a sore throat and cough.
  • Drinking plenty of liquids and stay home and rest.
  • Follow instructions from your local health department and health care provider for appropriate care.

Where is my IRS check?

The distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive a payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. However, some people who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment. For more information, visit the IRS website.