For Patients

Last update 9/27/20

How does COVID-19 spread and who is at risk?

Public health officials with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are continuing to study the spread and effects of COVID-19 across the United States. The CDC does not fully understand how it spreads but it seems to infect people fairly easily for those in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). The virus is thought to be mainly spread through droplets of fluid that a person coughs or sneezes into the air. It may also be spread if you touch a surface with the virus on it, such as a door knob, steering wheel, or a store key pad, and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms and are sick. However, studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the coronavirus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the coronavirus can spread between people interacting in close proximity. It is critical that you frequently keep your hands washed and maintain at least 6 feet distance from other people when you go out in public places. On May 14, the City of Los Angeles issued an order requiring all residents to wear non-medical face coverings outside of their homes, except for young children at risk for suffocation and people with certain disabilities, to help stop the spread of the virus as stay-at-home restrictions are gradually eased. This is in addition to the Worker Protection Order issued on April 7 requiring workers in essential businesses to wear non-medical face coverings. See more information below.

You are most at risk if you are over 60 years of age. People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant, obesity, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. People with other conditions might be at an increased risk, including pregnant women.

Current cases in Los Angeles County, the United States, and the spread by state is on our COVID-19 Facts page, updated regularly.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

Some people who have been sick from COVID-19 have had only mild symptoms while others have become severely ill. Symptoms usually appear gradually, 2 to 14 days after exposure. As of May 13, the CDC has revised its list of symptoms. People with the following symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

Symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of smell and taste
  • Congestion or runny nose

Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally have mild illness. This list is not all inclusive. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Please consult with your doctor for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Severe Symptoms

If you have any of these emergency warning signs get medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please consult with your doctor for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.


What should I do if I think I'm sick with COVID-19?

If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to see a doctor. If you are feeling sick and think you might have COVID-19, contact your primary care doctor by phone or email first before going in. Your doctor’s office will decide the next steps for your care. If you are elderly, have underlying health conditions or are pregnant may be at higher risk of serious illness and should contact your doctor early if you are sick. Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency. This information was obtained from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH).

In addition, to help prevent the spread to others, if you are mildly sick, the CDC and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) have issued guidelines on what to do. These were updated on May 8, which include staying home (self-isolating) for at least 10 days and until 72 hours after being fever and symptom free. Visit the CDC website for more information. The LACDPH has provided downloadable PDFs with information about staying home and home isolation. Call your doctor if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen.

If you are coming to Valley Presbyterian Hospital's Emergency Department or another entrance, and you have a fever, cough or problems breathing, please call ahead beforehand or let our care team know immediately upon arrival so that we can safely provide appropriate care. Please be advised that as of March 20, Valley Presbyterian Hospital has a "No Visitor" policy for accompanying patients to the Emergency Department, and for visiting patients, with a few exceptions. More information is on our COVID-19 portal page.


Can I get tested for the coronavirus at Valley Presbyterian Hospital?

The City of Los Angeles is providing free COVID-19 testing to all Los Angeles County residents, whether or not you are experiencing symptoms. Priority is given to people with symptoms. For more information visit the City of Los Angeles COVID-19 Testing page.

If you have come to Valley Presbyterian Hospital and have symptoms, we will test you for the virus. Testing is done with a nose and throat swap and a small sample taken of mucus coughed from your lungs. Please be advised that as of March 20, Valley Presbyterian Hospital has a "No Visitor" policy for accompanying patients to the Emergency Department, and for visiting patients, with a few exceptions. More information is on our COVID-19 portal page. More information about the treatment of COVID-19 is on our Facts page.


Are the Los Angeles Safer at Home and Worker Protection Orders still in place?

Yes. As of September 27, Los Angeles officials have continued the process of Stage 2 and some Stage 3 reopenings of non-essential businesses with social distancing and specific infection control protocols. These include grocery stores; outdoor retail shopping centers at 50% capacity; drive-in restaurants; restaurants with outdoor seating and pick-up; and libraries for curbside pickup. Other low risk retailer such as bookstores, pet food stores, and hardware stores are open, as well as hair salons, hotels and short term rentals with safeguards. Also open are office-based businesses when teleworking is not possible, such as realtors. Outdoor zoos and aquariums, and museums and galleries with outdoor areas are open. Outdoor parks, recreational, and workout facilities are also open including beaches, golf courses, trails, parks, day camps, and camping parks. Film/TV/music productions can resume. Non-medical face coverings and social distancing are required.

As of September 27, the following businesses are still closed under state and County orders: indoor gyms/fitness centers, nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo parlors. In addition the following remain closed: places of worship, indoor malls, bars, breweries and brew pubs; wineries and tasting rooms; bar areas and indoor seating in restaurants; public entertainment venues including movie theaters, live performance theaters, concert venues, festivals, racetracks, and professional sports leagues (training only); family entertainment centers such as bowling alleys, arcades, miniature golf and batting cages; indoor and outdoor playgrounds except those at school or childcare centers; public hot tubs and saunas. All travel has been banned by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car or public transit unless the individual is engaged in an essential or recreational activity.

Additional information is in the latest City of Los Angeles Public Order update and on the LA County Roadmap to Recovery page.

Social distancing is still needed. Residents should continue to practice social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people who don't live with you), wash hands frequently, and wear a face covering when leaving your home. The Los Angeles Safer at Home Order is slowly being lifted but residents are still ordered to not visit friends and family without an urgent need, and to not visit patients in hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities. Most people are also still ordered to not go to their places of employment (certain jobs are exempt).

Recommendations to help protect yourself and prevent the spread are on our COVID-19 FAQs page.

The Worker Protection order, put in place on April 7, is also still in effect until further notice for non-medical essential workers, requiring them to wear face coverings such as non-medical masks, scarves or bandanas. See Mask Guidelines below. The order includes workers at grocery stores, warehouse stores, farmers markets, restaurants with to-go food, plumbers, electricians, day laborers, private security, gardeners, dry cleaners, taxis, car rental companies, hotels, motels, organizations that provide social services, and other businesses. In addition, employers must provide these face coverings, allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes, and provide 6-foot buffers between employees and customers to the extent possible. More information is in the City of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order (PDF).


Will schools and colleges reopen in the fall 2020?

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) started the school year on August 18 with online-only courses. The district is continuing to plan for an eventual return to in-person classes but a timeline has not yet been provided. Teachers have been provided with training in online education and students will receive training to become better online learners. For more information and resources, visit the LAUSD website or call their hotline at 213.443.1300.

On August 12, the LA County Department of Public Health announced that colleges and universities may continue essential operations but most academic instruction must be distance-learning. They may continue to offer in person training and instruction only for students who are or will become part of the essential workforce and only for required activities that cannot be accomplished through virtual learning. On-campus residency is provided only for students who have no alternative housing options.


What can I do to protect myself and my family from the COVID-19 coronavirus?

There are steps that everyone can take daily to reduce the risk of getting sick or infecting others with these types of viruses. Please follow the list of guidelines below. We also have helpful tips on our Covid-19 Video page.

  • Follow the Safer at Home Emergency Order in place for Los Angeles residents. More information is above.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or going to the bathroom. You should also wash your hands before eating.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet distance from others when you go out.
  • As of May 14, all residents are required to wear a cloth face covering your nose and mouth when outside of your home. Young children and people with certain disabilties are exempt. This does NOT mean wearing a surgical mask or N-95 respirator which are critical medical supplies needed by healthcare workers. More information is below. Visit our Video page for a CDC video on how to wear a mask.
  • Limit close contact like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect touched objects and surfaces using regular household disinfectant cleaning spray.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw away the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
  • Help your immune system: Eat nutritional food, get 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night, try to minimize and manage stress, exercise regularly, and stop or cut back on smoking. If you have a health condition, discuss with your doctor an exercise and nutritional plan that is right for you.

You can also take these additional steps:

  • Find a primary doctor if you don't already have one to be prepared, in case you do get sick. Our Find-A-Doctor portal has a list of physicians in our area, or you can use other sources such as referrals from friends and family members.
  • Mayor Garcetti has asked that residents not hoard food as it isn't necessary but you should have essential food, water and supplies to last a few weeks.

What are the guidelines for wearing masks?

Valley Presbyterian Hospital requires all visitors and patients entering the hospital to wear a hospital-issued mask. Visit our Video page for a CDC video on how to wear a mask.

On May 14, the City of Los Angeles issued a new order requiring all residents to wear non-medical face coverings outside of their homes, except for young children at risk for suffocation and people with certain disabilities. This will help stop the spread of the virus as Safer At Home restrictions are gradually eased. Read more on the City of Los Angeles website.

This order is in addition to the Worker Protection Order that requires non-medical essential workers to wear face coverings such as non-medical masks, scarves or bandanas while at work. This does NOT mean wearing a surgical mask or N-95 repirator which are critical medical supplies that are needed by healthcare workers. Customers are required to wear face coverings when going out to grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses. More information is in the City of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order (PDF).

Cloth face coverings can be non-medical masks, bandanas or scarves, or made at home from t-shirts or pieces of cloth. Visit our Video page for a CDC video that shows how to make your own mask or visit the CDC website for step-by-step instructions. It is important that you wash your hands before you put your mask on and immediately after you take it off. If it is disposable, throw it away in a plastic lined trash can. If it is washable, it is recommended that you wash it after removing it.


Is social distancing still needed?

Yes. Residents should continue to practice social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people who don't live with you), wash hands frequently, and wear a face covering when leaving your home (see more information above).

The Los Angeles Safer at Home Order is slowly being lifted but residents are still ordered to not visit friends and family without an urgent need, and to not visit patients in hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities. Most people are also still ordered to not go to their places of employment (certain jobs are exempt).Additional information is in the latest City of Los Angeles Public Order update and on the LA County Roadmap to Recovery page.


What is Valley Presbyterian Hospital doing to protect patients and visitors?

We are committed to the safety of our patients, visitors and staff. We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and have been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as local and state public health agencies. Our teams have put in place screenings at entry points at the hospital including the Emergency Department, and canceled most classes (some will be offered virtual) and events. We have enstated fever screenings for all staff and visitors, as well as new policies for patients and vistors. As of March 20, we have restricted visitation to our hopsital. A "No Visitor" policy is in effect, with a few exceptions. We require all visitors and patients entering the hospital to wear a hospital-issued mask, and we strongly encourage anyone visiting the hospital to use hand sanitizing dispensers that are located on each floor, and to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth. Please visit our Visiting Hours page for detailed information.

Also, please check our COVID-19 portal page for Valley Presbyterian Hospital information, updates and other resources. You may also call our Hotline at 818.902.3999 for information about COVID-19. Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.


What should I do if I feel stressed out about COVID-19?

It is normal to feel anxious or show signs of stress even if the outbreak hasn't affected you personally or you are at low risk of getting sick. It is important to care for your own physical and mental health. For tips on how you can cope, visit the Covid-19 Mental Health Resources page from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. You can also call their 24/7 Helpline at 800.854.7771 or call 2-1-1.


Sources on this page include: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Los Angeles County Department of Health (LACDPH), City of Los Angeles, and World Health Organization (WHO). Visit our COVID-19 Resources page for more information.


Return to COVID-19 portal page