Coronavirus and COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Sterling Urgent Care created this FAQ for the benefit of our employer partners. We are sharing this information on coronavirus and COVID-19 for the benefit of the communities that we serve.
The information we have compiled is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control as well as coronavirus guidance from Idaho, Utah and Wyoming health officials. State-specific guidance for reopening can be found on the following pages:
You can learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming on our Vaccination FAQ page.
Updated May 2022
Answers to Common COVID-19 Questions
Is there a vaccine for COVID-19? UPDATED FEBRUARY 2022
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully approved the following vaccines:
- Pfizer/BioNTech, a 2-shot vaccine and 5-month booster approved for all individuals over the age of 16
- Moderna, a 2-shot vaccine and 5-month booster approved for all individuals over the age of 18
As of March 2022, the FDA recommends a second booster of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all adults over the age of 50 and for immunocompromised individuals over the age of 12 who previously received a Pfizer-BioNTech booster. This second booster should be administered 4 months after the initial booster.
As of March 2022, the FDA recommends a second booster of Moderna COVID-19 vacccine for everyone over age 50 and immnunocompromised individuals over the age of 18 who previously received a Moderna booster. The second booster should be given 4 months after the initial booster.
The FDA has given Emergency Use Authorization to the following vaccines:
- Pfizer/BioNTech, a 2-shot vaccine at a lower dose authorized for all individuals ages 12 to 15
- Pfizer/BioN/Tech, a 2-shot vaccine at a special dose authorized for all children ages 5 to 11
- Janssen, distributed in the United States by Johnson & Johnson, a 1-shot vaccine authorized for all individuals over the age of 18
Then FDA also recommends a booster after 2 months for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, distributed as Johnson & Johnson in the United States, for all persons 18 and older. A second booster with an MRNA vaccine, either Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, is recommended for all Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine recipients 4 months after the first booster does.
Breakthrough cases may still occur, but vaccinated people are less likley than unvaccinated people to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms, to require hospitalization or to die from the illness. Clinical studies show that a booster dose 4 months after the initial vaccination improves efficacy for all adults. A second booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines is recommended for everyone over the age of 50 and for immunocompromised individuals 4 months after the first booster dose.
Though extremely rare, approximately 1 in 1,000,000, a bood clot disorder has been associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, primarily in women of child-bearing age. If you receive this vaccine, you should ask for additional information about this. The condition is treatable and so uncommon that it should not discourage people from getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though you should consider your options and your comfort level with the vaccine before receiving it.
Though extremely rare, there have been cases of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis and pericarditis, reported in males ages 16 to 29 following the second dose of an MRNA shot, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. There were approximately 5.8 cases per 1,000,000 people in a research letter published by the Jornal of the American Medical Association, with most cases reported within 10 days of a second dose of MRNA vaccine. The risks of COVID-19 complications are higher in this age group than the risks of heart inflammation, but parents of kids under 18 and young men 18 to 29 should discuss those risks with a health professional.
Women who are pregnant, lactating or attempting to get pregnant should speak to ther doctors before getting the vaccine. The CDC recommends the approved vaccines for pregnant and lactating women.
What Are Delta, Omicron and Variants of Concern?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, undergoes mutations when it infects people. Almost all of these mutations are benign, but occasionally the virus can mutate into a form that makes it easier to spread or that changes its symptoms. When the virus shows a large number of mutations that concern researchers, it can be labeled a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is coordinating international response to the pandemic.
Both the Delta variant, first identified in India in early 2021, and the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa in late 2021, have been labeled Variants of Concern because they have a large number of mutations in the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells. These mutations suggest that the virus spreads more efficiently, making it easier to catch. The Omicron variant has mutations that may allow it to evade antibodies from vaccines or a past COVID-19 infection.
Neither variant is believed to cause more significant illness, but both are much more transmissable than earlier forms of SARS-CoV-2. People at high risk of severe complications and those who are unvaccinated, regardless of a past COVID-19 infection, are advised to get vaccinations or boosters as soon as possible, to avoid indoor gatherings and crowded outdoor spaces and to wear a protective mask when they are around people from outside their immediate households.
How can I help protect myself and others? UPDATED NOVEMBER 2021
Get vaccinated. The best protection available against COVID-19 is vaccination. Vaccinated people may still become infected and can spread the virus to others if they become infected, but the chance of infection, hospitalization and death all decline significantly for vaccinated people.
Limit activities that can lead to exposure. You can take steps to slow the spread:
- Maintain social distance from others (about 6 feet).
- Wear a face covering. Masks prevent you from spreading the virus and help to control transmission in your community. They are not meant to prevent infection, but certain masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks, may provide some protection in low- to moderate-risk settings. Disposable surgical masks provide a lower level of protection. Cloth masks, neck gaiters and homemade masks should be avoided.
- Avoid crowds and indoor spaces. Whether you are vaccinated or not, you should avoid crowded indoor and outdoor spaces where you will be aroound people for extended periods of time. It is best to avoid being indoors with people from otuside your home, or to allow people to enter your home. Wear a mask if you must be indoors with others.
- Wash hands or use hand sanitzer. Wash your hands after touching door knobs, ATM screens, gas pumps and other surfaces frequently touched by others. Always wash your hands when you get home.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces. Use a disinfectant proven to kill coronavirus, such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray, on door handles, light swithces, faucets and countertop around your home. Disinfect at least once a day if there is high transmission in your area.
- Evaluate risks and try to minimize them. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from person to person through exhaled breath. There is also some evidence that it can travel short distances through the air. You are most likely to catch COVID-19 if you are unvaccinated and in close contact with an infected person. That person does not have to be symptomatic to infect you. The risk of infection declines in outdoor settings, at greater distances from others, and when high-filtration masks, such as N95 or KN95 masks, are properly worn.
Will a mask protect me from coronavirus? UPDATED JANUARY 2022
The United States Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends using nonsurgical N95 masks for the highest level of protection from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. These masks are recommended for those at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19, those who work in public-facing jobs and those who care for unvaccinated or immunocompromised individuals.
N95 respirator masks are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NIOSH offers an online list of approved N95 respirator masks that have been tested to meet their safety standards.
If N95 masks are unavailable, KN95 resppirator masks may be used, but the CDC warns that about 60% of the KN95 masks they tested in 2020 and 2021 did not meet filtration standards. Buyers should excercise caution when purchasing KN95 masks made in China, and when buying masks from unfamiliar online retailers or third-party companies on well-known retail sites. Counterfeit masks from major U.S. suppliers, including 3M N95 masks, have been reported to the CDC.
Proper fit is essential. Review the CDC/NIOSH guide for proper respirator fit and removal.
People may also choose to wear procedure masks, also known as surgical masks, that are well-fitting, have a nose wire or bar for a custom fit, and do not have side gaps. The fit of a disposable prodcedure mask can be improved by wearing a cloth mask, fitter or brace over the procedural mask.
Procedure masks do not provide the same level of protection as N95 and K95 masks, but they may be easier to wear than a respirator for extended periods of time.
What is coronavirus disease 2019 (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.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? UPDATED DECEMBER 2021
Most people with COVID-19 experience the following symptoms:
- Sore Throat
- Runny Nose
Loss of taste and smell have been reported with COVID-19, but there is some data suggesting that these symptoms are less common for reinfection, breakthrough infection and the Omicron variant. If you experience the common COVID-19 symptoms listed above, you should get tested even if you do not lose your sense of taste and smell.
Some people infected with the Delta variant reported nausea and diarrhea as their first or primary symptoms. These symptoms may also appear with other SARS-CoV-2 infections.
How does COVID-19 spread? UPDATED MAY 2021
The understanding of how COVID-19 spreads continues to evolve as more data become available to researchers. As of May 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes three primary transmission methods for COVID-19:
Someone coughs or sneezes, and the droplets land in your eyes, nose or throat. The closer you are to the person coughing or sneezing, the greater the risk of infection.
You breathe contaminated air. COVID-19 is an airborne virus. Tiny particles can hover and concentrate indoors in poorly ventilated areas. You can be infected anywhere in an indoor setting where virus particles are present, but the greatest risk of infection exists within 6 feet of an infected person and with more than 15 minutes of exposure. Note that this does not need to be continuous, close exposure. Coming in contact with an infected person several times over the course of a day can add up to the 15 minutes needed to increase infection risk.
You touch contaminated surfaces and then touch your face. Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer for 20 seconds greatly reduces this risk.
Can I Get COVID-19 by Touching Surfaces or Objects?
Researchers cannot rule out the possibility that COVID-19 spreads from contact with contaminated objects, though the primary method of transmission is contact with infected droplets exhaled by infected individuals.
Never share utensils, food, food containers or personal-care items with people who may be infected or people from outside your household.
Always use hand sanitizer or wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after handling items from outside your home.
Always wash hands before handling masks and immediately after removing them.
Clean high-contact surfaces frequently, such as doorknobs, refrigerators, cabinet pulls and faucets.
Remove shoes when you enter your home and keep them away from children and pets.
Can I Get COVID-19 from Infected Animals, or Infect Animals with the Virus?
- The risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people and from people to animals is considered to be low; however, there have been cases of mammals, including pet dogs and cats, catching COVID-19 from their owners. People with COVID-19 should isolate from animals in their homes. People with COVID-19 who work with animals should stay home from work for a period of 10 days after symptoms appear.
- Current evidence suggests a unique vulnerability for mink. Three have been documented cases of transmission between humans and mink in Michigan, Utah, Denmark and The Netherlands. Those involved in mink farming and communities near mink farms must take precautions to limit transmission between mink and humans. The CDC has developed guidance to help protect mink and to limit outbreaks:
Will a face shield protect me from coronavirus?
A face shield may provide some limited protection from coronavirus reaching your eyes. Face shields do not provide any protection to others from your respiratory droplets, and they do not act as a barrier to prevent aerosolized virus from entering your nose and mouth.
Face shields and goggles can be worn together with a mask to provide a greater level of protection for those around you and yourself.
A face shield worn alone may not meet mask requirements set by local health authorities. Face shields should be worn with masks, not as an alternative to masks.
Face shields are not believed to provide any significant measure of protection from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 unless worn with a well-fitting respirator, such as an N95 or KN95.
When should I get the second dose of a two-dose vaccine?
Based on clinical data, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued the following recommendations in February 2022 for timing between the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines require two initial doses to provide protection, followed by a booster dose 5 months later.
Please note that these revised guidelines only apply to unvaccinated people receiving their first vaccinations, or those who recently received the first of 2 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots.
If you are over 5 but under 12, there is no change to the recommendations. The second shot in the initial vaccination course should still be administered 3 weeks later for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and 4 weeks later for the Moderna vaccine.
If you are over 12 and under 65 and have a healthy immune system, you should wait eight (8) weeks between your first and second doses. This time period provides a stronger immune response and reduces the risk of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation that may be associated with the vaccines. This condition has been most commonly reported among young men, and the CDC strongly recommends that males ages 12 to 39 wait 8 weeks between their initial doses.
If you are over 65 OR if you are over 12 and have a compromised or weakened immune system, you should receive your second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine 3 weeks after the initial dose. The second Moderna dose should be given 4 weeks after the initial dose. There is no change to the original vaccination schedule for people who are immunocompromised or over 65 years of age.