Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (Updated 03/18/20)

Brownsville Public Health has received many questions about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As we receive additional questions and more information is made available, information on this page may change.

Q: What is a novel coronavirus?

A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing COVID-19, is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Q: How does the virus causing COVID-19, spread?

A: This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. Currently, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

Q: Am I at risk for COVID-19 in Brownsville?

A: The overall risk of COVID-19 in Texas to the general public is elevated at this time due to the growing evidence of person-to-person spread in the United States. 

No positive test results for COVID-19 have been received by Cameron County Health and Human services at this time. However, the city is preparing for the possibility of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Proactive preparedness measures have been undertaken in coordination with local, state and federal partners.

Q: Has anyone in Texas been infected?

A: The CDC has confirmed multiple cases of novel coronavirus 2019 in people under federal quarantine at JBSA-Lackland in San Antonio and Houston/Harris & Ford Bend County. The cases at JBSA-Lackland in San Antonio do not change the risk of infection for people in San Antonio or other parts of Texas because the patients have been under federal quarantine since their return.  Harris and Fort Bend County currently have confirmed cases of COVID-19, however these cases are all connected and related to travel to impacted areas. These cases do not change the risk of infection for the community. For the latest on the number of confirmed cases visit Texas DSHS.

IN BOTH Houston Harris/Fort Bend and San Antonio cases are considered travel associated and no local community transmission is known to have occurred.

Q: What is Brownsville Public Health doing about COVID-19?

A: The Public Health is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation in coordination with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local and regional public health and healthcare agencies.

Q: What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

A: If you are experiencing symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please contact your health care provider.

It is important to call before going into a clinic, urgent care, or emergency department, to prevent any potential spread.  Individuals who experience symptoms of lower respiratory illness (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) should consult with their health care provider who will determine if there is another plausible diagnosis (i.e. influenza).

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including flu and COVID-19, follow these measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Q: What should I do if I am a business and need information about mitigation efforts?

A: If you have an event or gathering planned please reach us to answer specific questions. Events larger than 2,500 people are not encourage and should include mitigation plans for infectious diseases.

For more specific information regarding mass gatherings and what is required for events and venues please feel free to contact our department.

Q: Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why the CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials. This decision involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
  • Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Q: Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the period during which people have developed the illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. 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.

Q: Does the use of facemasks in the community help prevent COVID-19?

A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Q: What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?

A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Q: Are some people at higher risk for severe infection?

A: Yes. Similar to influenza, those who are over the age of 70 and/or have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, chronic lung disease, and diabetes are at greater risk for severe disease and complications from COVID-19.

Q: How can people help stop stigma related to COVID-19?

A: Health officials emphasize that Asian individuals are not at greater risk of carrying the coronavirus than any other individual. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop the stigma.