At UC Davis Health, the safety of our patients, visitors, employees and the community is our top priority at all times. We are rigorously monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Taking care of individuals with complex illnesses such as an infectious disease, like novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is nothing new for our care teams – we do it every day. Our teams are trained and equipped to treat patients with symptoms of novel coronavirus and any others with a potential contagious disease.

UC Davis infectious disease teams are in constant communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Public Health, and Sacramento County Public Health about managing potential cases. We are taking all the steps necessary to ensure the safety of everyone within our medical center and other UC Davis Health clinics and facilities.

Find out how we’re working to protect your safety — and how you can help

Coronavirus basics

The novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, is part of a family of viruses that our care teams are very familiar with. Coronavirus cause respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, and more serious infections like SARS. Symptoms start out like any other cold: fever, runny nose, cough and overall just feeling bad. It can progress and cause more severe illness like pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • fever
  • dry coughs
  • shortness of breath associated with respiratory illness
  • chills
  • repeated shaking with chills
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • diarrhea

Sinus congestion or pain, nausea or vomiting are unlikely to be associated with COVID-19. Call your primary care provider if you experience symptoms and believe you have been in close contact with a person known to have novel coronavirus.

We don’t really know what the presence of antibodies means. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re immune to the coronavirus. Antibody blood tests, also called antibody tests, may show if you had a previous infection with the virus and could mean you potentially are immune. However, medical science has yet to determine what level of antibodies confirm immunity, if immunity is possible, or how long immunity might last. The virus that causes COVID-19 was only discovered in December 2019. The result of a positive antibody test means nothing given the current gaps in knowledge about COVID-19. Until there is more definitive information, we should assume, even with positive antibodies, that a person may still be susceptible to the coronavirus.

Clinical pathologists, infectious disease physicians and scientists at UC Davis Health are collaborating on new reagents (substances used for chemical analysis) and diagnostic tests for COVID-19 that can be done in-house. The health system’s Clinical Laboratory began doing its own COVID-19 tests in March. The diagnostic laboratory team started using a new, high-capacity robotic testing instrument in early April. This commercial device has the ability to perform more than 1,000 tests for the novel coronavirus per day. In two months, UC Davis Health has performed more than 10,000 molecular tests. Learn more about our COVID-19 testing process here and how the test is conducted.

UC Davis Children’s Hospital, which is part of the Pediatric Emergency Research Networks, is one of the sites for a global study about COVID-19 in children. Pediatric experts are focusing on the risk factors that may lead to more serious forms of the disease, including a condition the CDC is now calling “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

This form of COVID-19 has been compared to toxic shock syndrome and to a very uncommon childhood illness called Kawasaki disease. It was described as “Kawasaki-like” in a recent article in the journal The Lancet. Physicians say the new syndrome seems to affect the heart more frequently than typical Kawasaki disease and has been identified mainly in school-aged children rather than infants or toddlers.

Fortunately, our children’s hospital has only seen a few pediatric COVID-19 cases. None of them have been as severe as what other parts of the country and world have seen.

Coronavirus transmission

Evidence shows coronavirus is most often transmitted through droplets generated by coughs and sneezes, and by contact with contaminated surfaces. Part of the idea of social distancing is that droplets can generally carry for 5 to 6 feet. If you’re farther than that, your chances of getting the virus are generally lower.

COVID-19 may also be transmitted when people touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their face, nose or mouth. Coronavirus may persist on surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, cardboard and fabrics for a few hours or up to several days, according to a March 17 report in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from an inanimate surface appears to be low and the virus appears to be killed with standard cleaning methods. Transmission of the virus via surfaces is less likely than contact-droplet, but it can occur.

Rigorous hand hygiene, optimal house cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces help guard against surface contamination and transmission.

Based on the evidence from China, asymptomatic transmission may occur and has contributed to a limited amount of COVID-19 infections. People can shed the virus before they have symptoms, but this is generally less than individuals with symptoms. According to the CDC, “the potential for pre-symptomatic transmission underscores the importance of social distancing, including the avoidance of congregate settings, to reduce COVID-19 spread.”

Mostly likely, yes. Compared to adults, fewer children have become infected with coronavirus, and most who did become infected generally suffered mild symptoms. Worldwide, children younger than 10 years old make up only 1% of COVID-19 cases. But several studies, according to research from China and other countries, offer evidence that children can transmit the virus. We know a good amount of transmission has occurred through close household contact, which likely includes children. Our understanding of the disease is still limited, as the virus was only discovered in December 2019, but we can’t ignore the role of children in spreading the virus. We should not assume that just because a child is relatively asymptomatic doesn’t mean they can’t spread coronavirus.

There’s no evidence that dogs and cats can transfer COVID-19 back to people. We know that coronavirus infections of dogs and cats can occur and that they can shed virus. However, it may be that dogs and cats can become infected, but they can’t shed enough virus or shed the virus in a way that it can be transmitted to other animals. Overwhelmingly, COVID-19 transmission is driven by person-to-person contact, which presents a much greater risk than holding a dog or cat.

There’s no evidence that shows COVID-19 can be transmitted in open water, like swimming pools. It also hasn’t been proven that a specific amount chlorine in a pool can eliminate coronavirus. However, pools are typically large, and the amount of viable virus that someone would come in contact with would likely be very low. Most public pools are heavily chlorinated specifically to kill viruses and bacteria that may be in the water.

If you’re in a pool, the same principles of social distancing apply as when you’re out of the pool. For extra safety, check to see if the pool facility has any requirements for swimmers, like health screenings. Of course, there’s always the risk that even if COVID-19 isn’t transmitted in the water, you can catch the virus before getting in the pool – from touching a door handle or chair arm. In this age of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no perfect way to know if something is 100% safe. Use common sense and good judgement while experts continue to advance their understanding of COVID-19 and its transmission.

Coronavirus prevention

California’s public health officials released guidance on April 1 on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against COVID-19 for Californians who must leave their homes to conduct essential activities. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the guidance does not require people to wear face coverings – and is not a substitute for the state’s current guidance regarding social distancing and hand washing. The state also does not recommend Californians use N95 or surgical masks, which are needed for health care workers and first responders.

According to CDPH, “The use of cloth face coverings in public could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by people who do not have symptoms. A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts or towels. However, public health officials also caution that the use of face coverings may increase some level of risk if users reduce their use of well-established defenses against the virus such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing."

The best ways to limit exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses is to practice good hand hygiene, avoid touching your face, and socially distance yourself from others. If you have an underlying medical condition, for which masking is necessary independent of COVID-19, you should continue to do so.

Get directions to make low-cost face masks for yourself and your family.

Video: U.S. Surgeon General shows you how to make face masks from items around your house

The most important thing is to pick materials you can breathe through. Currently, there is no recommendation for the most effective cloth for homemade masks. There are still a lot of unknowns about how droplets pass through cloth materials. Best practice is to look for fabrics that are very densely woven or knitted and have fibers that are packed together with smaller pores. This is where the difficult balance comes in. Fabrics that are easier to breathe through don’t block as much of the large droplets. Homemade masks don’t prevent transmission but can reduce the quantity and size of COVID-19 droplets you’re exposed to. Another important element for cloth face masks is that they can and should be washed regularly (daily or multiple times per week). Cloth face coverings should hold up well through repeated washing and wearing.

Currently, there isn’t a study that shows increased protection from COVID-19 while wearing disposable gloves. Human hands have a lot of microbial, built-in defenses in the skin. COVID-19 can largely survive longer on gloves than it would on hands. The virus isn’t going to infect you through your hands, but rather because you touch your face, which can also happen while wearing gloves. In certain circumstances, wearing gloves is advised. For example, if you’re in contact with a surface that is likely infected, you can wear gloves and then take them off when you’re done. If you have problems with hand hygiene, like skin irritation from repeated washing, then wearing gloves (and changing to new ones often) is reasonable.

Don’t rely on gloves as a barrier to coronavirus, as your hands are probably more resistant to the virus than the gloves are. What’s most important is hand hygiene and not using your hands (gloved or not) to spread virus to your mouth, nose, eyes or ears.

You can reuse gloves – although they are inexpensive, and it’s recommended to use a new pair each time. However, the virus doesn’t last forever on a surface. After 7 days, the chance of the virus infecting you is very low. You can sanitize gloves with alcohol or wash them with soap and water.

The best way for people to protect themselves is to not be around sick people. Much is unknown about how the novel coronavirus spreads. However, coronaviruses typically are spread from person-to-person when in close contact (about 6 feet).

The best way to protect your health is by practicing preventive measures, such as:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, and certainly after sneezing or before/after touching your face or a sick person. Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay away from work and other people if you become sick with any respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. People who are sick should be in a room, with the door closed, to help prevent spreading the disease to other people.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. If you are coughing and sneezing, isolate yourself away from others.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work and in your car.
  • Do not travel or go out into public while sick.
  • Practice healthy habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Your health and medical care

If you are sick with any kind of infectious disease, you should isolate yourself away from others, and take steps to avoid sharing the disease with other people or pets.

If you need to go to the hospital because you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or get to a hospital immediately. If you have symptoms that are difficult to manage, but not that serious, call your primary care provider or seek urgent care.

If you have symptoms that seem like a common cold, but aren’t that serious, isolate yourself, treat it at home, and try not to share the infection with others.

Note: Some people are considered at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Some of these groups include people over age 65, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, or cancer treatment. The CDC currently advises higher-risk groups to:

  • Consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  • Have a plan for if you get sick, and
  • Call your health care provider if you do get sick

The CDC also posts specific information about pregnant  women.

If your symptoms or your medical condition are serious enough that you need medical assistance in managing your condition, then you should call your doctor, health care provider, advice nurse, or other health care professional. 

Note: Some people are considered at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Some of these groups include people over age 65, and also people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, or cancer treatment. The CDC currently advises higher-risk groups to:

  • Consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  • Have a plan for if you get sick, and
  • Call your health care provider if you do get sick

The CDC also posts specific information about pregnant people.

Learn how to make your appointment a video visit.

Don't delay care. A message from the UC Davis Department of Emergency Medicine

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Yes, please don't delay care. As in any hospital, there are many infection control and management measures in place at all times. We manage infectious disease, like novel coronavirus, every day in the hospital. We are here to care for everyone and to make sure everyone gets excellent care.

Visitors at UC Davis Medical Center:
Currently, we are limiting visitors within UC Davis Medical Center in order to help keep the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) out of the hospital. All patients may have one visitor who must remain in the patient room while visiting. Visitors must have no signs of illness and not have a recently confirmed case of COVID-19. Read more about our visitor restrictions.

To help support social distancing, we are asking all patients to consider replacing in-person appointments with video appointments through the MyUCDavisHealth app, both for flu-like symptoms and regular topics of concern. These could include your visits pre- and post-procedure.

We are screening new appointment requests to identify patients with cold/flu-like symptoms and converting those to video visits whenever possible. If your appointment for care can wait, we may ask you to reschedule to a future date when it’s safer to see you in person.

We are asking about cold/flu-like symptoms in our appointment reminders, so we can switch to a video visit or make special arrangements to receive patients with symptoms.

To limit the spread of coronavirus, we are limiting the number of caregivers who can accompany patients during appointments at our clinic and medical office locations. Learn more about our caregiver policy for outpatient clinics.

When people do visit us in person, we’re asking everyone questions as they enter the building. We’re screening for symptoms at entrances to all of our clinical locations, including our hospital, our outpatient centers, and our medical offices.

We are asking patients with symptoms of sickness to wear a mask in order to protect others. Care staff who assist these patients also wear protective equipment and use special procedures when needed to limit contact with other staff and patients (but not always – our infectious disease experts advise us when it’s necessary).

Read more about how we’re working to protect your safety — and how you can help

Our care teams are handling novel coronavirus cases in much the same way we manage other diseases that require safety precautions and monitoring. We are in constant communication with the CDC, California Department of Public Health and Sacramento County Public Health about managing potential cases.

The information we receive includes best clinical practices for enabling clinicians, as well as patients and the public, to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Every person entering our care facilities is screened daily and required to report whether they have, or have recently experienced, specific kinds of symptoms. This is one of many ways we are making sure our health care workers are well and ready to carefully care for you.

Any employee with illness symptoms is expected to stay home until they are no longer contagious. It is in everyone’s interest to keep our workforce as safe and healthy as our patients.