Coronavirus Updates

Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Last Updated: March 25, 2020

Get some fast facts about the coronavirus from CHOP and the CDC. The CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available.

To help keep our patient families and communities safe and informed, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) medical experts gathered the following information to address frequently asked questions about the coronavirus.

The well-being of our patients, families and staff is our utmost priority, and we will continue to communicate updates as they are available. We are taking all precautionary measures to identify and contain any possible exposures, and we are in constant communication with state and local health agencies to ensure timely and coordinated response efforts.

Please note this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. We are regularly updating this page with key information as we receive it, but we encourage you to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a reliable source for the most updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.

For the latest information, please refer to the CDC.

If you have specific health-related concerns not addressed here or by the CDC, you can contact your child’s primary care provider for assistance or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.

Q. I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Is it safe for me to go?

A: It is important to stay on track with treatments prescribed by your child’s doctor, and to keep any regularly scheduled visits, examinations, vaccinations and other healthcare activities. If your child's care team thinks any scheduled visits can be safely postponed to a later time, they will contact you to reschedule or arrange a video visit. If you have specific concerns about your child’s health, contact your child’s provider for assistance or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.

If you or your child have respiratory or flu symptoms, such as a cold or fever, please call your doctor’s office ahead of time. We may ask you to reschedule your appointment when symptoms subside or provide special instructions as needed.

Whenever you can, please use MyCHOP, our secure patient portal, to communicate non-urgent medical questions to their providers.

If you do not have a MyCHOP account, please call the front desk of your provider’s office and ask to enroll in MyCHOP. You’ll receive an access code. Download the MyCHOP app for easy access on your mobile device and then proceed to this sign up page to complete your account activation. Once you’ve created your account, sign in to make sure your account is active.

If you already have a MyCHOP account, make sure your account is active and that you are able to log in. If you have any issues, request MyCHOP support here.

Q. Will appointments I have now be rescheduled?

As part of our efforts to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19), CHOP is working on rescheduling elective surgeries/procedures, admissions and outpatient visits that can safely be postponed until a later time. This includes visits to our Main Campus, Primary Care practices, Specialty Care locations, and Ambulatory Surgery Centers. At this time, we will be taking these steps for two-week intervals, and will continue to re-evaluate. If we need to cancel or reschedule your upcoming appointment, your provider’s office will contact you directly.

All precautions we are taking at CHOP support broader public health efforts to reduce opportunities for spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your understanding and partnership as we work to provide the best care while ensuring the safety of our patients, families and staff. Check this page for updates related to outpatient appointments at all CHOP locations.

Q. Are telehealth/video visits an option as an alternative to in-person visits?

A. CHOP is actively working on expanding the use of video visits and other telehealth options as an alternative to some in-person visits when it is clinically safe and appropriate to do so.

Your provider’s office will contact you to discuss options for any upcoming appointments. In the meantime, we encourage you to sign in to your MyCHOP account to ensure you can successfully access your account. If you have questions, or need to sign up for MyCHOP, please call your provider’s office. Find instructions for getting set up for video visits with a CHOP provider.

Q. Can I schedule appointments online?

A. Online scheduling/appointment requests are temporarily suspended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating. Please call your provider's office if you need assistance changing or scheduling an appointment.

Q. Should high-risk patients (e.g. those with underlying health conditions or immunosuppressed) take any special precautions?

A: There is currently no evidence that immunocompromised patients are at higher risk of catching coronavirus than other people.

We do not have specific information on whether COVID-19 infection will be more severe in immunocompromised patients compared to healthy people; however, other viruses often cause more severe disease in immunocompromised people.

School closures have become widespread throughout the U.S. and vary by state and local school districts. In general, there is not an absolute recommendation for the asymptomatic immunocompromised patient to avoid school. However, we recommend that parents closely monitor updates in their community as the situation around COVID-19 is constantly changing in each locality. They should follow the advice of public health officials around physical/social distancing, avoiding crowds, and school attendance.

Everyday practices such as frequent handwashing, covering your cough or sneeze, avoiding touching your face, and staying away from sick people remain critical to your child’s health and well-being.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's health, please call your child's provider.

Q. Where can I find meal services for children while schools and many other public programs are closed?

A. Many school districts are posting updates on where children can find free meals and safe spaces while schools remain closed. Philadelphia residents can visit the City of Philadelphia’s website for updated information. Check your local school district websites for more local resources.

Q: What is the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

A: Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Learn about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (CDC)

Q. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. What does that mean for me?

A: An epidemic refers to an uptick in the spread of a disease within a specific community. By contrast, the WHO defines a pandemic as global spread of a new disease. Quoting the head of the WHO: “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

It is important to remember this is an evolving situation, and guidance will change. Symptoms of COVID-19 are mild to moderate for 80% of people infected. Avoiding social situations that may expose you, staying home when sick, and handwashing remain the best defense.

Q: Is my child at risk?

A: This is a rapidly evolving situation, and according to the CDC the risk assessment changes daily. For the latest updates, see the CDC's COVID-19 website. At this time:

  • The immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most Americans, but as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase. Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are being reported in a growing number of states.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.

Q: How is COVID-19 spread?

A: There is much more to learn about how COVID-19 is spread and investigations are ongoing. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that mainly spread though respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 are very similar to influenza and have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read more about COVID-19 symptoms.

Q: What should I do if I think someone in my family has been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or another location with widespread community cases of COVID-19, you should contact your medical provider immediately. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. Your healthcare provider will coordinate safe treatment and testing based on recommendations from your state’s public health department and CDC.

People who have been exposed to a positive case are being asked to self-isolate in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This does not mean that these individuals have symptoms or can spread the disease themselves. People are asked to self-isolate in order to watch for the development of symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they will be tested, and others who have had close contact with them will be assessed for potential exposures.

Individuals who live in the same household of someone who is being asked to self-isolate are not considered exposed unless they had the same exposure (e.g. travel or contact with a known case) and they do not need to self-isolate.

If the person asked to self-isolate becomes symptomatic, then the household contacts will also be placed under quarantine to monitor for symptoms. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days because this is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.

The CDC has more information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or is being evaluated for, COVID-19 infection.

Q: Does CHOP perform tests to detect COVID-19?

A: CHOP providers will work with local and state health departments and the CDC to determine if testing is required based on your child’s symptoms and potential exposures. If a decision is made to test, CHOP will refer you for testing at one of our sites or an alternate location where specimens will be collected.

You may see drive-through clinics for COVID-19 testing located at the Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia, as well as CHOP’s Bucks County Specialty Care & Surgery Center. To be tested at one of these sites, a patient must be referred by a medical provider or a State or County Department of Health. If you believe you or someone in your family needs testing for coronavirus, please call your doctor.

If you have additional questions about testing, call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 800-722-7112.

Q: If my child has symptoms, should I take them to a CHOP drive-through testing site?

A: Not everyone with symptoms needs to be tested. You and your provider should partner on this decision. To get tested at one of the drive-through testing sites located on CHOP properties, a patient must be referred by a CHOP provider. If you, your child, or someone in your family has symptoms of COVID-19, your first step should be to call your medical provider. They will coordinate safe testing and treatment and get you the care you need.

If your child is a CHOP patient, their provider may recommend they be seen for further assessment (either in-person or with a video visit), or they may refer them for COVID-19 testing. If your provider determines a test would be helpful, they will provide instructions for next steps on how to set up your lab appointment for testing, whether it’s in an office or at a drive-through site.

If your child’s healthcare provider has recommended testing, read these tips from CHOP child life specialists for preparing your child for drive-through COVID-19 testing.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: Practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including frequent hand washing and covering coughs, and frequently clean surfaces such as doorknobs and phones. Visit the CDC’s treatment and prevention page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Put distance between yourself and other people (also called "social distancing" or "physical distancing") if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Physical distancing can be particularly hard for children. Watch this short video for helpful tips to make physical distancing more manageable.

Q: What if I or a family member recently traveled to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran, and got sick?

A: If you were in China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or another location with widespread community cases of COVID-19, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after leaving, you should:

  • Call your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. But before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Stay home except to get medical care: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
  • Avoid public areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Avoid contact with others: Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. The CDC provides more guidance on this topic.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

A: Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19, although a global effort to find an effective vaccine is currently underway.

Q: What are the treatments?

A: There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection; however, people infected with the virus should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

Q: How do I talk to my child about COVID-19?

A. Your child has most likely heard something about COVID-19. Often times, limiting information from children can create additional worry. One way to reduce this worry and reassure your child is to provide honest and simple information. Our Child Life Department put together a few suggestions to guide you when discussing this situation with your family.

Q: Am I at risk of contracting COVID-19 from a package or animal products imported from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran?

A: Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animal products imported from these countries pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.

Q. Should I cancel any upcoming trips to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran?

A: Yes; the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran at this time. This information may change. For the most current  traveler information, visit the CDC’s Travelers' Health page.

Q. Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating COVID-19?

A: No; antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. COVID-19 is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalized for COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Sources: CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and Pennsylvania Department of Health