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About COVID-19 & FAQs

About COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) differs from the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. COVID-19 is a new strain not previously been seen in humans.

Thought to spread mainly from person to person, primarily by droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus produces a variety of  symptoms, sometimes severe, including a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions

UPDATED DEC. 23: What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a virus first identified in 2019.

It is part of a larger family of viruses called coronaviruses, some of which are in circulation normally and can cause illnesses like the common cold. You can learn more about COVID-19 at the CDC website.

UPDATED DEC. 17: How does the virus spread?

The virus most commonly spreads person-to-person via respiratory droplets or aerosols that are produced when an infected person talks, coughs, sings, or sneezes or breathes. Infection may occur when someone inhales these aerosols via the nose, mouth, airways and lungs. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Aerosol droplets may remain suspended in the air over long distances (usually greater than 6 feet) and time (typically hours). The CDC notes growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.

Larger droplets may land on a surface, potentially infecting others who touch this surface and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

Transmission may be slowed by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask when out, washing your hands frequently, and staying home when sick.

Frequently Asked Questions-Spread CDC, 12/17/20.

How long can the virus survive on surfaces?

A study found that SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive on surfaces for variable periods of time, depending on the type of surface. The survival time on surfaces ranged from four hours (copper) to three days (plastic and stainless steel).

To kill the virus on surfaces, use a disinfectant that has been shown to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. A list of approved disinfectants against SARS-CoV-2 can be found on the EPA website. Be sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects often, such as counters, tabletops, door knobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, and bedside tables.

UPDATED JAN. 25: Who is at higher risk for serious illness?

Those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include older adults and adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, lung disease and cancer. It is recommended that these individuals practice enhanced prevention strategies.

The CDC maintains a more complete list of these medical conditions and identifies those at increased risk who may need to take extra precautions. The CDC advises individuals with any underlying medical condition to consult with their healthcare provider regarding their personal circumstances and risk factors to determine if extra precautions are needed.

People at Increased Risk CDC, 1/4/21.
People with Certain Medical Conditions CDC, 12/29/20.

What about the virus in animals and pets?


How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Physically distance by staying at least six feet away from others.
  • Wear a mask in public spaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. Find out what else you can do and read additional recommendations from the CDC.

UPDATED DEC. 23: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

Yes. Two vaccines are currently authorized and recommended in the United States to prevent COVID-19:

There are many additional vaccines undergoing testing. You can keep track of the progress of all of these at the New York Times' Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker. You can see additional information at Pima County Health Department’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information page:

Where can I find more information about masks and face coverings?

Please visit our Face Coverings page for information specific to Pima County, including the mask mandate, where to obtain a mask, and how to properly wear and care for your mask. The CDC also has a guide to masks.

Starting July 17, 2020, Arizonans who are over the age of 65 or who are medically vulnerable may order a set of reusable masks through the Arizona Department of Health Services Maskup order form.

UPDATED DEC. 4: Can Pima County mandate mask-wearing in public?

Yes. On Dec. 4, 2020, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution requiring everyone to wear masks or face coverings when in public and cannot easily maintain a continuous distance of at least six feet from others. The Resolution also mandates businesses require customers to wear masks. Learn more about face coverings.


Who can get a COVID test?

Anybody in Pima County can get a free COVID test at one of several established Pima County testing sites, or at a pop-up testing locations. Private providers are also offering testing, though eligibility and cost may vary.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

Anybody can be tested for COVID. COVID can spread before people feel sick, or be spread by people who never develop symptoms. If you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, you should get tested and isolate for two weeks after the last exposure to that person while they were symptomatic.

Where can I get tested?

Pima County offers a variety of locations for free COVID-19 testing.

Need more information about how to schedule the test, including what actually happens when you arrive for your test? The Sonora Environmental Research Institute, El Rio Health and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health have created a guide to help you know what to expect which you can read or watch.

Confirmed Cases

UPDATED DEC. 22: What is isolation?

Isolation keeps someone who is infected with a contagious disease away from other people, even away from those inside their own home.

Isolation is recommended for people who have COVID-19 symptoms who are recovering at home and for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 even if they don’t have symptoms.

If you have had close contact (defined as being within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes or more) who has, is being evaluated for, or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 you should isolate.

The CDC recommends you stay home except to get medical care and take the following steps:

  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning signs (including difficulty getting enough air, chest pain, change in alertness or responsiveness, bluish lips or face, or rapid 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 you are able to.

Additional guidance if you have or suspect you have COVID-19 and for anyone who lives with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19.

Isolate If You Are Sick CDC, 12/22/20.

How long after isolating may I return to my normal activities?

It can vary, depending upon your individual situation.

UPDATED DEC. 10: What is quarantine?

Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. It helps to reduce the risk that someone might unknowingly transmit the disease to others before they even know they are ill or if they are ill but may have no symptoms. The CDC recommends people in quarantine stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

When to Quarantine CDC, 12/10/2020.

What is the estimated wait period before someone is no longer considered contagious?

It can vary, depending upon your individual situation.

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.

What level of information can we disclose regarding positive cases in Pima County?

For all positive cases of COVID-19, we are disclosing the age range of the person and their recovering status, meaning if they are recovering in or out a hospital. Where someone lives, works, got infected, and traveled are all very different. Trying to memorialize “where” the risk was is very difficult and could actually end up misleading. We recognize that people are concerned about areas where they should be cautious. With a virus as contagious as this is proving to be, we recommend that people take precautions everywhere they go. The best thing people can do is practice those prevention and social distancing recommendations they are hearing so much about.

What is the definition of a recovered patient?

Someone who has been released from care and considered a “recovered patient” means the person is no longer sick, has no complications from the illness and is no longer considered contagious.

UPDATED DEC. 22: Can I have long-term effects even after recovering from COVID-19?

The CDC suggests that while most persons with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have both short- and long-term symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness. The most common long-term symptoms observed have included fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and joint and chest pain.

The CDC is conducting multi-year studies to determine how common these symptoms are, who is most likely to get them, and whether these symptoms eventually resolve.

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 CDC, 11/13/20.


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: 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.

How do I report a business safety standard violation?

The Pima County Health Department is encouraging through its inspection process all area restaurants, pools, gyms, fitness centers, hotels and resorts and other business covered by the Pima County Board of Supervisors Proclamation to adopt minimum public health safety standards during the pandemic. The new rules revise, amend and delete some of the rules passed May 13. You can see all of the standards by type of regulated business here. If a business that should be following these standards is not, you can report it using the COVID-19 Safety Standards Business & Community Reporting form and our Consumer Health Food Safety team will contact the business and provide education and guidance. 

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. 

UPDATED DEC. 4: Where should the food industry go for guidance about business operations?

The Pima County Board of Supervisors on December 4, 2020 revised rules for protective measures some businesses should follow during a pandemic. The changes built on those implemented after extensive feedback gathered from the business community, primarily restaurants. Read the December 4 Proclamation for more details on the temporary measures applicable to all restaurants and other dine-in establishments.

We have additional resources and guidance for restaurants and businesses.

Are adult care facilities still open?

Yes, at this time there is no directive at this time to close this type of center. Adult day centers are being instructed to practice the same prevention measures as the general community and other facilities by practicing social distancing as much as possible, screening participants for symptoms, practicing good hygiene and cleaning and disinfecting. Adult Day Care Centers are asked to not allow any visitors or non-critical staff.

Are workers in the human and animal food and feed sector considered part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce?

Yes, in a guidance issued by Department of Homeland Security on March 19 Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19, workers in the Food and Agriculture sector – agricultural production, food processing, distribution, retail and food service and allied industries – are named as essential critical infrastructure workers. Promoting the ability of our workers within the food and agriculture industry to continue to work during periods of community restrictions, social distances, and closure orders, among others, is crucial to community continuity and community resilience.

Volunteer and Donation Info

What can I do to help my community during the COVID-19 outbreak?

If you are a healthcare provider with an active license, a public health professional, member of a medical disaster response team, or non-health community volunteer willing to be on-call to support Arizona in the event of a disaster, you can help support public health emergency preparedness. Find more info and a registration link at

Additionally, the American Red Cross has reported a shortage in blood donations. So, if you’re in a position to give blood, you might consider donating as another option. To schedule an appointment, visit

You can also write a note to somebody who is physically-distanced in a long term care facility with the Pima Love Notes project.

Lastly, follow the social distancing recommendations and wear a cloth face covering when in public around others. Health professionals agree that the COVID-19 outbreak is going to take several months to resolve, which means it’s up to us to protect our community.

Glossary of Terms

UPDATED JAN. 25: 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


Separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. For COVID-19, this means staying home or in a private room with a private bathroom for 14 days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19. However, individuals may be eligible for the acceptable options to shorten quarantine outlined in the "If you had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case" dropdown option in the Quarantine Section of the Sick/Exposed page

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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