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Updated December 20, 2020: Information is still evolving and BPHC will update this information as new and relevant information becomes available.

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?
The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS CoV-2, formerly known as 2019-nCoV) causes the disease now called COVID-19. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses a few of which cause human infection and illness ranging from the common cold to more severe disease. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus (SARS-CoV) are examples of coronaviruses that may cause severe disease.

How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person. It is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land on people who are nearby (within 6 feet). It may also be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a recently contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include, but are not limited to:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congested or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
In severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may be similar to the flu, with fever and muscle aches accompanying the respiratory tract symptoms.

Who is at risk for serious complications from COVID-19?
Some people are considered at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
  • Older adults
  • People with an underlying health condition, including but not limited to, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant), heart disease, diabetes, obesity, sickle cell disease
If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:
  • Isolate yourself from others as much as possible. Stay home.
  • Stock up on supplies, including medications.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact (at least 6 feet) and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Avoid travel, especially cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

How can COVID-19 be prevented?
Get vaccinated. To register for the vaccine, click here. It is important to continue to follow the recommended standard precautions to help prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses, including:
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Using alcohol-based hand rubs and gels.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or cough into your sleeve.
  • Washing or sanitizing your hands before touching your face.
  • Not sharing drinks, food, or eating utensils.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
As well as special precautions for COVID-19 when out in public:
  • Try to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
  • Wear face covering (covering both the nose and mouth).
If you feel sick with fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or other COVID-19 symptoms you should:
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a health care provider's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • 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. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Health care workers in contact with patients or other health care workers, and first responders (EMS, fire, police) need to be tested for COVID-19 whenever they have symptoms that could be due to COVID- 19. People who have come in close contact with someone that has COVID-19 should also be tested for COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 virus and/or have been possibly exposed to COVID-19, your health care provider can test you for the virus. Health care providers should get a detailed contact and medical history from patients with fever and acute respiratory illness.

Testing is widely available in the city of Boston. If you are interested in accessing COVID-19 testing, check out the city’s testing sites here. Testing at our mobile sites is free and available to anyone, regardless of symptoms or insurance coverage.

BPHC is working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control. 

Health care providers in Boston must report confirmed cases of COVID-19 immediately to BPHC at 617-534-5611. Healthcare providers outside of Boston must contact MDPH at 617-983-6800. Healthcare providers do not need to report suspected cases of COVID-19 to BPHC. 

Additional Resources:
Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: