Answers to your most frequently asked questions about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) 



The CDC is your best resource for COVID-19

The COVID-19 situation continues to quickly evolve. Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the latest information on COVID-19.

To help take care of yourself and your loved ones, below are answers to common questions about COVID-19.

If you are feeling worried or stressed about COVID-19, we’re here to help. Call the Optum Emotional Support Help Line toll-free at 1-866-342-6892. Mental health professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Prefer a mobile app? Sanvello offers on-demand help for stress, anxiety and depression. 



COVID-19 vaccine FAQ

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    • It will lower your chances of getting COVID-19 or becoming seriously sick. 
      The vaccine helps your body protect itself from COVID-19. It will also help keep you from spreading COVID-19 to others.  
    • It will help keep you, your family and your community safe. 
      You can spread COVID-19 without feeling sick.
    • It will help stop COVID-19.
      The more people who get the vaccine, the less chance COVID-19 has to spread. We need to use all the tools we have to stop it. 
  • Yes. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. You no longer need to wait 14 days between vaccinations. 

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe. They work well at keeping people from getting COVID-19. You can read more about it on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

    The FDA follows a very strict system to make sure vaccines are safe. The FDA followed this system with all of the COVID-19 vaccines that it approved. 

    The FDA keeps collecting information about vaccines after they are approved. It watches for new information about side effects. You can find out more about COVID-19 vaccine safety on the CDC website. 

    COVID-19 vaccines are key to slowing the pandemic. Take care of yourself and others. Get the vaccine as soon as it’s offered to you.

  • You can find a vaccine near you here.

  • Testing is important to help keep COVID-19 from spreading. 

    COVID-19 tests can find: 

    • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
    • Antibodies that your body makes after you get COVID-19
    • Antibodies that your body makes after you get a COVID-19 shot

    Learn more about COVID-19 tests from the CDC.

  • Masks should be worn:

    • By people 2 years of age and older
    • Any time you are in a public setting
    • Any time you are traveling on a plane, bus, train or other form of public transportation going into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. airports and bus and train stations.
    • When you are around people who don't live with you. This includes when you are inside your home or inside someone else’s home.
    • Inside your home if someone you live with is sick with symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Keep following any mask-wearing rules based on state, local or business guidance. For more information, visit the CDC website.
  • According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19. The vaccines that the FDA has approved:

    • Don’t have the COVID-19 virus 
    • Can’t make you sick with COVID-19 

    There are other COVID-19 vaccines being developed in the United States. None of those use the live virus that causes COVID-19. 

    The goal for each vaccine is to teach the body to find and fight the COVID-19 virus. Read more about these facts and others on the CDC website.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine has been tested in clinical trials. It was only approved because it can greatly lower the chances of getting COVID-19.

    Even if you catch COVID-19, this vaccine may help keep you from getting very ill. Your body will be ready to fight the virus.

  • COVID-19 vaccines work very well at keeping people from getting COVID-19. They are especially good at keeping people from getting very sick or dying. Plus, there are many ways to keep yourself safe from COVID-19.

  • "Close contact” means you were within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

    The 15 minutes don’t need to be all at the same time. You could be near someone with COVID-19 three separate times for five minutes over the course of a day. That would total 15-minutes.

    To get the most up-to-date information about quarantine and testing, visit the CDC or your state website.

  • You’re at high risk for severe COVID-19 if you:

    • Are getting care for cancer
    • Are taking medicines for a transplant
    • Are taking immunosuppressant medicines (medicines for an overactive immune system)
    • Have long-term lung, kidney or liver disease
    • Have diabetes 
    • Have HIV 
    • Are very overweight
    • Are age 65 years or older

    The CDC has more information here.

  • If you have mild symptoms, stay home and isolate. Mild symptoms are:

    • A temperature below 100.4 degrees (for children older than 3 months, below 102.4 degrees)
    • Aches and pains
    • A mild cough

    If you have these symptoms, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Keep track of your symptoms. Hopefully, you’ll start feeling better in a few days. You don’t need to tell your doctor you have COVID-19.

    If you have moderate symptoms, call your doctor. Moderate symptoms are:

    • A temperature higher than 100.4 degrees
    • Significant coughing
    • Shortness of breath

    If you’re getting care for cancer, call your oncologist (cancer doctor).

    For children ages 3 months and older who aren’t immunocompromised, a high fever is greater than 102.4 degrees.

    Call your child’s doctor if your child:

    • Is sleepier than usual
    • Has a fever, significant coughing or shortness of breath
    • Hasn’t gone to the bathroom in more than 10 hours (if 3 years or older) or more than eight hours (if younger than 3 years old)

    Your child’s doctor can suggest next steps.

    If you or someone you know has severe symptoms, it is an emergency.

    Go to the emergency room (ER) if you have severe symptoms:

    • Severe trouble breathing
    • Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
    • New confusion or dizziness
    • The person won’t wake up or stay awake
    • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds (the skin under the nails), depending on skin tone

    If you can’t get to the ER, call 911.

  • Call your primary care provider’s office. 

    You may be able to get a COVID-19 medicine, like monoclonal antibodies (mAB). You may qualify for this medicine if:

    • You’re at high risk for severe COVID-19, and 
    • Have a positive antigen test or PCR test, and 
    • It’s been 10 days or less since you started having symptoms

    You’re at high risk if you:

    • Are getting care for cancer
    • Are taking medicines for a transplant
    • Are taking immunosuppressant medicines (medicines for an overactive immune system)
    • Have long-term lung, kidney or liver disease
    • Have diabetes 
    • Have HIV 
    • Have obesity
    • Are age 65 years or older

    The CDC has more information here.

  • Yes, you should be vaccinated even if you already had COVID-19 because:

    • Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19.
    • Vaccination helps to protect you even if you’ve already had COVID-19.

    If you were given monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma for COVID-19, wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you don’t know what you were given, talk to your doctor. For more details, visit the CDC website.

  • The short answer is "no." It won't change your genes. 

    The term, mRNA, stands for “messenger ribonucleic acid.” It’s basically directions for making a protein or a piece of a protein. 

    The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the part of the cell where our genes are kept. So the mRNA can’t change your genes. 

    Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses. It helps the body find and fight COVID-19. 

  • According to the CDC, experts are continuing to study the variants of the virus that cause COVID-19. Viruses constantly change through mutation (changes over time). New variants of a virus are expected to happen over time.

    There are multiple variants of the virus that cause COVID-19. The CDC has more information about current variants like Omicron and Delta.

    FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines help stop the virus from spreading. The vaccines also help lower the chances for virus variants to develop and spread. The CDC says that COVID-19 vaccines help keep you safe from variants. Scientists will keep studying variants to learn more.

  • The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all people age 5 years and older. This includes people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future.

    Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared to people who are not pregnant.

    Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. If you have questions, talk to your health care provider.

  • Vaccines are offered for everyone 5 years and older. The CDC has guidance for COVID-19 vaccines for specific groups of people.

    Children ages 5 to 11 years can now get Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

    Everyone ages 12 years and older who is fully vaccinated can get a booster shot.

    Moderately or severely immunocompromised people ages 12 years and older who completed their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine primary series and ages 18 years or older who completed their Moderna COVID-19 vaccine primary series should plan to get another primary dose at least 28 days after their second dose.

  • The Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for primary and booster vaccination due to the risk of serious adverse events.  

    If there is a medical reason why you should get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, then you should get:

    • A primary series of 1 dose of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
    • A booster dose at least 2 months later 

    Learn more about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are effective at helping stop infection, serious illness and death. Most people who get COVID-19 are unvaccinated. But 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 "breakthrough infection." You can learn more about breakthrough infections on the CDC website.

  • According to the CDC, while most people get over COVID-19 within weeks of illness, some people have post-COVID-19 conditions that go on four weeks or more after infection. 

    Studies show that between 27% to 33% of patients who get COVID-19 and were not hospitalized had some lasting symptoms. This happens no matter their age, prior health or severity of their infection.

    Much is still unknown. But the CDC reports these “long-haul” problems can happen in many different ways. This ranges from difficulty breathing, feeling very tired, joint pain or mood changes.

    Even more serious problems like multi-organ damage or autoimmune conditions can happen. You can find more information on the CDC website.

  • You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus and may or may not have been infected.

    You isolate when you are sick or when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.



*As of January 2022



General FAQs

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  • Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illness in both people and animals. The 2003 SARS outbreak, also known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, is a well-known coronavirus. In January of 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new coronavirus outbreak, called COVID-19, which was first detected in China. For more information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s Situation Summary page.

  • COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes. For the most updated information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website.

  • It is important to know that anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. For more information on symptoms for COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s Symptoms of Coronavirus page.

  • If you believe you may have been exposed to the virus, stay away from others.

    If you begin to experience symptoms, call your primary care provider (or local public health agency) right away to ask for guidance prior to making an in-person visit. This will help limit exposure to the general public. For more information on what to do if you think you are sick with COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick page.

  • Use this online tool to find out if you may have COVID-19. If your symptoms are serious, you'll be told the next steps to take. If you do seek care, your primary care provider or health care professional will determine whether you should be tested and order the test in conjunction with local and state health departments. 

  • If your primary care provider or health care professional determines you should be tested for COVID-19 and orders the test, the most common place for collection of the specimen is a health care provider’s office or clinic. There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19: diagnostic testing and antibody testing.

    • A diagnostic test determines if you are currently infected with COVID-19.
    • An antibody test detects antibodies in the blood, which may indicate a past COVID-19 infection. 

    For more information on getting tested for COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s Testing for COVID-19 page.

  • Diagnostic testing determines if you are currently infected with COVID-19. It does not indicate if you previously had COVID-19.

    Antibody testing detects antibodies in the blood, which may indicate a past COVID-19 infection. Per CDC guidelines, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection. Antibodies can take about two weeks to develop. Importantly, the presence of antibodies does not signal immunity. It is not currently known what level of antibodies, if at all, provides immunity to COVID-19 and how long the antibodies last. 

  • Diagnostic testing uses a nasal swab, collected by your physician or yourself. Your physician may also use other methods such as a throat swab. These tests deliver a high accuracy rate if the sample is taken and handled correctly.

    Antibody testing requires a blood sample. As new antibody tests continue to become available, it’s important to know that not all versions are FDA-authorized nor are they providing reliable results. COVID-19 testing is rapidly evolving, so please discuss any questions or concerns with your health care provider. 

  • Many health insurance companies across the country have stated that they will cover the full cost of any testing for COVID-19. However, it is a good idea to check with your specific insurance company to ask about coverage of the test. 

  • At present, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. If you become infected, you will receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. You can help prevent the spread of the virus by following the steps listed on the CDC’s What to Do if You Are Sick page. 

  • You are advised to follow good prevention practices, including:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact by putting distance between yourself and other people outside of your home; stay at least six feet from other people. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside of your home. 
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, like your phone or computer.
    • Monitor your health and be alert for symptoms.

    For more information on how to protect yourself against COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others page.

  • This situation is evolving, so please visit the CDC’s Travel page for the latest guidance. In addition, check with your state and local authorities and those of your destination, as many have implemented rules or guidance that may affect your plans.

  • Yes. Medicare has more information hereIf you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may want to call your plan and ask how it will handle COVID-19 care.

  • In most cases there is no need. All major health plans have waived member cost sharing, including copays, coinsurance and deductibles for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines for all commercial insured, Medicaid and Medicare members. In addition, many self-insured customers are also choosing to implement similar actions.

    This means that HSA funds are not required for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines. In the event that a plan is not waiving these costs, individuals will be able to use HSA funds for those costs without jeopardizing the qualified status of their high-deductible health plan.

  • As part of the COVID-19 readiness response, Optum Bank customers will continue to have full access to their funds, transactions and accounts. As an online bank with no physical branches, Optum Bank supports 24/7 access to accounts at optumbank.com and through the Optum Bank mobile app. There will be no interruption to online banking services, enabling account holders to view their balance and transactions, submit receipts and pay bills or reimburse themselves, or any additional functionality.

  • Per the CDC’s guidelines, social distancing is the practice of putting physical distance between yourself and other people to help COVID-19 from spreading in the community. It is especially important to practice social distancing to help protect people who are at a higher risk of getting sick. The CDC recommends the following to practice social or physical distancing:

    • Stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people.
    • Do not gather in groups.
    • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.
  • In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering when out in public, especially when it is difficult to maintain social distancing measures. The face covering may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading it to others.

    For more information about wearing a cloth face covering, please visits the CDC’s About Cloth Face Coverings page. 

Video Component

Detailed Video Description Coronavirus 20009


[What are Coronaviruses?]

[Narrator:] Coronaviruses are a family of common viruses that can cause illness in both animals and people.

[Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)]

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome are two well-known coronaviruses.

In January of 2020, the World Health Organization announced a new coronavirus, now called COVID-19, which caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province.

We’re still learning about how this virus spreads, and rely on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for guidance.

Here’s what we know about COVID-19.

[How does COVID-19 spread?]

Currently, it is thought that it spreads mainly through respiratory droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person.

It may also spread when an individual touches an infected surface and then touches his or her mouth, nose or eyes.

[What are COVID-19 Symptoms?]

COVID-19 symptoms may be similar to a respiratory infection.

Primary symptoms may include: fever, cough and shortness of breath.


Some people, the elderly, the young or the immune-compromised, may experience complications including pneumonia, kidney failure and overwhelming infection, known as sepsis.

[How to help protect against COVID-19]

To best protect yourself from this coronavirus:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, including your phone and computer.


Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash immediately.

For updated information, guidance and travel alerts, visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

We will continue to actively monitor public health resources to ensure we respond appropriately to the needs of our customers and members.

[Disclaimer: Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/ World Health Organization (WHO). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 ]


Watch the video to learn about COVID-19.


The information and therapeutic approaches in this article are provided for informational and/or educational purposes only. They are not meant to be used in place of professional clinical consultations for individual health needs.

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Optum encourages people to stay informed as the situation evolves

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website.

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