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Symptoms, spread, and reducing risk of exposure

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and influenza (flu). While there’s much to be learned about COVID-19 because it’s so new, we have experience dealing with other novel and emerging infectious diseases.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Most people who have COVID-19 will experience upper respiratory symptoms, including cough, fever, and difficulty breathing/shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure, vary from person to person, and range from mild to severe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and based on limited information available, older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus to learn more about people at higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19.

How does COVID-19 spread?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. It may also be possible to catch COVID-19 by touching a surface (like a kitchen counter) or object (like a door handle) that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes.

COVID-19 seems to be spreading between people easily and sustainably (goes from person-to-person without stopping). Also, recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

What can I do to reduce the risk of possible exposure to COVID-19 and protect me and my family?
By following all of these guidelines, you’re helping to keep yourself and your family, friends, and community safe from possible exposure to COVID-19:

Limit possible exposure to COVID-19
The best way to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 is to limit possible exposure to the virus. That’s why it’s very important to follow federal and state government guidelines for limiting group gatherings and social distancing, which means staying at least six feet away from each other. Everyone should also postpone nonessential appointments, errands, and travel in order to stay home as much as possible.

Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. According to the CDC, close contact is being within about six feet of a person for a prolonged period of time. This includes caring for, visiting or sitting within six feet of an infected person, being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person, or touching used tissues with a bare hand.

Practice proper hygiene
Because we know COVID-19 is primarily spread from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, it’s important that we all practice proper hygiene:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with the bend of your arm
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds at a time. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth) with your hands
  • When greeting people, avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing
  • Regularly clean often-touched surfaces with disinfectant. These types of surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Wear cloth face coverings when out in public
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, such as the grocery store, to slow the spread of COVID-19. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators. These are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus for more information about cloth face coverings.

When to see a doctor and get tested

What should I do if I think I’m experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?
If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath), it’s important for you to stay home and limit your interactions with other people as much as possible. Then, call your doctor for medical advice. At Nuvance Health, you can schedule a Virtual Visit and have a remote consultation with your doctor.

Please don’t go directly to your doctor’s office, emergency department, or another medical facility without calling ahead first to let them know about your symptoms. Only go to the emergency department if you need emergency care.

What are Nuvance Health Virtual Visits?
Nuvance Health launched Virtual Visits so doctors can screen patients remotely for possible COVID-19 infections. Virtual Visits are also for patients who want to see their doctor about other health concerns such as colds, viruses, fevers, chronic conditions, new symptoms, and other common illnesses.

Virtual Visits are available at Health Quest Medical Practice, Western Connecticut Medical Group, and The Heart Center. Patients can use a computer or mobile device to talk with their healthcare provider from the comfort of their home. New and existing patients can access Virtual Visits. For more information, to schedule an appointment, or to find a healthcare provider, visit nuvancehealth.org/virtualvisits.

Can I be tested for COVID-19?
After your Virtual Visit, your doctor will order a COVID-19 test only if you meet all of the criteria for testing. At this time, criteria for testing includes symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath), and possible exposure to COVID-19. Tell your doctor if you’ve had close contact with someone who’s suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Also tell your doctor about your travel history, especially if you traveled to countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. Please go to the CDC cdc.gov/coronavirus to see a list of these countries.

Where do I go if my doctor orders a COVID-19 test for me?
You can go to a Nuvance Health drive-through collection site if your doctor orders a COVID-19 test for you. Pre-screened people can now use drive-through collection sites to give a specimen sample. These are not testing sites. Testing is done offsite and results are not immediately available. Drive-through collection sites are only for people who meet all of following criteria:

  • You called your doctor’s office and had a consultation
  • Based on your symptoms and other information you provided, your doctor determined that you meet criteria for COVID-19 testing, and ordered a test for you
  • You have a scheduled appointment at the collection site

For full information about the COVID-19 collection sites, please click here.

New at Nuvance Health during COVID-19 pandemic

What’s the visitor policy at Nuvance Health?
To continuously ensure a healthy and safe environment for patients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, no visitors are allowed at any Nuvance Health hospital or facility until further notice. There are very few exceptions for patients under age 21, maternity patients, and other special circumstances. Please click here to see the full visitor policy and the exceptions that apply.

What do I do if I have a procedure or surgery scheduled?
We postponed nonessential procedures and surgeries until further notice because it’s difficult to know if a person is infected with COVID-19 until a test confirms it. We understand this may be an inconvenience to some, which is why this policy will be reassessed on a weekly basis. Your surgeon’s office will stay in touch with you. Thank you for your understanding as this decision was made with the health and safety of all of our patients, staff, and communities in mind.

What’s Nuvance Health doing to ensure a healthy and safe environment for patients, staff, and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’re working around the clock to prepare and execute emergency response activities, in close coordination with local and state government officials and public health leaders. We know this is a rapidly evolving situation, and we’re ready for possible scenarios. We’re closely monitoring inventory of essential supplies and implementing creative solutions to get the supplies we need throughout this pandemic. To reduce the possible spread of COVID-19, we established Virtual Visits and drive-through collection sites, postponed nonessential procedures and surgeries, limited visitors at our hospitals and facilities, and are screening employees and approved visitors for risk factors of COVID-19 before they enter our hospitals and facilities.

Is there anything I can to do help Nuvance Health during this health emergency?
During these challenging times, many people are asking, “What can I do to help?” If you’re able to provide financial support or an in-kind donation, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), please consider making a difference at this critical time when the demands on our healthcare system are immediate and growing. More information about ways to support emergency preparedness at Nuvance Health can be found here: nuvancehealth.org/coronavirus/givenow

Where can I go for more information?

We understand how unsettling these times are as we receive updates on the spread of COVID-19. Stay informed with accurate facts from trusted sources to lessen some of your fears. Focus on facts, take a deep breath, and remember that we’re all in this together.

COVID-19 Community Hotline
For general questions or concerns, call the Nuvance Health COVID-19 Community Hotline at 888-667-9262. Hours of operation are 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, seven days a week.

COVID-19 hub and social media
Nuvance Health is keeping the communities informed on our website and on social media @NuvanceHealth, or search for your hospital’s name. Nuvance Health hospitals include: Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, Sharon Hospital in Connecticut; Northern Dutchess Hospital, Putnam Hospital, Vassar Brothers Medical Center in New York.

Local and national sources of information