Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Please check this page often for updated information.  If you do not find the information you are looking for below, please call the Cortland County COVID-19 Information Line at 607-756-3415

COVID-19 has been confirmed in our community. 

Everyone has a responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing guidelines. For more information, see New York FORWARD 

1. What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. For the latest information, go to CDC COVID-19 website.  

2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms which include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Some people can have severe complications.

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever (100°F/38.7°C or higher)
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

3. How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). See CDC How COVID-19 Spreads.

4. How can I help protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, you should follow these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

  • Wash your hands often and correctly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Watch this excellent video, share these great materials and safely use hand sanitizer 
  • Practicing Social Distancing is the most effective measure for preventing the spread. Please refer to question number 10 for recommendations and guidelines.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands with soap and running water after touching the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow not your hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.  Consider wearing a face covering.

See the CDC Checklist for Individuals and Families and  Get Your Home Ready - Have a plan and know what to do if someone in your household becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms

5. Should I wear a face covering?

  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • See How to Make and Wear a Cloth Face Covering for more information. 

6. What should I do if I think I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Monitor your symptoms. You can monitor your health by taking your temperature two times per day and watching for cough or shortness of breath. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, follow instructions listed above under question 7. If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, the Health Department will notify you. Please refer to the Isolation vs self-quarantine guidance to practice the proper precautions if you think you might have been exposed.

 7. What should I do if I get symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) and cough or shortness of breath?

If you develop symptoms:

  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
  • Remain at home and away from others in your household. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Call your physician and describe your symptoms. Do not go directly to their office or to an emergency department/urgent care center without calling first. If you feel you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately and let them know your symptoms.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands with soap and running water after touching the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • If you are sick wear a facemask if available or a face covering. During a public health emergency, facemasks may be reserved for healthcare workers. (See Question #5)
  • Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick (CDC)
  • 10 things you can do to manage your health at home (CDC)

8. When can Essential Employees return to work after they have been infected with or exposed to COVID-19?  

 9. Who should be tested for COVID-19?

Cortland County residents are encouraged to get tested if they can answer yes to either of the following questions:

  1. Have you had a recent onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath, or body aches?
  2. Have you been in close contact with a person confirmed positive with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?

Due to New York State expanding COVID-19 diagnostic testing capacity. Beginning July 1st, testing is available to ANYONE, regardless of symptoms or contacts. 

It is our recommendation that all people who are tested for any reason consider themselves under quarantine until the test results come back.  For those people who are already quarantined but are getting tested, they are to follow their quarantine guidance as provided by the CCHD and the NYS Contact Tracing Team.  

10. What are social distancing recommendations and guidelines?  

  • Staying home will save lives and protects our community.
  • Stay home as much as possible. Use home delivery services and online shopping services offered by grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services. If for some reason you must go out, then wear a face covering and keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others.
  • Do not gather with people who live outside your home.
  • Don’t go to stores or other public spaces for fun or because you are bored.
  • See New York FORWARD

12. Who is at highest risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?

According to limited research, older adults, people who have chronic medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes and lung disease), and people who are immunosuppressed are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

13. Can I get a COVID-19 test from the Cortland County Health Department?

No. The Cortland County Health Department does not have the ability to test for COVID-19. Testing is ordered through Health Care Providers in the community.

14. How do I get tested for COVID-19 if I am a Cortland County Resident?

Cortland County residents who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms need to call their doctor, who will coordinate any necessary testing. If you are instructed by a medical professional to get tested, follow their instructions for a sample collection and then go directly to your home and DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME, and isolate yourself from your household to the extent possible until you receive results from your provider. For people who don’t have a primary-care physician, they can call Guthrie Cortland Medical Central at (607) 299-7676, Upstate Medical University at (315) 464-3979 or Cayuga’s Call Center at (607) 319-5708.

Please also visit the COVID-19 Testing Next Steps Documents.

15. Is there a drive-through testing location in Cortland County?

Drive-thru testing will be available at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, beginning Tuesday, April 28, Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm and Saturday from 8am-2pm. Testing is available at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, 143 Homer Ave., Cortland, NY 13045.  Those exhibiting symptoms or who feel they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call Guthrie at (607) 299-7676 to be screened and pre-registered. Patients will then receive an appointment for testing. 

There are two drive-through testing locations available for Cortland County Residents in Onondaga County or Tompkins County. In order to utilize these testing sites you need to call either Upstate Medical University at (315) 464-3979  for Onondaga County’s drive through testing location or Cayuga’s Call Center at (607) 319-5708 for Tompkins County’s drive-through testing location for their specific criteria and guidelines.

16. Do I call the Cortland County Health Department for my COVID-19 test results?

No. The provider who orders the test will be the one who contacts you with the results. It could take up a week or more to get these results. Follow discharge instructions from your healthcare provider.

17. Can I test for COVID-19 at home? What about buying a test online?

There are currently no over-the-counter tests for COVID-19 approved by the FDA. Tests in NYS have to be authorized by a health care provider (physician, PA, NP) and sent to a lab that is authorized to perform COVID-19 testing by the FDA. The FDA has a consumer hotline for general information and complaints about fraudulent COVID-19 products at 1-888-INFO-FDA.

18. Is there a vaccine or treatment?

There is currently no vaccine and no specific treatment for this disease.  People infected with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. The best medical advice for you comes from your physician.

FRAUD ALERT: If you get an email, phone call, offer by mail or other solicitation for COVID-19 tests or treatment, hang up and ignore them.

19. What cleaning products should I use?

Community members can practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks) with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product. See CDC’s Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for more information.

20. What is a Person Under Investigation (PUI)?

PUI is a person that has met specific criteria set by the CDC and is being monitored for disease. 

21. What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

First, both Isolation and Quarantine are similar in that they are both imposed to limit the spread of communicable disease. The differences are as follows.

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

22. What happens if a COVID-19 test comes back positive?

The individual who has a confirmed positive COVID-19 test will be put on Mandatory Isolation Order by the Cortland County Health Department. This person may or may not have symptoms, but is presumed to be contagious. The individual remains in isolation (away from others) until a medical professional releases them from isolation and the person is no longer contagious. A contact investigation begins to determine who may have been exposed.

23. What is a contact investigation?

A contact investigation is the process of identifying anyone who may have come into contact with the individual who tested positive for COVID-19. An individual who is a confirmed case (test results are positive for COVID-19) is interviewed by a public health nurse about places they have been, and asked to list people who may have been in close contact. Close contact is within about six feet of someone with COVID-19 for a long period of time or direct contact with infectious secretions of an individual, via cough, sneeze, or speaking. The contacts are notified that they may have been exposed in a location with an individual who is positive for COVID-19.

24. Will the public be informed about specific individuals who have tested positive?

No. To protect the privacy of the individual, the Cortland County Health Department cannot release identifying information. Anyone who may have been exposed to the confirmed case will be directly contacted by a public health nurse as part of the contact investigation. If the confirmed case was at a large gathering or public location, a public notice would be sent out with directions about who to contact, via press releases, social media, and other channels to assure as wide a distribution as possible. The Health Department will continue to alert the community on the number of positive cases in Cortland County.

25. Who can I talk to if I feel that a business is not following the required and recommended guidelines for employees and patrons?

For business complaints, you may reach out to the Cortland County COVID-19 hotline @ 607-756-3415 or the Office of the Attorney General: Labor Bureau @ 212-416-8694.

26. What does "individuals currently being monitored" mean?

Those who are currently being monitored by the Cortland County Health Department fall into the following categories: 

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are still being Isolated.
  • People who have been in close-contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are being Quarantined.
  • Those who have recently traveled to a high-risk COVID-19 Country or State.

27. Where can I find information about COVID-19 and Pregnancy?

See Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Pregnancy

28. Where can I find information about COVID-19 and Animals?

See Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Animals

29. Where can I find community resources?

A variety of Community Resources in Cortland County to help you deal with the COVID-19 situation. 

30. What is the Health Department doing?

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and the Cortland County Health Department (CCHD) will continue to implement guidance from the New York State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CCHD is working closely with Cortland County Administration, elected officials, and community partners including school districts, SUNY Cortland, Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, Cayuga Medical Center, and other healthcare providers.

Public Health Nurses are monitoring individuals on mandatory isolation and mandatory quarantine as required.

Current status: CCHD will update numbers every afternoon on the Health Department website and Social Media Pages regarding current positives, total positives to date, recovered cases, and individuals currently being monitored, negative results reported by providers to date, current hospitalizations and hospitalizations to date. This is located at the top of the CCHD homepage.

31. Why are test results taking so long to come back?

The first step in the process of being tested for COVID-19 is having a sample collected. That sample is then being sent out to the laboratory contracted by the provider. Local Hospital laboratories do not have the ability to analyze these specimens on site. Depending on the laboratory, volume of tests being sent in and high priority situations, receiving testing results can range anywhere from 2-14 days.

32. Why are the NYSDOH website numbers different than the County Numbers?

There are a few reasons for this. NYSDOH is a few days behind in reporting the numbers. It takes time for the information to be updated in their system. Not all testing sites have reported results to the state data base. The NYSDOH also reports numbers by most recent documentation of the individual’s residency, which may not reflect where the individual was living while infected.

33. Where can I find information about applying for the New Paid Family Sick Leave for COVID-19?

New York employees will forgo their paid sick leave benefits from New York’s COVID-19 paid sick leave law if they engage in non-essential travel to high risk states (listed above). High risk states are any state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

This provision does not apply if the employee travels for work or at the employer’s request. The provision included in Executive Order 202.45 mirrors the law’s existing provision that makes New Yorkers ineligible for paid sick leave if they travel to any country designated as having a level two or three travel health notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

34. Should I be wearing a mask when I go out in public?

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends we all wear face masks when going about essential tasks in public.
  • According to the CDC, cloth masks can help prevent people who have the virus but may not be showing any symptoms from spreading it by containing the respiratory droplets that we all expel when we talk, cough, or sneeze.
  • Change your mask daily or when soiled and clean it after use.
  • For more information,…/prevent…/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

34. As an essential employee do I have to wear mask?

For all essential businesses or entities, any employees who are present in the workplace shall be provided and shall wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings for their employees. For more information,  

35. Can essential employees return to work if they have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 or tested positive themselves?

Yes. There are certain conditions that allow an essential employee to return to work after exposure or illness. Please refer to the Protocols for Essential Personnel to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection for specific guidance regarding each situation.

36. Where can I find information about business re-openings?

The health department does not have information regarding specific dates relating to businesses re-opening. If you visit the Cortland County Website,, there are resources for business owners on that page or you can call Cortland County COVID-19 hotline at (607) 756-3415,  8:30 AM - 4 PM Daily. Reopening depends on the whole region, not just individual counties, so the dates may still be unclear to them as well. For more, information, visit .

37. Where can businesses find out what steps they will need to take for re-opening?

NY State has created a lookup tool that allows businesses to find their specific industry in their county/region and have detailed, information about reopening including the screening of employees and other health guidelines. To use this tool, visit

38. What is NYS Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is the process of contacting all people who’ve had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Contact Tracers have been hired and trained to work with state-of-the-art software to gather information on the spread of the infection. All information collected by a tracer will be strictly confidential and treated as a private medical record. Contract tracing is also the same process as the "contact investigation" mentioned in question number 24. For more information, visit

39. What should I expect if I get a call from the NYS Contact Tracing?

Your caller ID will say “NYS Contact Tracing(518-387-9993). Please answer the phone so we can keep NY moving forward and stop the spread of COVID-19. A contact tracer will NEVER ask for your Social Security Number or private financial information (like a credit card number). All information collected by a tracer will be strictly confidential and treated as a private medical record.

People who have come in close contact with someone who is positive are asked to stay home and limit their contact with others. By staying home during this time, If you become sick yourself, you have not infected many others along the way. This is how we stop the spread!

40. Where can I find information about current Travel Advisories?

You can visit,  to learn about current travel advisories. For more information please visit 2020 Travel Guidelines and NYS COVID-19 Travel FAQs.

41. How can businesses help with contact tracing for COVID-19 cases?

Keep an employee roster handy! If a worker tests positive for COVID-19, supply the Cortland County Health Department with a copy to make contact tracing and reaching out to staff to encourage testing more efficient.

42. Do the "Current Positive" cases reported on the daily COVID-19 Update include both lab-confirmed test results and positive antibody tests?  

No. The "Current Positives" only include lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive test results. The number does not include results from antibody testing.

43. If a student that attends a college in Cortland County tests positive for COVID-19, will their tests be reported to their home County or will they be reported as a Cortland County result?

A student's test result will be reported to the County they are currently residing in, meaning if a student is attending college and living in Cortland County, they will be reported as a Cortland County Positive and Monitored by the Cortland County Health Department.