About COVID-19 & FAQs

About COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) differs from the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among people and cause mild illness, like the common cold. COVID-19 is a new strain not previously been seen in humans.
It spreads mainly person to person, when an infected person breathes out droplets and small particles that contain the virus. Infection may produce a variety of symptoms, sometimes severe, including a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions

UPDATED DEC. 15, 2021: What is COVID-19 and how does it spread?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus discovered in 2019. It spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and small particles that contain the virus. These droplets can be breathed in by other people or can land in their eyes, nose or mouth. People closer than 6 feet from someone who is infected are most likely to become infected themselves. Sometimes the droplets can land on surfaces and infect someone who touches the surface and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects and frequent hand-washing can help avoid infection in this way. 
Not all infected people have symptoms, while others may develop illness ranging from mild to severe and may die. Anyone can get severely ill with COVID-19. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and may include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose or congestion, headache, new loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Even people without symptoms can still spread the virus to others. Diagnosis is through laboratory tests

The best way to protect yourself from catching and spreading COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated as soon as you can and getting a booster when eligible. Wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from those you do not live with, testing, and frequent hand-washing will also help slow the spread of the virus. Learn more about COVID-19 from the CDC.

UPDATED APRIL 22, 2022: Who is at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Those who are immunocompromised or who have other medical conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. The risk also increases with age, with adults 65 and older more likely to need hospitalization of to die from the virus. People from many racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities are also at increased risk of getting sick and dying at younger ages from COVID-19 due to systemic health and social inequities.
Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccines helps to reduce the chance of getting the virus, or for suffering serious illness or dying if one does catch it. For those at high risk, wearing a mask, especially in indoor settings or when using public transportation is strongly encouraged. Speak with your healthcare provider to see what additional steps you might need to take if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

What about the virus in animals and pets?

Please see the FAQs from Pima Animal Care Center regarding animals, pets and COVID-19.


UPDATED APRIL 22, 2022: What is known about the COVID-19 virus variants?

Viruses change constantly, mutating to create different versions, or “variants” of themselves. Sometimes these changes allow a virus variant to spread more quickly and easily, or to cause milder (or more severe) illness. Viruses may change in ways that can cause existing treatments or vaccines to be less effective. The reason that the flu vaccine is a little different each year is to help protect against new influenza variants.
The CDC works with state and local public health officials to monitor the development and spread of all COVID-19 variants. One of the more recent variants is omicron, which spreads more easily than earlier variants, and has developed sub-variants of itself. The three most common currently are currently are BA.1, BA.1.1 and BA.2.
Regardless of the variant, staying up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is not only your best strategy to protect yourself, but also helps to reduce the likelihood of new variants developing. The fewer people the virus can infect, the fewer opportunities it has to create new variants. People who are up-to-date on their vaccines are less likely to develop serious illness and die if they get COVID-19 than people who are unvaccinated and catch the virus. Wearing a protective mask in indoor settings or on public transportation (especially if you or those in your household are immunocompromised or have other medical conditions) can help protect you from COVID-19, regardless of the variant.
Learn more about what you need to know about variants from the CDC. 


UPDATED APRIL 22, 2022: How can I protect myself and others?

The best strategy to protect yourself and those around you is by staying up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Vaccines and boosters are free and widely available. Find out where to get one in Pima County.

Wearing a mask can also help protect you and others. If you or those in your household are immunocompromised or have other medical conditions that put you at high risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, you are strongly encouraged to wear the most protective mask you can in public indoor spaces, including public transportation. The Pima County Health Department offers face mask guidance.

Getting tested when needed, staying away from others when you are sick, and washing your hands frequently will help you prevent spreading the virus to others.

UPDATED MAY 12, 2022: What are the most recent masking recommendations?

If you are immunocompromised or have other medical conditions that put you at high risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, or people in your household are at high risk, you are strongly encouraged to wear the most protective mask you can while in public indoor settings. The CDC recommends everyone aged two years and older wear a mask while in indoor public transportation settings, such as airplanes, buses, trains, and while in transportation hubs such as airports and bus or train stations.
The most protective masks are N95, KN95, and KF94, followed by surgical masks, followed by cloth masks. Whichever type you wear, it should cover your nose and mouth and fit your face snugly. Ask your healthcare provider if there are additional masking guidelines you should follow.
Members of the public in any Pima County Health Department clinic are asked to wear a mask during any face-to-face interaction with Health Department staff when six feet of separation cannot be maintained. The Pima County Health Department offers more face mask guidance, and the CDC has additional information about types of masks and mask use and care.


UPDATED JAN. 20, 2022: Who should get a COVID-19 test and where do you get tested?

The following people should get tested:
  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. People with COVID-19 symptoms should wear a mask, isolate themselves from others, and get tested immediately.
  • Anyone who has had close contact with an infected person should test at least five days after contact.
  • Anyone who is planning to spend time with someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
According to the CDC, people who tested positive for COVID-19 within the past three months and have recovered do not need to get tested, as long as they have no new symptoms.
Testing is free. Find a list of testing locations in Pima County and learn more about testing for COVID-19 from the CDC.

Confirmed Cases

UPDATED MARCH 29, 2022: What is the latest guidance for isolation and quarantine?

You isolate to stay away from others when you yourself are sick or have tested positive, and you quarantine when you were exposed to someone else who is sick or has tested positive.  

If you are sick with COVID-19, or test positive, regardless of your vaccination status, you should stay home and isolate for at least 5 days after your positive test or after your symptoms began. While isolating, you should stay in a separate room, avoid contact with other household members and pets, and use a separate bathroom if possible. Avoid sharing items like dishes or towels. You should remain at home until symptoms have improved and you have had no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
People finishing isolation should continue to wear a mask when around others for an additional 5 days, and avoid being around people who are at high risk. If you were severely ill with COVID-19, or are immunocompromised, you should isolate for at least 10 days, and should talk to your healthcare provider before ending isolation. 

If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and you are not up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines, you should quarantine at home away from others for at least 5 days after your last exposure. You should get tested on day 5, wear a mask around others for 10 days, and avoid being around people who are at high risk. Those up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination (or who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and recovered) do not need to quarantine, but should still get tested on day 5 and wear a mask around others for 10 days, while avoiding individuals at high risk. Anyone who develops symptoms while in quarantine should get tested and start isolating immediately.

You can use the CDC’s online Quarantine and Isolation Calculator to help you figure out how long you need to isolate, quarantine or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19. This calculator is not for people who are moderately or severely ill, or for those who are immunocompromised. These individuals should talk to their doctor about when to end isolation and what other precautions to take. The Pima County Health Department offers more on what to do if you are sick, and the ADHS has a flow chart displaying isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public.
Different isolation and quarantine guidelines may apply to people living in congregate settings and to healthcare workers. These groups should consult the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Release from Isolation & Quarantine Guidance.

Where can I get information about the COVID-19 status in Arizona and Pima County?

View the latest data reports on COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and current progress.

UPDATED MAY 12, 2022: Can I have long-term effects even after recovering from COVID-19?

Some people may suffer long-term health effects after a COVID-19 infection. Post-COVID conditions are those that occur four or more weeks following infection, and may be referred to as chronic COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-haul COVID, or commonly, long COVID.
Long COVID conditions are found more often in those who had severe COVID-19 illness, but may sometimes affect those who had only mild illness or who had no symptoms.
Commonly-reported long COVID symptoms include:
  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (known as “post-exertional malaise”)
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (heart palpitations)
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes called “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness with standing
  • Changes in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycles
These are not all of the symptoms that have been reported. Long COVID may affect people differently, and some people experience a wide range of health problems with different combinations of symptoms which sometimes go away and then return. Long COVID may last months or years, and may cause disability. Multiple organs may be affected, and some people have developed autoimmune conditions following COVID-19 infection.
Research suggests that people who were vaccinated before becoming infected are less likely to report long COVID. People with underlying health conditions, and those affected by health inequities may also be more likely to get long COVID. Staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines is the best way to help prevent COVID-19 or severe illness from it, and long COVID.
There is no single test to diagnose long-COVID. The CDC and its health partners are working to learn more about who is at highest risk of developing long COVID and why, as well as potential treatments that might help. The National Institutes of Health’s RECOVER Initiative is recruiting volunteers interested in sharing their experiences and participating in long COVID research. You can also learn more about what the CDC is doing to better understand long COVID.

UPDATED JAN. 18 2022: What is known about the oral pills to treat COVID-19?

On December 22, and 23, 2021, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s Paxlovid, and Merck’s Molnupiravir. Both are prescription-only antiviral pills that target different aspects of the COVID-19 virus’s ability to make additional copies of itself and infect new cells, thus reducing the risk of serious disease.
Both drugs must be started within five days of the start of symptoms. Neither is intended as a substitute for vaccination, nor as pre-exposure or post-exposure prevention. The Arizona Department of Health Services offers information for patients and healthcare providers including patient eligibility and treatment criteria for these medications. 

Paxlovid is for people 12 and older who have tested positive and are at high risk for severe illness or hospitalization from COVID-19; it is taken twice a day for five days in combination with another antiviral drug called ritonavir. The FDA has fact sheets for patients and for healthcare providers. Molnupiravir is for people 18 and older who have tested positive and are at high risk for severe illness or hospitalization from COVID-19. The FDA has fact sheets for patients and for healthcare providers.

Supplies of these medications may be limited initially, while federal and state governments determine distribution. For more information about your eligibility for these treatments, and whether they are safe for your use, please ask your healthcare provider.

What should I do if I get COVID-19 while pregnant or nursing?

If you get COVID-19 symptoms or test positive during pregnancy or while nursing, you should contact your healthcare provider and follow the recommendations for what to do if you are sick. If possible, someone who is up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccines and not at high risk for severe illness should care for your newborn until your isolation period has ended.
If no caregiver is available, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your newborn, and wear a mask whenever you are within 6 feet of them. After your isolation period is over, you should continue to wear a mask until day 10, and wash your hands before touching your baby. Your healthcare provider can offer additional guidance on how long you should isolate, and any extra precautions you may need to take.
You should monitor your baby for COVID-19 symptoms including:
  • Fever (100.4 or higher is an emergency)
  • Being overly tired or less active
  • Cough
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Working harder to breathe, or more shallow breathing
  • Poor feeding
Babies are unlikely to get COVID-19 through breast milk. If you have COVID-19, you should wear a mask and wash your hands before nursing or expressing breast milk.
The CDC offers detailed recommendations and precautions for caregivers and parents on caring for newborns and nursing when you have COVID-19, and guidance for those who are or recently were pregnant.


Where can parents, school administrators, educators and child care providers find guidance and assistance?

Pima County has gathered the information, tools and answers to all of your questions.


UPDATED DEC. 22, 2021: Where can business owners and workers find the current best practices and requirements during this pandemic?

We have plenty of resources and guidance to help you navigate the latest standards and requirements whether you are business owner or an employee.

Can Pima County force other non-social gathering businesses to close?

Governor Ducey's Executive Order 2020-36 prohibits local municipalities like cities and counties from making any policies that are in conflict with his order, including ordering businesses to close.

Glossary of Terms

UPDATED JAN. 25, 2021: Contingency and crisis standards of care

Normally, hospitals operate under conventional standards of care, in which care is provided to patients without any changes in daily practice. During demand surges like those seen annually during cold and flu season, hospitals might alter their staffing by having physicians cover different departments, or temporarily divert ambulances to other hospitals, but staff all still work within their scope of expertise and follow standard protocols regarding who gets care and what sorts of treatments or therapies patients might receive. Patients who show up needing care still receive it.

When demand starts to exceed space and staffing resources, hospitals transition to a contingency standard of care. They change their daily practices to do whatever possible to maintain their normal standard of care. Space gets used differently, so an operating room might become a makeshift intensive care unit. Non-emergency procedures or surgeries might get postponed or cancelled. Supplies are conserved, so providers make different decisions regarding who might receive a particular therapy and change their admission and discharge procedures. A person who would normally be admitted could instead be sent home, while someone already hospitalized might be sent home sooner. Patients may be transferred between hospitals in the same city, or even to another city via the ADHS Surge Line.

Arizona hospitals are currently operating under contingency standards of care.

When the demand for healthcare exceeds hospitals’ ability to provide that care, hospitals move into Crisis Standards of Care. This is a protocol adopted when the healthcare system is unable to provide the care that everyone needs because there are simply not enough resources or staff to take care of everyone who needs it. Hospitals are forced to make substantial changes to the way that they provide care. Providers often work outside their normal scope of practice, and supplies may need to be reused or may become completely unavailable. Supplies including medications or oxygen may become unavailable. Crisis Standards of Care also provide a protocol by which providers determine how limited care is to be rationed, and how decisions determining which patients receive treatment and which will not are to be made.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona authorized Crisis Standards of Care for hospitals in early July of 2020. The best ways to help protect our hospitals and help avoid Crisis Standards of Care are continuance of the same steps we are already using to protect ourselves and our families. Wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with others, handwashing, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated are our best tools for keeping our community safe.

Arizona Crisis Standards of Care Plan (PDF) AZDHS, 2020.
ADHS Surge Line ADHS
COVID-19 Addendum: Allocation of Scarce Resources in Acute Care Facilities (PDF) ADHS, 6/12/20.
Arizona Authorizes Crisis Standards of Care Patient Triage Protocol AZ Public Health Association, 07/6/20.

Close Contact

A close contact* for COVID-19 is defined as any of the following exposures to an individual during their infectious period:
  • Individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period**
  • Individual providing care in a household without using recommended infection control precautions.
  • Individual who has had direct physical contact (hugging or kissing)
  • Individual who has shared eating and/or drinking utensils, and 
  • Individuals who has been sneezed on, coughed on, or got respiratory droplets on them.
*Close contact does not include healthcare providers or EMS providers using appropriate PPE and implementing appropriate infection control practices.

**Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5 minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;” however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation. Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors). Because the general public has not received training on proper selection and use of respiratory PPE, such as an N95, the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE. At this time, differential determination of close contact for those using
fabric face coverings is not recommended.

Congregate setting

Any facility where people living in a group setting share living space (including bathroom or kitchen) AND those living there depend on the facility for:
  • Completion of activities of daily living; OR
  • Temporary shelter; OR
  • Medical services.
Congregate settings include, but are not limited to:
  • Long-term care facilities (LTCFs)
  • Hospice
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Shelters with dormitories
  • Jails, prisons, and detention centers (ICE and ORR)
  • Group homes (Division of Developmental Disabilities - DDD, Department of Child Safety -DCS)
  • Temporary shelters for people who are asylum-seeking/unaccompanied children
  • Inpatient physical rehabilitation facilities
  • Inpatient behavioral/addiction rehabilitation
Non-congregate settings include, but are not limited to:
  • Student or faculty housing (e.g., dormitories or residence halls)
  • Apartments
  • Independent living facilities
  • Shelters with apartment-style living arrangements (own bathroom and kitchen)
  • Outpatient behavioral/addiction rehabilitation
  • Multi-generational or multi-family homes

Infectious Period

Is the timeframe an individual can transmit disease to others. For COVID-19, this starts from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the individual discontinues isolation.


Separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions

That can be practiced by individuals include the following:
  • Correct and consistent mask use
  • Physical distancing
  • Hand and cough hygiene
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection
  • Avoiding crowds
  • Ensuring adequate indoor ventilation
  • Self-monitoring for symptoms


Quarantine keeps people who have been exposed to someone infected with a contagious disease, but who may not be infected themselves, away from others.

Severe/critical illness

Illness due to COVID-19 that required any intensive care during hospitalization. 

Severely immunocompromised

Means you have:
  • Been taking chemotherapy for cancer recently;
  • HIV and a CD4 t-cell count <200;
  • An immunodeficiency disorder;
  • Been taking high-dose steroids (such as prednisone 20mg/day for >14 days); OR
  • Another condition that a healthcare provider has told them makes them severely immunocompromised.


People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
This list does not include all possible symptoms. Public health will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.
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