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

Please check this page often for updated information. 

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

1. What is SARs-CoV-2 (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people can become severely ill. Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions. Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience more than four weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

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

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

3. How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:

  • Breathing in the air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
  • Having these small droplets and particles that contain viruses land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
  • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.

Visit the CDC How COVID-19 Spreads page to learn how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect yourself.

4. How can I help protect myself?

The best way to prevent infection is by getting vaccinated. Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. CDC has updated guidance for fully vaccinated people based on new evidence on the Delta variant. To find vaccines near you, click

Following these everyday actions can also 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 - 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 Use Masks to Help Slow Spread of Covid-19 for more information. 
    • 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.
    • Please also see the CDC's updated guidance for fully vaccinated people

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 the 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. 

 7. What should I do if I get symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever (100°F/38.7°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)

 8. 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?

It is our recommendation that all people who are tested due to having symptoms 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.  

9. 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 Active Industry Guidance

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

11. 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 and pharmacies in the community. To find a testing location near you, click NYS Testing Near You.

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

For people who don’t have a primary-care physician:

  • Guthrie Cortland Walk-In Care (4077 West Road in Cortland). To schedule an appointment, call (607) 299-7676.
  • Upstate Medical University Water Street Drive Through Site (800 Water Street, Syracuse, 13210). To schedule an appointment, call 315-464-2778, press 0, and follow the prompts.
  • Cayuga Health Sampling Sites Register at or call (607) 319-5708.
  • Or Visit, Find a Test Site Near You

13. 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 to a week or more to get these results. Follow discharge instructions from your healthcare provider.

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

There are currently over-the-counter tests for COVID-19 approved by the FDA. The FDA has a consumer hotline for general information and complaints about fraudulent COVID-19 products at 1-888-INFO-FDA. For more information, visit CDC Self Testing.

15. Is there a vaccine?

Currently, there are three vaccines that have been approved for use through a EUA.

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.

16. 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 Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Ventilation page for more information.

17. 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 the disease. 

18. What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

First, Isolation and Quarantine are similar in that they are both imposed to limit the spread of communicable diseases. 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.

19. 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 the Heath Department releases them from isolation and the person is no longer contagious. A contact investigation begins to determine who may have been exposed.

20. What is a contact investigation or Contact Tracing?

A contact investigation is a 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 staff member about places they have been and asked to list people who may have been in close contact. Close contact is within about six feet for longer than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period 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. For more information, visit

21. 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!

22. 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 staff member as part of the contact investigation. The Health Department will continue to alert the community on the number of positive cases in Cortland County.

23. 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 within Cortland County.
  • People who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are being Quarantined within Cortland County.

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

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

See Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Animals

26. 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 Staff are monitoring individuals on mandatory isolation and mandatory quarantine as required.

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

27. Where can I find information about current Travel Advisories for NYS?

As of June 25, 2021, the New York State Travel Advisory is no longer in effect.  As such, travelers arriving in New York are no longer required to submit traveler health forms.

All travelers, domestic and international, should continue to follow all CDC travel requirements.

28. 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.

29. Are SUNY Cortland students be reported in the Daily COVID-19 Report?

CCHD numbers grid represents all people currently residing in Cortland County who are in isolation (positive test results) and in quarantine (contacts to a positive case). 

• These numbers include SUNY Cortland students who complete their isolation or quarantine in Cortland County and therefore will be monitored by CCHD

CCHD continues to complete case investigations and identification of contacts as we have throughout the pandemic.  

• SUNY Cortland students who test positive but go home to complete their isolation and students who were named as a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case but go home to complete their quarantine will not be counted in the CCHD daily grid, as their home county will complete the monitoring.  

The SUNY Cortland dashboard will include all SUNY students-those staying in Cortland both on-campus and off-campus and those who go home to isolate or quarantine. 

SUNY Cortland’s dashboard will look different from the Cortland County grid for this reason. To view SUNY Cortland’s dashboard click on the link:

30. What does "current positives" mean on the Daily Grid?

Current Positives include individuals who tested positive and are currently under a public health order for mandatory isolation in Cortland County.

31. What does "Recovered Cases" mean on the Daily Grid?

Recovered Cases include the number of positive cases who completed mandatory isolation in Cortland County and have been released.

32. What does "Hospitalizations" mean on the Daily Grid?

CCHD monitors all Cortland County community residents who are in isolation and/or quarantine.  This includes those who are hospitalized for their illness even if not hospitalized in Cortland County.  Many local residents utilize hospitals in Binghamton, Syracuse, or Ithaca as well as Guthrie Cortland.  

33. What should I do if I have been fully Vaccinated but was exposed to COVID-19?

If you’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

Please visit Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People and CDC's Summary of Recent Changes for Fully Vaccinated People to learn more.

34.  Where can I find guidance related to K-12 school updates?

School districts are responsible for their own district COVID planning.  Please contact your school for any questions.

35. Where can I find information about COVID-19 Variants?

This NYS website focuses on COVID-19 variants, providing public information on how we track variants, why we track variants, and updated data.

36. What is a "breakthrough case"?

Some people, who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will still get sick because no vaccine is 100% effective—these are called breakthrough cases.  COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and death. Most people who get COVID-19 are unvaccinated. However, since vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection, some people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19.  An infection of a fully vaccinated person is referred to as a “vaccine breakthrough infection.”

37 Where can I find information about "breakthrough cases" in New York State?

A NYS website that includes the COVID-19 Breakthrough Data Report, which displays COVID-19 breakthrough cases, hospitalizations, and in-depth data over time.

38.  Why are booster doses needed?

COVID-19 vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, with the Delta variant, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against infection and mild disease. With a booster shot, vaccinated people maintain protection for an extended period of time.

39. Who is eleigible for a booster dose?

Following careful review by the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the FDA, the CDC endorsed the recommendation of a booster shot for those whose second dose of Pfizer or Moderna was at least 6 months ago, or whose Johnson & Johnson (J+J) vaccine was at least 2 months ago.

Pfizer or Moderna:

The following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series:

  • Age 65 years or older, OR
  • Age 18+ years and a resident of a long-term care facility OR
  • Age 18+ years with one or more underlying conditions
  • Age 18+ years and live or work in a high risk setting, including but not limited to the following:
    • Healthcare workers and first responders
    • Individuals who work in long-term care facilities and nursing homes
    • Education staff, including teachers, support staff, daycare workers
    • Individuals who live in certain settings, including health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters
    • Food and agricultural workers
    • Grocery store workers
    • Public transit workers

Johnson & Johnson (Janssen):

You are eligible for a booster if you got your J+J shot 2 or more months ago and are:

  • Age 18+ years old

40.  Does my booster have to be the same COVID-19 vaccine I got first?

No. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of “mix and match” dosing for booster shots.

41.  Where can I get a booster dose? 

If you are eligible to receive a booster dose, contact your health care provider or your local pharmacy.  You can visit to find locations near you.

42. Where can I find more information about 3rd dose and booster doses?

NYSDOH: Booster Doses: What You Need to Know

NYSDOH: Booster doses vs. additional doses 

CDC press release on expanding eligibility to include Moderna and J+J (10/21/21)

CDC: Who is eligible for a booster shot? (May not yet be updated to include Moderna and J+J)

CDC: People with certain medical conditions

CDC Third dose information page

43. How are PreK-12 contact tracing and close contacts determined?

There are many variables when making the decision to quarantine students and staff following potential COVID-19 exposures in school settings. During contact tracing (case investigation) we will make every effort to determine who was a close contact in a school setting following a confirmed positive COVID-19 case and outlines contact tracing and quarantine procedure.

When a positive case is identified in school, contact tracing begins with the case to identify who was exposed and therefore is now considered for quarantine.  Masks must be consistently and correctly worn to be effective.

A student may be quarantined if

  • In a classroom setting
    • Students were unmasked (or if the mask is not consistently or correctly worn) and in close contact (within 3 to 6 feet of the infected student for a total of 15 minutes or more). 
    • There is no reliable information about mask-wearing or distancing.
    • Exception: student is fully vaccinated and does not have any symptoms
  • In a non-classroom indoor setting, students were
    • Within 6 feet for over 15 minutes, regardless of mask-wearing
  • In a school setting outside of a classroom (cafeteria, gym class, etc.) students were
    • Lunch in a cafeteria setting: Within 6 feet of infected student for 15 minutes or more (this setting assumes masks are not consistently worn)
    • Gym (includes changing rooms): Within 6 feet for 15 or more minutes and not properly masked, unless fully vaccinated and asymptomatic
    • Transport: Within 6 feet of the COVID-19 positive case for 15+ minutes. If there is no reliable information about mask-wearing, then everyone may be considered for quarantine.
  • During outdoor sports and recess
    • The risk of exposure is minimized when outdoors, and close contacts will be identified on a case-to-case basis.

Contact Tracing Protocol:

  • CCHD Case Investigator will request lists from the school focal point (principal or super in coordination with the school nurse) with the following information regarding all close contacts
    • Legal name, address, and contact phone number
    • Date of Birth (DOB)
    • Parent/guardian name of student
    • Vaccination status
    • Last date of exposure to the positive
  • The Case Investigator will enter the information and send it to the Virtual Call Center who will place them in quarantine within 24 hours, usually within the same day.

Reference Documents: 

decision tree 1

decision tree 2