Coronavirus COVID-19 in Florida: Who should be tested and what you need to know

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

Anyone with questions outside of the call center hours should contact their county health department and follow directory prompts for "epidemiology." Click on your county in the map below to find the phone number for your local health department, along with other county-specific information.

Find your county health department

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What should you do if you are sick? 

Stay home. If you believe you have been infected by the COVID-19 virus, it is crucial that you restrict any activity outside and call a medical professional immediately. 

Officials say not to go to the hospital or urgent care if you believe you are sick.

Contact your county department of health if you:

-Develop symptoms after traveling to a place the CDC has issued a level 2 or 3 health notice (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan);
-Develop symptoms after coming in contact with someone who has traveled to those areas;
-Develop symptoms after coming in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

There is no guidance for the general public if they have these symptoms, but DO NOT meet the criteria for being tested as outlined above.

Anyone who is hospitalized with severe respiratory illness, without other diagnoses like the flu, is eligible for COVID-19 testing. 

A person who is tested will have three specimens taken: Oral, nasal, and saliva. The samples will be given to the county health department, which will then either ship or deliver them to the closest laboratory. Test results are currently available within 24-48 hours.

Tests do not have a cost to the patient.

It is important to call ahead before visiting a healthcare provider so that their office may take proper steps to avoid further spread of the virus when arriving for your medical appointment. 

What is a novel coronavirus? 

According to the CDC, coronaviruses come from a large family of viruses. There are actually a variety of previously known human coronaviruses, however, the virus that has now infected over 80,000 people worldwide is new. 

The newly identified COVID-19 virus refers to the novel coronavirus first detected in Wuhan China. This virus is different from the previously identified coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 which have previously been known to circulate among humans causing mild illness likened to the common cold. 

A virus previously thought to only infect animals has now emerged to spread among people. The CDC says the first infections were associated with live animal markets in China but has now been known to spread person-to-person globally. 

How long does it take for symptoms to appear? 

Symptoms for the COVID-19 virus could appear in as few as 2 days, or as long as 14 days after exposure, says the CDC.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, and a fever, to severe and even fatal.

How easy is it to get infected? 

While the CDC says that the efficiency of virus spreading varies on a case-to-case basis, it appears that the COVID-19 virus is “spreading easily and sustainably in Hubei province and other parts of China.”

So far there has not been a community spread of the virus in the United States. Cases in the U.S. have been relatively small and contained. The CDC says it has focused its criteria for U.S. testing on contacts of a small number of patients who have travel history associated with where the outbreak of the virus has occurred.

What precautions can you take?

The CDC warns that there is currently no vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus. In that case, there are some steps you can take to avoid being exposed to the virus in the first place. 

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.