COVID-19 FAQs & Resources

Source: Multnomah County Health Department


Community Health

Where should I look for the latest information?

How can my workplace prepare for a coronavirus outbreak?

Typically the county’s disease response team works with facilities on a case-by-case basis because every outbreak and disease is different. If there are more people with similar illnesses than expected for a facility, call 503-988-3406 to report a possible outbreak. 

Employees should know their work policies around telecommuting. It’s smart for everyone to have a basic plan in case they have to stay home for an extended time. The County posted guidance on preventing illness and preparing for COVID-19 for employees and employers in specific populations:

What should employers do if an employee has a positive case of the COVID-19 virus?

As part of the routine investigation of diseases like COVID 19, Public Health would contact employers about potential exposures and assess risk in the facility. It’s not the employer’s responsibility to notify Public Health about the exposure.

Why aren’t all sick people being tested? If a coworker comes to work sick and goes home, shouldn’t they be tested to see if the rest of the office has been exposed so an informed decision about self-quarantine or the company asking people to work at home can be made?

People who are sick and want to be tested should contact their health care provider. State epidemiologists have updated COVID-19 testing guidelines to emphasize that outpatient clinicians can order a test(link is external) for the virus from a commercial laboratory, at their discretion, without state authorization.  Guidance for employers is available here

How can my household prepare for COVID-19?

There are also basic steps every household should take to prepare for any unexpected event: 

  • Learn about your employer’s sick leave and telecommuting policies.
  • Establish a childcare plan in the event your kids need to stay home from school.
  • Make sure you have the kinds of foods, drinks, medications and pet supplies you would want if you needed to stay home and limit your contact with other people for a couple weeks.
  • Get to know your neighbors, especially those who might need extra help like seniors or people living alone.

I planned an event with a lot of people. How can we prevent the spread of illness? Should I cancel?

The CDC created this guidance for planning mass gatherings and events(link is external). For now, there is no public health recommendation to cancel or postpone large gatherings or special events. There are steps organizers can take to help keep participants healthy: 

  • Send strong messaging that anyone who feels ill should not attend. 
  • Post signage about washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes. 
  • Provide access to soap and water, tissues, and hand sanitizer

Should we notify the college community that one of our interns in Washington County is quarantined but not symptomatic?

Washington County is leading that investigation. It’s likely unnecessary to notify the general community about the exposure, but you can always check with Washington County at 503-846-3594.

Is a “deep cleaning” necessary?

It’s still unclear exactly how long COVID-19 can remain on a surface. Early evidence suggests that the virus can survive for several days at room temperature. This is why wiping down commonly touched surfaces helps to prevent the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu. Check out our Cleaning and Disinfecting guide for more information. 

Are there guidelines for cleaning schools?

The County’s Cleaning and Disinfecting guidelines page includes a section on cleaning community settings like schools. Early evidence suggests that the virus can survive for a few days at room temperature. This is why wiping down commonly touched surfaces helps to prevent the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu.

If school administration or staff notice an unusually high number of students with fevers or mild symptoms, should the school notify any agency? 

If schools notice high absentee rates, they should follow their normal protocol for reporting high rates of absenteeism to the district. Currently testing is reserved for the most severely ill, unless contacted directly by Public Health.

Why aren’t you releasing exposure sites, like you do with measles? 

The measles virus is spread through the air. Those virus particles are so small they can hang in the air for up to 2 hours after a sick person coughs or sneezes. People far from one another can breathe in those particles and become ill.  If health officials cannot identify all individuals who might have been exposed, they will release the exposure site.

COVID-19 is believed to spread through droplets when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Those particles fall to the ground, rather than float in the air. Health officials believe a person who has prolonged and close contact (about 6 feet) to someone with COVID-19 is at most significant risk of becoming ill. During an investigation, officials directly contact individuals they believe could have been exposed. At this moment, because COVID-19 does not appear to hang in the air like measles, it would not be helpful release exposure sites.

Personal Health

What will happen to me if I think I was exposed to this virus? 

If you get a fever, cough or difficulty breathing shortly after travel to affected areas or being in close contact with a person sick with the virus, call your local health department(link is external) and health care provider to decide if you need to be seen. 

If your provider thinks you might have the virus, they might first decide if you are well enough to stay home or if you need to go to a clinic or hospital. They can help you enter a clinic in a way that avoids being around and potentially infecting others. They will also work with local public health to arrange for testing for the virus. Testing will most likely involve a nose swab, a routine blood sample, and coughing up mucus.

If you are seen in a clinic or hospital, your health care provider might ask you to put on a mask and make sure you are not around other people. Care providers may show you to a private room and put on gowns, gloves, eye protection, and special masks. 

There is no specific treatment for novel coronavirus. So far, most people confirmed to have the virus have recovered.

How do you tell the difference between this virus and the flu?

Influenza is still circulating in Oregon. It is a much more likely cause of cough and fever than coronavirus. The symptoms of novel coronavirus are similar to flu and other respiratory viral illnesses. 

Both can cause a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Illness can range from mild to severe. The only way to tell what specific germ is causing illness is through laboratory testing. We recommend people with fever and cough call their health care provider to decide if you are well enough to stay home or need to go to a clinic or hospital. If a person meets criteria for novel coronavirus testing, providers should call their local health department.

What is a “presumptive” case?A case is “presumptive” if it has tested positive at the Oregon State Public Health lab. That specimen is then sent to the CDC, where a second test “confirms” the specimen is positive.

I have tested positive for a coronavirus. Is this the same thing?

There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. Health centers can test for common coronaviruses viruses when people come in with cough or cold-like symptoms. They are not the same as this new coronavirus.

Currently this newly discovered coronavirus — named COVID-19 — requires specific testing which is confirmed through the CDC. Stay home if you are sick and only seek medical care if you really need it and only call 911 in an emergency. We know from other countries that most people will recover just fine. 

If I believe I may have had COVID-19 recently but am now recovered, should I be tested/send any information (for epidemiological purposes or such)?

If you have recovered from your symptoms you do not need to be tested. People who aren’t sick don’t need to be tested for COVID-19. We encourage folks to stay home until they’ve been feeling well for 24 hours.

When a person doesn’t have insurance, where should they go? And do we know if health insurance is covering the test? 

Currently in Oregon, COVID-19 testing is done at the Oregon State Public Health Lab (OSPHL) with approval through Oregon Health Authority. OSPHL does not charge the individual for this test. If someone is ill but does not have health insurance, visit is external) or call 2-1-1 to find out about resources to get care.

Where can a person go to get tested for the COVID-2019?  

Currently testing is reserved for the most severely ill, unless contacted directly by Public Health. 

What do we know about the effects of COVID-19 on young children?

So far it appears that young children are not at higher risk of severe illness. Children should engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection, including cleaning hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding people who are sick, and staying up to date on vaccinations, including influenza vaccine.

Does water temperature matter for successful handwashing?

Temperature does not seem to affect how many germs are removed during handwashing. We recommend warm water that isn’t too hot. Hot water can cause skin irritation and is more environmentally costly.

If one member in a household is sick do healthy members have to self quarantine?

No, healthy members don’t have to self quarantine. We recommend that the sick individual should isolate themselves from healthy family members as much as possible. You can designate a room in the house to be the sick person’s space. If they need to leave that room, then they can wear a mask to not contaminate others.

International Health

I recently returned from an affected area. Can I get a test to confirm I don’t have coronavirus? 

If you are not sick, testing is not necessary. If you become sick after recent travel to an affected area, contact your health care provider by phone to review your symptoms and risk of coronavirus. 

My flight had a layover in a country with COVID-19. Am I at risk?

If you had a layover at an airport in a country with a level 3 travel notice(link is external), the CDC believes you may be at risk. For current travelers, if the layover is unavoidable, try not to leave the airport. 

I spent time with someone who recently returned from a country with community spread of COVID-19. Should I be concerned?

If the person you spent time with was well, the time you spent together poses little risk of illness to you.

If the person was sick with a cough and fever, you would want to find out if, before they got sick, they either 1) had traveled to an affected area, OR 2) had contact with someone known to have been sick with novel coronavirus. If either of those is true, you should watch for symptoms of cough and fever for two weeks after you spent time with them. You can contact your health care provider if you develop cough, fever, or difficulty breathing to decide if you are well enough to stay home or need to be seen in a clinic or hospital.

As recommended for many types of infections, anyone who shows signs of illness should stay home until they feel well for at least 24 hours.

We are expecting visitors from affected areas. Should we be concerned? 

With current travel restrictions, visitors from China will have a hard time getting here. If you do have a visitor from China or other affected areas, CDC recommends that they stay away from other people for 14 days after leaving there.

I have travel plans later this year. Should I cancel?

The CDC has issued travel advisories related to novel coronavirus. The situation is changing quickly, and CDC’s travel advisories may continue to change as new information is available. Travelers should check CDC’s travel information(link is external) for their destination prior to travel.

I feel well but recently visited an affected area or had contact with a sick person from an affected area. What’s next?

Anyone with symptoms who visited affected areas should call their health care provider to decide if they need to be seen. If so, they can create a plan to enter a clinic in a way that avoids being around others.

If I get symptoms within 14 days of visiting an affected area, or I’ve had close contact with a person sick with the virus, what should I do?

Call your health care provider to decide if you need to be seen. If so, you can create a plan to enter a clinic in a way that avoids being around and potentially infecting others.

If you need urgent medical attention, call 9-1-1. Tell the operator if you have recently traveled to an affected area or had recent contact with someone who might be sick with novel coronavirus.

Are imported products safe? 

Coronaviruses are spread most often by small droplets of mucus from the nose and throat. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through foods and items imported from affected areas.

COVID-19 is similar to two other coronaviruses. Those are known as SARS and MERS. We can use what we know about those coronaviruses to guide our knowledge of  COVID-19. These coronaviruses don’t live long on surfaces or outside the human body.

To avoid getting sick from any germ that can live on foods, follow these fruit and Vegetable Safety(link is external) tips from the CDC.

Provider Health

Where can doctors get clinical guidance on Covid-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidance to healthcare professionals(link is external) and laboratories(link is external)
The Oregon Health Authority provides guidance(link is external) to healthcare providers, EMS and labs. 
The Office of the Health Officer servicing Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties, issues clinical guidance. Find the latest under public health alerts.

Should health centers screen all patients for risks of this virus?

Health care providers should ask for a detailed travel history on anyone who is ill with a fever or cough. Patients and clients may be asked about fever, symptoms and travel when they make a medical appointment or check in for one.  The county has posted guidance for community health centers to help prepare for COVID-19

I am worried about this coronavirus and influenza. Should I wear a mask? 

There are detailed recommendations for healthcare providers to protect themselves using special types of masks and other equipment.

Outside of healthcare, there is no recommendation in the United States for people to wear masks in public spaces. To prevent the spread of respiratory illness, we recommend all people be diligent about washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, and getting the seasonal influenza vaccine.

I serve clients who often travel to affected areas. Is there a process health and social service providers should follow?

Few positive cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) have been identified in Oregon. While the risk of coronavirus in Multnomah County is real, the immediate health risk to the general public is still low. 

Someone who has the virus is considered most likely to spread the disease to very close contacts (for example people in the same household). 

Anytime people interact there is some risk of catching an illness, whether it’s the flu, norovirus, or coronavirus. The best ways to protect yourself and others include:

  • Get up to date on your vaccines, including yearly influenza.
  • Stay away from others if you feel unwell.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash hands regularly.
  • Eat well, get plenty of rest, do regular physical activity, and take good care of other health conditions.

If you have clients with any fever or cough illness, it is reasonable to delay or reschedule non-essential appointments as a general approach to preventing spread of disease to others.

Animal Health

Currently, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets can be infected with the new coronavirus.

Currently there is no evidence to support that animals such as dogs or cats can be infected with COVID-19.

Where did this newly discovered virus come from?

The 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is thought to have originated in bats and transmitted to humans. As for the last two coronaviruses, transmission occurred through intermediate hosts, the masked palm civet (SARS) and dromedary camels (MERS).

Have you thought of bed bugs as a carrier?

There is currently no evidence that vector animals can carry the virus. 

Still have questions?

You can use this form to ask our health experts(link is external) and we’ll include those answers in updated versions of this FAQ.



Clean Hands Keep You Healthy (English)(link is external)

Germs Are Everywhere(link is external)

Fact Sheets

COVID-19 Fact Sheet (Oregon Health Authority)(link is external)

What you need to know (Centers for Disease Control)(link is external)


COVID-19 Cleaning Products(link is external)

COVID-19 Tabletob Excercise