Frequently Asked Questions

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COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms are chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste and smell. They usually appear around five days after exposure to someone infected with the virus, but could occur up to 14 days after an exposure.

Some people infected with the virus will experience pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and in some cases death.

The virus is mainly transmitted between people who are in close contact with each other (within 6 feet or less) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also be possible to get the disease by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

There are many strains of coronavirus. Most coronaviruses cause mild illnesses, like the common cold. If you test positive for a common coronavirus at your hospital or doctor’s office lab, that’s not the same thing as COVID-19. Your provider will be able to differentiate between the two if you have any questions.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Avoid crowds as much as possible, keep space between yourself and others, and avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

Infants and children under age two should never wear a mask, as it poses a suffocation risk.

Our hospitals follow an infection prevention plan that has been built upon years of experience treating infectious diseases.

  • We are limiting visitors, with some exceptions. We screen patients and visitor exceptions arriving at any BJC hospital for their travel history and symptoms. All visitors are expected to wear a mask.
  • All employees are required to wear a mask, and must complete an access screening before entering work each day.
  • We provide a private exam room to patients who are exhibiting symptoms seen with COVID19 that isolates the patient from others.
  • Patients are required to wear masks throughout our hospital buildings.
  • Caregivers or individuals wear protective clothing—such as a mask or gown—before entering the room of a patient with potential or confirmed COVID-19 virus.
  • All nurses and caregivers have been trained on the proper use of their protective clothing and steps around the isolation of the patient.

If a patient is experiencing symptoms, we follow up with an additional screening. If a patient’s symptoms are not severe and do not require hospital care, the recommendation from the health department for potential or confirmed coronavirus patients is to remain at home to reduce exposure in the community. Those with severe symptoms would be hospitalized in isolation.

Any individuals suspected of the disease are isolated from other patients, visitors and staff. All employees are required to complete a work entry screening prior to their shift.

In order not to overwhelm the care needed for critically ill patients, people who suspect they might have COVID-19 and are exhibiting symptoms should call the office of their health care provider. They will give you instructions on how to get care, if needed, without exposing other people to your illness. When sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out, and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others.

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often.

Our emergency department is open to patients needing any kind of emergency care. Patients may be triaged to different waiting rooms based on their symptoms.

We are not canceling any surgeries, but always look at our schedules, patient volume and resources as part of our normal operations. All urgent, clinically necessary and time-sensitive surgeries will continue for our patients. Elective surgeries at some of our hospitals that can safely be delayed may be scheduled at a later date to help ensure we can continue to serve all who turn to us for care. Talk to your doctor's office if you're scheduling a surgical procedure.

BJC HealthCare has a limited visitor policy in place. View the complete policy here.

 No, following recommendations for social distancing in order not to spread the virus, no additional family member or friends are allowed in the facility.

The likelihood of that happening is very small, but we do expect visitors and patients to practice good hand hygiene and observe policies in place around social distancing and wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, if we suspect a patient has COVID-19, but their symptoms are not severe and do not require hospitalization, they will be sent home to await test results and recover.  Any individuals suspected of the disease are isolated from other patients, visitors and staff.

Yes. BJC has the same expectations for non-employees as they do for their employees. For contractors or contingent workers embedded in our facilities, we are treating them the same as our employees regarding requirements of wearing masks, completing screening procedures, etc.

There have been some cases of children developing COVID-19. However, children tend to experience milder symptoms, with a small number having severe complications. Children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.

Vaccines against pneumonia do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia, including pneumonia that may be part of COVID-19. However, they are still highly recommended to protect against other respiratory illnesses.

At present, there is no evidence that pets can spread coronavirus (COVID-19) to humans.

Shortness of breath refers to unexpectedly feeling out of breath, or winded. You could feel a tightness in your chest, feel hungry for air and be unable to breathe deeply. If you are having trouble getting air, you should call your physician, as it could be a symptom of several things including COVID-19.  If you are having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

It is thought that the virus likely would not survive such a trip. Coronaviruses are most likely to be transmitted through respiratory droplets. There is no current evidence to support transmission of the virus associated with imported goods.  People can protect themselves through proper handwashing.

Yes. Symptoms of COVID-19 usually show up from two to 14 days after exposure, but some people who are infected do not develop symptoms and do not feel ill.

As patients recover from the disease, researchers are exploring this question, but it may be some time before we know the answer.

Although some lab studies have begun, results are not conclusive in the studies or for real-world situations. While some of the lab studies indicate viral particles may be present on surfaces hours or days later, these studies are being conducted under very controlled circumstances in a laboratory environment.

What we do know with certainty is that respiratory droplets play a much larger role in disease transmission. The best protection against COVID-19 remains:

  • Frequent proper handwashing, especially before and after handling used masks
  • Not touching your face, mouth, nose and eyes
  • Clean surfaces that are touched regularly
  • Practice social distancing
  • Discard masks if damaged or unable to cover nose and mouth

The out-of-pocket cost for a patient without health insurance for their COVID-19 test is $150. There is also a collection test charge of $33. If further care is needed, additional costs would apply.

This change is in response to increasing recognition of the potential risk of transmission with minimal or mild symptoms. BJC has adopted a policy that all employees and any visitors must wear masks.  Evidence continues to indicate that the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs from symptomatic patients. However, due to the potential for transmission when patients are not yet showing or recognizing symptoms, masking may help provide protection to employees from pre-symptomatic patients, and to patients from pre-symptomatic employees. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently made a recommendation that citizens should wear "non-medical, cloth masks" when it is essential to be in public places to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Cloth masks, such as the type fashioned at home, can help protect others nearby. Medical and surgical masks should be saved for use by health care personnel. For more on how to make and wear a cloth mask, visit the CDC website.

Infants and children under age 2 should never wear a face mask, as it poses a suffocation risk.

If they have a test pending, the visitor should wait until the test is resulted prior to entering the facility. If the test results are negative and the visitor remains asymptomatic, they may enter the facility while wearing a mask or cloth face covering.