What is novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. It has since spread around the world, including the United States.

What is the risk?

  • 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.

Symptoms and Transmission:

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but now it seems to be spreading from person to person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some diseases are highly contagious (like measles), while other diseases are less so. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading between people, but appears to be at highest risk for symptomatic people and people with close contact to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.

Symptoms may be flu-like, ranging from mild to serious, and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.


People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care AT HOME to help relieve symptoms. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. (source: CDC) A Healthcare provider will determine whether a person meets criteria for testing for COVID-19. Your doctor may want to rule out other, more common illnesses like Influenza first. Do not go to the Emergency Room for testing.


There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, and the CDC advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Here are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you sick!
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Pay special attention to hand-washing after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly
  • Cover your nose, mouth, face with tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it in the trash.
  • Get your annual flu vaccine if you haven’t already. Though it will not protect from COVID-19, we are still seeing high rates of Influenza in the community. It’s not too late to protect yourself!

CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel at this time. If you plan to travel visit the Travel and COVID-19 website for guidance. If you have traveled home from an affected region practice social distancing, do not use public transportation, take your temperature two times a day, and watch for respiratory illness. 

If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing AND in the last 14 days you:

You should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. Only visit an emergency room if you have critical health needs. Otherwise, visit a local provider or urgent care.

  • Call your medical provider. You can also call the SLO County Public Health Department during normal business hours: (805) 781-5500, or after hours call: (805) 781-4553.

  • Cuesta Students may call the Health Center at (805) 546-3171 (SLO) or (805) 591-6200 ext. 4207 (NCC) during normal business hours. 

  • Avoid contact with others.

  • 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.

Guidance for Schools by the SLO County Public Health

• There are no exclusion for international travelers from school unless you have been directed to by the Public Health Department.
• There are no exclusions for travelers from locations with community transmission of COVID-19 within California or the United States.
Students and staff with a history of household contact or other close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 must be excluded from school for 14 days from the time of their most recent exposure.
• Individuals with a history of close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 are directed to self-quarantine for 14 days from the time of last exposure under supervision of the Public Health Department. If you become aware of such an individual, please contact the Public Health Department immediately at 805-781-5500 and after hours at 805-781-4553.
• Students and staff who become ill with fever and/or respiratory illness are asked to stay home and not come to school.
• Sick individuals should not return to school until they have been free of fever for at least 24 hours in the absence of fever-lowering medications, and no longer have respiratory symptoms.

More Information on Coronavirus Disease

 Recommended Resources

SLO County 24-hour Recorded Information Line: (805) 788-2903

California Department of Public Health

California Community Colleges

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

COVID-19 Resources For Undocumented Californians

Financial relief resource related to hardships from COVID-19

ReadySLO Local support