Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus FAQ
Here is what you need to know about the coronavirus


Who can I call with questions or for help?

Questions about the coronavirus? Need help? Hartford HealthCare’s COVID-19 Clinical Command Center hotline, staffed by healthcare professionals, is now available to the community.

To reach the 24-hour hotline, call 860.972.8100 or (toll-free) 833.621.0600.

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What is the Wuhan coronavirus?

The respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province in central China, has been identified as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Scientists are still trying to determine its origins. Early reports pointed to a possible animal-to-person transmission, perhaps from a market that sold seafood and live animals. The Chinese government closed the market Jan. 1.


What is coronavirus?

It’s a large collection of viruses that can cause something as mild as the common cold but is better known in recent years for outbreaks of two far more serious diseases, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The 2003 SARS epidemic in China, believed to have started with small mammals, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths. SARS symptoms resemble the flu, with fever, sore throat, breathing difficulties, body aches and diarrhea. No SARS cases have been reported since 2004.

But MERS, a new coronavirus, emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 with symptoms similar to SARS. It has since spread to other countries, including the United States. This disease is characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath.


How many cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been reported in the U.S.?

For the most up-to-date numbers, view our Coronavirus Dashboard or the visit the CDC website.


What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms, according to the CDC, include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people have shown no symptoms. But the virus can cause serious illness and even death.


How is it diagnosed?

Blood tests and laboratory tests on respiratory specimens can identify coronaviruses. Initially, all samples in the U.S. were sent to the CDC for testing, but a Food and Drug Administration expedited approval now allows the use of state health labs.


Why is it called coronavirus?

Under an electron microscope, the virus looks like the sun’s corona — the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere.


How contagious is the Wuhan coronavirus?

It’s possible to get the coronavirus by coming in close contact with an infected person — defined by the CDC as about 6 feet or in the same room — for an extended period or direct contact with infectious secretions.


How can people avoid coronavirus?

Take the same precautions as you would during flu season. The best way to prevent the spread this new virus, said Dr. Bieluch, is to cover your cough, stay home when you’re sick and avoid being within six feet of others who might be sick.


Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?

No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Read more mythbusters from the World Health Organization.


Who is most vulnerable to the Wuhan coronavirus?

People with weaker immune systems, such as older adults and young children.


Where was the first reported case in the United States?

The CDC confirmed the first case Jan. 21 after a Washington state man in his 30s reported symptoms after returning from a trip to the Wuhan region. He returned Jan. 15, two days before passenger screening at three major U.S. airports.


Is there a vaccine that can prevent people from getting the coronavirus?

No, but officials with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease hope for a quick turnaround by drugmakers because Chinese scientists sequenced the virus’ genome — its hereditary information — so quickly. The first clinical trial in the United States, a University of Nebraska Medical Center evaluation of the antiviral drug remdesivir in adults diagnosed with coronavirus, was confirmed Feb. 25 by the National Institutes of Health.


Is the Wuhan coronavirus considered as severe as SARS and MERS?

No, at least not yet. About 2 percent of people with the Wuhan coronavirus have died (compared with 10 percent with SARs and 35 percent with MERS). Most of the people who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus were older (over 60), had other illnesses and were not hospitalized until the advanced stages of their illness.


How does coronavirus compare with the flu?

With at least 29 million cases, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths in the U.S. during the current season, according to the CDC, flu sounds like much more of a health risk. It’s the coronavirus’ uncertainty, and lack of a vaccine, that concerns public health officials. But the coronavirus death rate is up to 10 times higher, with no predictable beginning and end to the season, like flu.

Because of similarities in symptoms, travel screenings conducted at Hartford HealthCare facilities can help determine the difference between these viruses.


What are the current travel restrictions because of the coronavirus?

The CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. It also recommends older adults with chronic medical conditions consider delaying travel to Japan.

Follow the latest travel guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Are there visitor restrictions or closings at any of Hartford HealthCare facilities?

Yes. Hartford HealthCare has canceled community education classes, elective surgeries, volunteer activities, and other programs. In addition, visitor restrictions are in place, and the number of entrances to its hospital facilities have been reduced.

Learn more about visitor restrictions and closings.


Are patients and visitors screened before entering Hartford HealthCare facilities?

All patients and visitors coming through the main entrance to our facilities will be subject to a screening protocol. This protocol is updated frequently. Some of the questions you may be asked prior to hospital entry are:

  • Have you traveled recently and where did you travel? Have you been on a cruise ship in the last 14 days?
  • Do you have, or have had over the last 48 hours, symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, or cough?
  • Have you had exposure in the last 14 days to anyone with flu-like symptoms, i.e. fever, shortness of breath, coughs or recently been quarantined or treated for COVID-19?
  • Are you under the age of 18?
  • Patients will also have their temperature taken.*

*If screeners determine that a visitor is a potential health risk, that person will not be allowed to visit the hospital and will be asked to consult their personal health provider for further guidance.


Does Hartford HealthCare offer drive-through testing?

Yes, Hartford HealthCare now offers drive-through testing for COVID-19. In order for patients to be tested they must have a referral from a provider through Hartford HealthCare Medical Group or an order through a virtual health visit done by a physician at the Hartford HealthCare’s Clinical Command Center (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600).

Learn more about drive-through testing, including locations and times.


What if I have a doctor's appointment?

If you have an upcoming doctor's appointment at one of Hartford HealthCare Medical Group's doctor offices or clinics, please follow these safety rules designed to protect patients, staff and guests. Download the safety rules.


What if I'm pregnant?

This is an unusual time in health care and we are committed to doing everything in our power to keep you and your baby safe.

Read our maternity FAQs.

Not feeling well?

Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care doctor.