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What You Need to Know about COVID-19 Caused by Coronavirus

The following information is about the coronavirus and COVID-19, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information, please visit the CDC and WHO websites on coronavirus.

The information below is not intended to substitute for diagnosis, professional medical advice, or treatment. Seek the advice of your primary care provider or other qualified health provider with any questions, testing or treatment.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The coronavirus has infected thousands of people worldwide.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

As of March 11, 2020, the WHO has declared the spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic. (A pandemic is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide.)

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell.

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes or respiratory conditions, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (see above), returning from a CDC-designated “Level 2” or “Level 3” advisory area, or who has been in contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed of having the coronavirus within the last 14 days, should be tested.

How is COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay 6 feet or more away from a person who is sick.

Can COVID-19 be caught from somebody who has no symptoms of being sick?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. So, it is possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the CDC and WHO websites and your local public health department.

Protection Measures for Everyone:

  • Vaccines: COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are effective at protecting people—especially those who are boosted— from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying. As with other diseases, you are protected best from COVID-19 when you stay up to date with the recommended vaccines. Three COVID-19 vaccines are used in the United States to prevent COVID-19. Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna are COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and are preferred. You may get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine in some situations.
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth, which may contain coronavirus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the coronavirus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
    Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
    Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call your doctor in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
    Why? Calling your doctor in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart, lung or respiratory disease.
    Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading:

  • Follow the guidance outlined above (Protection Measures for Everyone)
  • Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (99.1 F or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. If it is essential for you to have someone bring you supplies or to go out, e.g. to buy food, then wear a mask to avoid infecting other people.
    Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call your doctor advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
    Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

What should you do if you suspect you or someone else has contracted COVID-19?

Most people with common coronavirus illness will recover on their own. Although there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses, you can take the following actions to help relieve symptoms if you are mildly sick:

  • Take pain and fever medications. Ask your pharmacist how they may interact with any medications you currently take. Caution: The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend not giving aspirin to children.
  • Use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Stay home and rest.

Does getting the flu or pneumonia vaccine reduce an individual’s risk of developing COVID-19?

No, but since there is no treatment for COVID-19, getting available immunizations for other lung infections, like flu, pneumonia and whooping cough is important. This is especially important for those who have weakened immune systems or who may have a more serious illness. Additionally, while COVID-19 is circulating, these immunizations will help decrease the burden on health care delivery systems.

For PHP (HMO SNP) and PHC California Members:

Will my health plan cover the cost of COVID-19 testing?

Yes. PHP and PHC California will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing with no copay for patients who meet CDC guidelines for testing. Contact your PCP if you think you should be tested.

Can I take at-home COVID-19 test?

Yes. COVID-19 home tests provide results usually within 15 minutes. These are highly accurate when you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Order free home tests from the federal government at Every home in the U.S. is eligible to have a home tests delivered without shipping fees.  If you buy a home tests at a pharmacy or local retailer, you can submit a claim to get reimbursed.

Will my health plan cover costs of treatment for COVID-19?

Yes. PHP and PHC California will cover medically necessary outpatient and inpatient treatment for COVID-19.

Where can I go for more information or help?

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever or cough, please call your primary care provider (PCP). It is important not to come to the clinic until after you have been assessed by phone. This is for your safety and the safety of others. Your PCP’s phone number is on your member ID card. If your PCP’s office is closed or you want to speak to a nurse now, call our Nurse Advice Line at 1-888-993-2880.