For Patients

Last updated 3/27/20

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

Public health officials with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do 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. Some spread may be possible before people show symptoms but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

You are most at risk if you are over 60 years of age or have a compromised immune system. You may also be at greater risk if you have medical conditions such as diabetes, a heart or lung condition, or a chronic kidney condition.

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.

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Dry cough (no mucus or phlegm is produced)
  • Tiredness

Some people also experience:

  • Digestive symptoms (loss of appetite, diarrhea)
  • Loss of smell and taste

Severe Symptoms

Severe symptoms may include those listed above, as well as:

  • Trouble breathing / shortness of breath
  • Acute dry cough
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Lung infection (pneumonia)
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. If you develop emergency warning signs get medical attention immediately. More information is below.


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

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. Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.

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?

Testing is not helpful if you do not have symptoms. If you are sick and develop difficulty breathing or cannot keep fluids down, contact your primary care doctor or call 911. If you are elderly, have compromised immune system, or have other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart or lung conditions, or chronic kidney conditions, you should contact your doctor immediately. If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to see a doctor. If you have questions, please contact your primary care doctor. This information was obtained from the Los Angeles County Department of Health (LACDPH).

For more information about the COVID-19 test, visit the City of Los Angeles COVID-19 Testing page. Also visit the LACDPH website for additional, up-to-date information.

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.


What am I allowed to do under the Los Angeles Safer at Home emergency order?

On March 20, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a “Safer at Home” emergency order, ordering residents of the City of Los Angeles to stay in their residences and limit all activities outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely necessary for essential tasks. Activities outside the home are limited to health care visits, and getting food and essential supplies. Most people are ordered to stop going to their places of employment (certain jobs are exempt). This Order is in place until April 20 and may be extended. A list of businesses that will stay open and FAQs about what you can and can't do are on the City of Los Angeles Safer at Home FAQs page. More information about the steps that Mayor Garcetti has taken for our area is on the City of Los Angeles coronavirus website.


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.

  • Follow the Safer at Home Emergency Order currently 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 a distance of at least 6 feet distance from others when you go out.
  • 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).

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 is social distancing?

Recently, federal, state and local government officials have started taking steps to stop or slow down the spread of this highly contagious disease. This is called "social distancing" and may include the closure of schools, community centers, businesses, theaters, fitness centers, places of worship, and suspending all indoor and outdoor events that attract crowds over 50 people, such as parades and concerts. There are also travel bans between some countries and the United States. Officials may announce other measures in the coming weeks.

On March 20, Mayor Garcetti placed additional restrictions in the Safer at Home emergency order. A list of businesses that will stay open and FAQs about what you can and can't do are on the City of Los Angeles Safer at Home FAQs page. More information about the steps that Mayor Garcetti has taken for our area is on the City of Los Angeles coronavirus website.


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, canceled all classes and events through the end of April, and postponed elective surgeries. 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 further restricted visitation to our hopsital. A "No VIsitor" policy is in effect, with a few exceptions. Please visit our Visiting Hours page for detailed information. In addition, 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 check back to 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, read Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks 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