COVID-19 is a dangerous disease caused by a virus discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is very contagious and has quickly spread around the world.
COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia, but COVID-19 can also harm other parts of the body.
- Most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill.
- Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
- Hundreds of thousands of people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.
- Vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and effective.
Variants of COVID-19
The virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly changing, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Numerous variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are being tracked in the United States and globally during this pandemic.
Types of Variants
Scientists monitor all variants but may classify certain ones as Variants Being Monitored, Variants of Concern, Variants of Interest or Variants of High Consequence based on how easily they spread, how severe their symptoms are, and how they are treated.
Some variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
Variants of Concern in the US
Delta – B.1.617.2
The Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus that causes COVID-19. It might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people.
- Vaccines continue to reduce a person’s risk of contracting the virus that cause COVID-19, including this variant.
- Vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, including against this variant.
- Fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections from this variant appear to be infectious for a shorter period.
- Get vaccinated and wear masks indoors in public spaces to reduce the spread of this variant.
- Learn more about the Delta Variant
How it spreads
COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected.
COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
- Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
- Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
- Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.
Risk of Exposure
- There is active community spread of COVID-19 in Cecil County. With community spread, everyone is at some risk for COVID-19, and everyone is expected to stay at home as much as possible and take precautions.
- People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.
Risk of Severe Illness
Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
- Older adults, with risk increasing by age.
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
For a full list o conditions that increase the risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, visit the CDC.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
When to seek emergency medical attention
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19, especially severe illness and death. Vaccines are safe, effective, and free! Click here to learn more about vaccination.
You can protect yourself and others against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by taking standard precautions. Remember to WASH-UP (en Espanol), wear a mask in indoor public places, and social distance.
Social Distancing & Use of Face Masks
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease. Social distancing can take many forms, depending on your lifestyle and your family and work situation. Social distancing can include the following habits and steps:
- Avoid handshaking, hugging and other intimate types of greeting
- Avoid non-essential travel (your health care provider may have specific guidance for your situation)
- Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces
- Work from home if possible for your work situation
- Avoid unnecessary errands — consider ways to have essential items, like food and other household supplies, brought to your house through online delivery services or through family or social networks
- Wear a cloth mask when out in public.
Those at Higher Risk of Becoming Seriously Ill from COVID-19: Older Adults and Individuals with Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Older adults (age 60+) and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for serious illness, and in some cases death, if they become infected with COVID-19. Examples of pre-existing medical conditions include: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions that impact the immune system’s ability to fight germs.
If you are an older adult or have one or more pre-existing medical conditions, you can take action to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19:
- Practice social distancing: Take everyday precautions to keep space (at least 6 ft) between yourself and others
- Stay home as much as possible: When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content
- Use a mask and avoid crowds as much as possible
Types of tests
- A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. Two types of viral tests can be used: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests.
- An antibody test (also known as a serology test) might tell you if you had a past infection. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection.
Who should get tested
The following people should get tested for COVID-19:
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- People who have had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- People who are fully vaccinated should get tested 3-5 days after exposure, and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
- People who are not fully vaccinated should quarantine and be tested immediately after being identified, and, if negative, tested again in 5–7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop during quarantine.
- People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19.
- People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who have been asked or referred to get testing by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, state, tribal, localexternal icon or territorial health department.
Who does not need to be tested
The following people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to get tested if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms:
- People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered, as long as they do not develop new symptoms, do not need to get tested.
Click here for testing options in Cecil County.
Quarantine & Isolation
Quarantine if you have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19, unless you have been fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative.
What to do
- Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
- Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
- Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
- If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider.
You may be able to shorten your quarantine
Your local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last, based on local conditions and needs. Follow the recommendations of your local public health department if you need to quarantine. Options they will consider include stopping quarantine
- After day 10 without testing
- After day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later)
Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected.
People who are in isolation should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others. At home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others, stay in a specific “sick room” or area, and use a separate bathroom (if available).
What to do
- Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
- Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
- Wear a mask when around other people if able.
When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19
Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.
For Anyone Who Has Been Around a Person with COVID-19
Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to that person, except if they meet the following conditions:
- Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until a negative test result.
- Get tested 3-5 days after close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Get tested and isolate immediately if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Someone who tested positive for COVID-19 with a viral test within the previous 90 days and has subsequently recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms does not need to quarantine. However, close contacts with prior COVID-19 infection in the previous 90 days should:
- Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days after exposure.
- Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate immediately if symptoms develop.
- Consult with a healthcare professional for testing recommendations if new symptoms develop.
I think or know I had COVID-19, and I had symptoms
You can be around others after:
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving*
*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation
Note that these recommendations do not apply to people with severe COVID-19 or with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised).
I tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms
If you continue to have no symptoms, you can be with others after 10 days have passed since you had a positive viral test for COVID-19.
If you develop symptoms after testing positive, follow the guidance above for “I think or know I had COVID-19, and I had symptoms.”
I was severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised) caused by a health condition or medication.
People who are severely ill with COVID-19 might need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. People with weakened immune systems may require testing to determine when they can be around others. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you can resume being around other people based on the results of your testing.
People who are immunocompromised should be counseled about the potential for reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines and the need to continue to follow current prevention measures (including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces) to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider. Close contacts of immunocompromised people should also be encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to help protect these people.
For Healthcare Professionals
If you are a healthcare professional who thinks or knows you had COVID-19, you should follow the same recommendations listed above for when you can resume being around others outside the workplace. When you can return to work depends on different factors and situations. For information on when you can return to work, see the following:
Treatments used for COVID-19 should be prescribed by your healthcare provider. People have been seriously harmed and even died after taking products not approved for COVID-19, even products approved or prescribed for other uses.
Drugs Approved or Authorized for Use
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one drug, remdesivir (Veklury), to treat COVID-19.
- The FDA can also issue emergency use authorizationsexternal icon (EUAs) to allow healthcare providers to use products that are not yet approved, or that are approved for other uses, to treat patients with COVID-19 if certain legal requirements are met.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed and regularly updates Treatment Guidelinesexternal icon to help guide healthcare providers caring for patients with COVID-19, including when clinicians might consider using one of the products under an EUA.
Treatment Outside of the Hospital
Your healthcare provider might recommend the following to relieve symptoms and support your body’s natural defenses:
- Taking medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever
- Drinking water or receiving intravenous fluids to stay hydrated
- Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight the virus
If you are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19
Your healthcare provider might recommend that you receive investigational treatment.
- For people at high risk of disease progression. The FDA has issued EUAs for a number of investigational monoclonal antibodies that can attach to parts of the virus. These antibodies could help the immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus. The NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelinesexternal icon provide information about these drugs and describe what is known about their effectiveness. If used, they should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis and within 10 days of symptom onset. Your healthcare provider will decide whether these investigational treatments are appropriate to treat your illness.
Treatment in the Hospital
- Slowing the virus. Antiviral medications reduce the ability of the virus to multiply and spread through the body.
- Reducing an overactive immune response. In patients with severe COVID-19, the body’s immune system may overreact to the threat of the virus, worsening the disease. This can cause damage to the body’s organs and tissues. Some treatments can help reduce this overactive immune response.
- Treating complications. COVID-19 can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs. It also can cause other complications. Depending on the complications, additional treatments might be used for severely ill hospitalized patients, such as blood thinners to prevent or treat blood clots.
- Supporting the body’s immune function. Plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19—called convalescent plasma—can contain antibodies to the virus. This could help the immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus, but currently the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines find there is not enough evidence to recommend these treatments.
Vaccines help protect against serious illness from COVID-19.
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
- Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to get a free COVID-19 vaccination.
- Learn about the different vaccines available.
Click here to learn more about COVID-19 vaccination and upcoming vaccination clinics in Cecil County.