Coronavirus: Tips on how to protect yourself and what to do if you’re sick

If you wake up with a cough or fever and are worried you have coronavirus, you have several options.
In Florida, as in other states, hospitals and doctors have been primed on how to screen patients who come into their offices or the Emergency Department with symptoms. Only people who have severe symptoms should go to a hospital. If your symptoms are mild, call your doctor or the health department to get an appointment for a test. Some local test sites can now get results in up to 15 minutes with rapid tests but will turn away people without appointments.

The symptoms

The symptoms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, known now as COVID-19, are much like those associated with the flu or a lower respiratory illness.
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or severe chest pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Rarer, more severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.
  • In children, symptoms include a runny nose.

What to do

If you show symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus, and you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should contact your county health department ( or a primary care physician. You will need to pre-register to be tested at one of the local drive-thru sites.

  • Seek medical advice — Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Avoid travel
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.


Masks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no.w recommends that people wear cloth or fabric face coverings when entering public spaces such as grocery stores and public transit stations. The N-95 masks, which are used by health-care workers, are the most effective, but at this time any face covering is helpful. The CDC has offered guidelines on the best materials to use for homemade masks.
Hand sanitizer: Alcohol-based sanitizers are helpful, but thorough hand-washing is the best protection against the spread of the new coronavirus.
Disinfectant: Right now, there are no disinfectant products registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on surfaces that are known to have the ability to completely kill coronaviruses. However, related viruses that have similar properties can be killed with bleach, ammonia or alcohol, or cleaning agents containing any of these disinfectants.
Everyday preventive actions:
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Keep a 6-foot distance from others outside your home.
  • 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.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who 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.
General information about coronavirus
  • Touching a package or product: Americans want to know if they can get coronavirus from touching a package or product. The CDC says that “novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.” However, coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC says, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
  • Treatment: There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, nor is there a proven treatment. But both are being worked on by researchers. Doctors worldwide and in South Florida are using experimental treatments and some show signs of promise in easing the symptoms of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus. Doctors say mild cases can be treated at home with Tylenol and suggest avoiding ibuprofen.
  • How to track cases. The CDC is providing updates on confirmed and pending cases in the United States and abroad. ( The Florida Department of Health has set up a call center for questions about COVID-19. The center can be reached at 1-866-779-6121 or emailing The call center is available Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. The department has also set up a COVID-19 webpage at
  • Track by ZIP code: The Sun Sentinel has created a tracker for Florida coronavirus cases that will allow you to search by ZIP code and track the state’s rising number of coronavirus cases.

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