COVID-19 Health Information

Medical and mental health information and FAQs about COVID-19/coronavirus

Medical FAQ

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause diseases in animals and humans. They often circulate among animals and can sometimes evolve and infect people. In humans, the viruses can cause mild respiratory infections, like the common cold, but can lead to serious illnesses, like pneumonia.

The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) likely emerged in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It likely spread from an unknown animal to humans. Human-to-human transmission occurs through close contact.

Information about the novel coronavirus is changing rapidly.

View the latest information on the current outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

In some cases, more minor symptoms such as stomach upset, eye redness, and changes to smell have been reported.

If you think you have been exposed and develop a fever and/or other symptoms, call a health care professional immediately, but do not go to an emergency room unless you are severely ill (difficulty breathing).

What do I do if I think I have the Coronavirus?

Symptoms develop 2-14 days after exposure. If you think you have been exposed and develop a fever and/or other symptoms, call a health care professional immediately. Until testing is widely available, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 but are not severely ill, you will likely be told by your health care provider to self-isolate.

It is recommended that you call your primary care doctor or utilize another form of telemedicine, i.e., (free for students with the Goucher Sponsored Insurance Plan, $40 per visit for all others). You can also email us at for general advice.

At Goucher, we are trying to track the health of our students and employees, so if you become ill we request that you report your illness.

Availability of testing for COVID-19 has been a significant problem in the U.S. When it becomes available healthcare professionals may use a COVID-19 diagnostic test to confirm or rule out a COVID diagnosis.

Who is most at risk?

While anyone can contract and spread COVID-19, certain populations are at higher risk of serious illness and death. People who are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness include:

  • Older adults (average age of hospitalized person is ~60)
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

Via person-to-person transmission. This most commonly happens during close exposure to a person infected with COVID-19, primarily via respiratory droplets produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can land in the mouths, noses, or eyes of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs of those within close proximity (within about six feet). Airborne transmission from person-to-person over longer distances is believed to be a less likely mechanism of spread. The virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose, face, or eyes.

Are people contagious before they develop symptoms?

Yes, many persons spread this virus before developing/showing symptoms. This poses a problem because people who do not know they are infected may continue to go to work, school, and other public places. For this reason, mass social distancing has been implemented, and the best strategy for prevention of spread of the virus is to assume everyone is infected.

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Quarantine means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

Isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease, and potentially infectious, from those who are not infected, in order to prevent spread of the communicable disease.

Self-quarantine: For people who are exposed but well

Self-quarantine means an exposed person is asked to minimize their contact with others by staying in their apartment or home (or other location approved by the local health department). During this time, quarantined persons may not attend classes/labs/exams, go to work, be in public areas, use any public transportation (including ride-sharing services), or attend large gatherings or events. They should not go out to restaurants, coffee shops, or receive guests.

Persons in quarantine may leave their home (in a private vehicle) for a limited time to take care of routine and necessary activities, such as grocery shopping or visiting the pharmacy.

Self-observation: For people at risk but not exposed

Persons with an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 may be asked to “self-monitor” for symptoms. This means they should measure (and record) their temperature twice daily and watch for fever, cough, or trouble breathing. In the event these symptoms develop, or they have a fever greater than 100.4°F, they should contact a health care provider.

Self-isolation: For people who are infected

Separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

14 days is the standard period for all of these (isolation is now sometimes shorter). CDC provides general guidance about quarantine and isolation, but it is your local or state health department that actually makes the decisions about who, when, and how. Follow their instructions.

Currently, many states are advising that all individuals whose jobs are not essential to sustain lives should quarantine.

What can individuals do to protect themselves during quarantine?

Healthy habits can help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid all unnecessary public travel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially when you are not in your home.
  • Do not congregate with individuals you do not live with.
  • If you would like to visit someone, do it outside and remain more than six feet away.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, even if your job is deemed “essential.”
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect common objects and surfaces.
  • Disinfect objects you are bringing into your home during quarantine (helpful video from this family doctor related to bringing food/groceries home).

Mental Health Info

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.

Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

Things you can do to support yourself: 

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • View more tips.

Mental Health FAQ

What’s going on in my brain as I absorb the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic?

It is really hard to absorb any information when we’re stressed or anxious.

When we’re really stressed or anxious, our thinking brains go offline, and we go into survival mode. Intellectual information doesn’t stick because we’re busy running away from the danger. Only when our brains perceive safety does our thinking part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) come back online. That’s when we can rationally plan for the future.

Part of this has to do with how our brains aren’t set up to store new information when we’re anxious. We learn from fearful situations, but that learning comes in the form of changing our behaviors in the future. Ironically, it’s like saltwater: We are thirsty for information, but the more we drink, the thirstier we get.

Is anxiety why people are stocking up 48 rolls of toilet paper and buying cases of Spam?

Yes, absolutely. When we’re at home, our prefrontal cortices are working properly, so we can make a reasonable grocery and supplies list. When we get to the grocery store, we see everybody running around panicked, and suddenly we join in.

The scientific term for this is “social contagion.” Basically, it is the spread of emotion from one person to another. Think of it as someone sneezing panic on your brain. Each time you come into contact with someone who is anxious—and anxiety is even more contagious on social media because each scroll is like being touched by someone—you are more likely to catch the panic bug.

How do I find that line between preparedness and panic?

Knowing how our brains work is the first step. Simply seeing that we are panicking is a good step forward. After that we can use simple mindfulness practices, like taking a few conscious breaths or otherwise grounding ourselves in our direct experience. Similar to taking our foot off the gas when our car is going out of control, mindful awareness helps us ground in the present moment, which helps our minds stop racing off into the future with worry or catastrophic thinking.

Free Mindfulness Resources


The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

“Anxiety is Also Contagious. Here’s How to Calm Down” by Anne Alexandra, MIndful Magazine March 15, 2020

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