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Your guide to understanding coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Welcome to Grand Rounds, your personal healthcare assistant and trusted source for timely information around coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Experiencing symptoms?

Use our 2-minute symptom checker based on CDC guidelines to help you understand your risk and take the right next steps in case of exposure to the virus.

Coronavirus FAQs

Our Chief Medical Officer and senior medical experts provide comprehensive, up-to-date answers on the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19.

  • Understanding symptoms. What are they? How long after exposure do symptoms appear?
  • High risk factors. I'm a cashier, am I at risk? How about newborns?
  • How it spreads. Talking or singing? What if I have a cut on my hand?
  • Treating symptoms. What do I take if I have a fever? When should I go to the hospital?
  • Protecting yourself. What are the do’s and don'ts if I’m told to ‘quarantine’?  

DISCLAIMER: The advice in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace or substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor with questions you may have regarding a personal medical condition or treatment.

Updated October 1, 2020

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has now reached every continent except Antarctica and with daily news reports and information sharing, it can be hard to know what steps to take. Our senior medical experts answers the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19.  

Coronavirus FAQs

Updated October 1, 2020

Understanding symptoms

What are the symptoms?

Fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath are some of the most common symptoms, but other symptoms such as sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of smell or taste have also been reported. For a list of frequently reported COVID-19 symptoms, please visit this CDC website.


Check your symptoms in just 2 minutes to learn whether you are at risk for COVID-19 and what to do next, all based on CDC guidelines.

How long after exposure do symptoms usually appear?

Symptoms usually appear within 2-14 days. Most people who develop symptoms can recover at home with supportive care (staying hydrated, resting, managing symptoms with medications such as fever reduces like Tylenol). If symptoms evolve to shortness of breath or chest pain, it is crucial to call your healthcare provider, or go to an urgent care or emergency room to seek care. If you are unsure and have access to Grand Rounds, we can help you decide what steps to take.


Of note, some people never develop symptoms but they still can spread the virus to others.

I don't have a primary care doctor. Who do I call if I have symptoms?

If you have had a known exposure you should call your healthcare provider or public health department to see if you are eligible for testing and where testing sites are located (most state health departments offer a hotline). If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as high fever and/or shortness of breath, you should try and call ahead to your local Emergency Room. If you have access to Grand Rounds, you can call us for guidance. If you don’t have Grand Rounds, but have access to another telemedicine/urgent provider, you could call them.

How long are most people actively ill?

Most people are actively ill for the normal course of viral illness, which tends to last about 10 to 14 days.

High risk factors

Who is at higher risk?

As you get older, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. Those in their 50s are a higher risk of severe illness than those in their 40s. Those in their 60s are at great risk than those in their 50s, and so on. People who are 85 or older are at the highest risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness. For more information from the CDC about high-risk individuals, you can visit this website.


People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of COVID-19 severe illness:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system from solid organ transplant)
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions (heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Based on what is known at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Smoking
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

I work as a cashier. How likely am I to get COVID-19?

As a cashier, the most important thing is to keep six feet of distance from the people around you. Wearing a mask, and potentially gloves, will also be important. If your employer provides sneeze guards, be sure to stay behind it when interacting with others. Remember not to touch cash or the customer and then touch your face without washing or using hand sanitizer in the middle. If you are someone with high-risk factors, you might want to take some more precautions and discuss options with your employer.

I have a young daughter with asthma. How concerned should I be?

There are many individuals with chronic respiratory illnesses, like asthma, and we do know that having a lung disease can put a person in a higher risk category. For our members with asthma, we are strongly recommending that they have access to two-month supply of their inhaler(s) easily accessible at home. Most parents of kids with asthma also know the signs and symptoms of their child when they have a more severe attack. That would be the time to call their provider or 911 for immediate higher level care.

What guidance do you have if a loved one who's considered high-risk is in a nursing home?

Many families are grappling with this right now. We are being asked: “Is it time to bring our loved family members home from nursing homes or assisted living facilities?” These will be personal family conversations. I strongly recommend having some of these conversations now, as opposed to waiting until it gets to the area where the loved one's lives or is in the nursing home. For some families, the right thing to do is to bring the family member into their home, and then keep them in a safe place where they are not going to be exposed. For some families, that is not an option, because they do not have space in their own home for their elderly grandmother where they could avoid contact with other individuals. This is going to be a family by family decision. The goal, of course, is to keep high-risk individuals away from other individuals who could be carrying and shedding SARS-CoV-2.

How susceptible are newborns who haven't received all their vaccines yet?

In general, children seem to be less symptomatic and have less significant symptoms than adults with COVID-19, however we are learning more about this every day. From a study of pregnant women in China, who are positive for COVID-19, the finding reveals newborns will experience shortness of breath or rash. Most newborns eventually have recovered without needing intensive treatments. However, we do know that newborns, in general, have immature immune systems. Their immune systems are not as robust as most adults or older children. So while children in general are low risk, newborns need the most protection. It is probably worth taking the usual precautions you would with a newborn — namely not exposing them to people who you know are sick, not taking them out as much, and keeping them home as much as possible.

How it spreads

How does it spread?

The current scientific evidence indicates the virus spreads in these three ways:

  1. Droplets come from people coughing or sneezing on you — they are larger particles that don’t travel very far before they are pulled down by gravity (typically not more than 6 feet). Physical distancing is key to preventing droplet spread. 
  2. Aerosols are smaller particles that are produced when talking or singing, and can travel far in poorly ventilated spaces (note: ventilation is good in airplanes). Something as simple as keeping windows open can bring in fresh air and dilute the amount of virus in an indoor space. Keeping your mask on and not talking to your neighbor, while it may feel impolite, is a good practice to reduce aerosol spread.
  3. Contact spread occurs when coming into contact with surfaces that have virus on it, which can be mitigated with wipes and hand sanitizer.

If I have a cut on my hands, does that allow for easier transmission if I'm around an infected person?

If you have a cut on your hand, it is essential that you clean the wound and put a band-aid on it and cover it up, and wash your hands regularly. The risk here is related to all kinds of germs. If you have got a cut on your hand, put a band-aid on it, cover it up. Do not expose others to it and do not let things come in through that cut.

Treating symptoms

If I get a fever, what medication should I take?

In early March, there was a study that indicated that individuals with the Coronavirus who took NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (example names: Ibuprofen, Aleve, and medications of that category) did not recover as swiftly as people who used acetaminophen (Common brand name: Tylenol) for their fevers. However, the FDA issued a statement that there was not sufficient evidence to advise patients not to use NSAIDs. If you take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, be sure to stay within the dosing guidelines on the packages and if you have any chronic conditions such as liver or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor first.

If I feel symptomatic, what should I do?

If you are a member of Grand Rounds, feel free to call us. If you are not a Grand Rounds member and your symptoms are mild, you should stay home and try and not spread your illness to your family members. If your symptoms become more severe, please call your doctor or local health care system. To learn if you are at risk for COVID-19, check your symptoms here.

How bad do the symptoms need to be before I go to the hospital?

If you start to experience shortness of breath, are coughing so much that you cannot get a deep breath in, have a fever and the over the counter fever-reducers are not getting the fever down, or are feeling lightheaded when you stand up -- you must call your local primary care doctor immediately. They will need to assess you to test for things like the flu and normal respiratory virals, and also to determine if you need testing for COVID-19.


If you do not have a primary care physician, you should seek care at an urgent care or emergency room.

How do you take care of yourself when you get it? What can I do to help beat it if I get it?

There are currently no treatments available today for mild/moderate COVID-19. If you do get Coronavirus, right now, we will take care of the symptoms that are caused by the disease. For most people, that will be taking over-the-counter medications, including fever reducers and cough suppressants. For those who have more severe symptoms who need to go to the hospital, the hospital will most likely give IV fluids, help them with supplemental oxygen, and may use hydroxychloroquine. The hospitals are testing new therapies through experimental trials. 


Lack of many treatment options is why you must do those preventive measures that you hear everywhere — the best thing to do is prevent getting the disease in the first place, and that includes things like social distancing. It means making sure that you are more than six feet away from people whenever possible. If you do meet with others, try to do so outdoors or in a well-ventilated space (possibly with windows or doors open), and maintain your distance. If your company can let you work from home, wiping down all high touch surfaces often, washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds at a time — say your ABCs slowly, sing Happy Birthday twice, or count to 20 slowly.


Should I look into being tested if I feel fine or have mild symptoms? When should I get tested?

It depends on where you live. In some places, there are currently not enough testing kits available to test everyone who wants to get tested or who might have mild symptoms. Call your healthcare provider for guidance or talk to a clinician at Grand Rounds if you have access to us, and we can help you make a decision and/or find a nearby testing site. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, high fevers that cannot be controlled with over the counter medications, that is the time to call your healthcare provider and ensure that you can get tested.

My daughter has a runny nose and cough. We are on day four of this sickness. Should I get her tested?

It depends on where you live. In some places, there are currently not enough testing kits available to test everyone who wants to get tested or who might have mild symptoms. Call your healthcare provider for guidance or talk to a clinician at Grand Rounds if you have access to us, and we can help you make a decision and/or find a nearby testing site. If your daughter is experiencing severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, high fevers that cannot be controlled with over the counter medications, that is the time to call your healthcare provider and ensure that you can get tested. And regardless of whether you get tested, keep your daughter at home and away from others, to avoid spreading the illness she has.

If there are no drugs for COVID-19, why does one need to be tested? Why not just follow the guidelines of the CDC and do self-quarantine?

The recommendation for most people who would get tested for the Coronavirus, is to quarantine themselves and take care of themselves at home. However, for many individuals, knowing whether or not they are positive might impact the lives of others around them. For example, if they are positive and they had recently gone to work, or been speaking with family members who might be at higher risk, it would be vital for them to know that they were exposed, so that they can then take similar precautions. While you are right that for most people who are tested, it will not change their course or their management plan, it could impact others that they might have been in contact with.

Protecting yourself

How can I protect myself?

Bottom line: Outdoors is safer than indoors; masks are better than no masks. Avoid being close to people (especially face-to-face) for very long, particularly in an indoor setting. Hand hygiene is important. And take into account both your personal level of risk and the risk of those around you.

What are the do’s and don'ts if I’m told to ‘quarantine’?  

It is very important to stay home if you might have been exposed to COVID-19. For comprehensive guidance, please refer to this CDC website for the most up-to-date guidance:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html

Should I send my child back to in-person school?

There is no right answer for everyone. A starting point would be to think through the following:

  • Is my child at high risk for severe COVID-related illness? (kids at higher risk of hospitalization include those with compromised immune systems, cancer, moderate to severe asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, and certain heart conditions)
  • Does my child live with someone who is high risk for severe COVID-related illness? (an older adult, someone with diabetes, obesity, etc)
  • Is my community heavily affected by COVID? (Look at daily case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, etc.)
  • Is my child’s school offering protective measures such as mask mandates, 6+ feet of distancing, outdoor classrooms, reduced classroom sizes, etc?
  • Is it logistically feasible for the child to do online schooling at home? (do both parents work out of the home, have internet access at home, etc)

Everyone will need to think through these issues and come to a decision that's right for their family.


Are there steps we can take to help our immune system get strong? Any specific foods or supplements you would recommend?

We know there are general things that individuals can do to protect themselves from all viruses. The steps include making sure that you are getting your usual vitamins and minerals that you need to keep your immune system strong. Most of the time, we get these nutrients by eating healthy fruits and vegetables. If you feel like you are not able to get your vitamins through regular food, then you may consider taking a multivitamin to make sure that you have your full daily supply of vitamins. Also, things that help your immune system stay strong are making sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep and a moderate amount of exercise.

How do we protect ourselves when we're touching and buying things at a grocery store?

When you are going to the grocery store, try to go when not very many people will be there. Make sure you can still keep six feet distance from other people that might be doing their grocery shopping as well, and always wear a mask. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands afterwards. If possible, consider contactless delivery options or curbside pickup to reduce exposure to others.

Should I wipe down what's delivered to my home? What's too much?

Surface transmission of coronavirus seems to be less significant than the distance between people, when it comes to transmission. The CDC has stated that surfaces are no longer thought to be a major source of coronavirus spread. That said, it is still important to sanitize your hands often, and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces (door knobs, countertops, faucets, etc). For more cleaning tips, please refer to the CDC website.

Should I buy a supply of masks for my family?

While there were initially mixed messages about mask use, studies have now shows that many infected people lack symptoms. Therefore, the CDC and other health organizations began recommending widespread mask use. One recent study, examining infection trends around the globe, found that places where face masks were mandated had greater reductions in infection rates than places where no mandate occurred. In another recent example, two symptomatic hair stylists with COVID worked in close contact with 139 clients; both the stylists and the clients wore masks, and none of the clients became ill. Incorporating these types of learnings in your daily life can help you navigate & reduce your level of risk.


For more information on masks, please see this CDC website.

If I get COVID-19 and recover, will I be immune?

We are still learning if infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in long-lasting immunity to it. A study in rhesus monkeys initially suggested that at least short-term immunity is likely. And newer, more recent studies do suggest that our bodies mount an immune response to the virus. We are still learning about how this long this immunity lasts, though.

Can I get COVID twice?

We are still learning about this. There has only been one documented case of reinfection so far.

DISCLAIMER: The advice in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace or substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor with questions you may have regarding a personal medical condition or treatment.

Watch our previous Facebook Live events

Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ami Parekh, answered questions  and addressed concerns regarding Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at our Facebook live events.

What medications to take and avoid if you have a fever

What precautions to take if you are getting food delivered to your home

Tips for managing feelings of anxiety from having to stay home

"Ask me anything" with Dr. Parekh

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