Looking for an answer to a specific question about COVID-19?
Check out these frequently asked questions, categorized for your convenience into the following sections: Vaccines, Testing, Masking, General COVID-19 Information, and Visiting BJC Facilities.
Members of the general public who are eligible to receive the vaccine during Missouri’s second phase of vaccination include individuals age 65 and older and any adult with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as identified by the state health departments. These include such conditions as cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, heart conditions, a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, and Type 2 diabetes. After this group, people working in specific job categories will be offered vaccine.
Visit Missouri Department of Public Health for more details.
Illinois is currently vaccinating individuals over 65, first responders and other essential workers including, but not limited to, teachers, grocery store employees and public transit workers. This is in addition to the first tier of eligibility, which included health care workers, and staff and residents of long term care and other group residence settings.
Visit the Illinois Department of Health website for more details and the most current eligibility listings.
Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states had to set priorities on how to distribute the limited supplies of vaccine and established priority groups for vaccination based on risks of COVID-19 exposure and severe illness. The first group deemed to be at highest risk was health-care personnel with patient contact and long-term care residents and staff. Those vaccinations began in December and are nearing completion for those who want to be vaccinated. Missouri has now moved to the next group, which is much larger. It includes emergency responders, those age 65 and older and adults younger than age 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as identified by the state health departments. Neither of the current vaccines is authorized for children under 16. In Illinois, the next priority group is individuals age 65 and older and those in essential frontline jobs that carry significant risks of exposure, such as teachers, grocery store employees, public transit workers and others, followed by adults with underlying conditions. Find out more about Missouri and Illinois prioritization processes and see which tier you may be in on their respective websites. Read more about the vaccine prioritization process.
Due to high demand across the U.S. and with only two vaccines approved for use right now, COVID-19 vaccine continues to be in limited supply. Even though state governments have approved moving forward into the next priority groups after health care personnel and long-term care residents and staff, we are limited by the availability of vaccine. The manufacturers are producing it as quickly as they can to keep the pipeline flowing. Since there isn’t enough vaccine yet to vaccinate everyone who is eligible, health departments and health providers are setting up websites where you can pre-register to be ready as soon as vaccine becomes available and you are eligible, based on the criteria set by your state of residence. You can pre-register with BJC/Washington University. When vaccine is available for your priority group, you will then be contacted to make an appointment.
BJC has opened two public vaccination clinics — on the academic medical campus and the Christian Hospital campus — with the potential for more in the near future. These clinics will be scheduled by appointment only, following pre-registration through the BJC website, based on eligibility and availability of vaccine. Scheduling allows us to better manage supply, and also control capacity at each location to maintain safe physical distance.
BJC and Washington University School of Medicine have established a process to pre-register to receive a vaccine. The most efficient process to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine is on the BJC HealthCare website. For those without internet or email access, there is a phone number that can be used as an alternate. That number is 314-273-1252. Due to high demand, wait times on this line can be lengthy so it is recommended to use the website when possible.
Pre-registration for the COVID vaccine.
You do not need to be a current patient of BJC HealthCare or Washington University to register for and receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines will be scheduled through our patient portal, MyChart, so if you are not currently a patient, please indicate that when you pre-register. We will follow up with guidance on accessing MyChart. This will enable a smoother process when it’s time to schedule your vaccine.
You do not need to have a BJC doctor or be in the BJC network to receive a vaccine. We do use MyChart, our scheduling portal, to make appointments. That’s why we want to make sure you’re set up now so you can schedule when we have availability. If you are having difficulty setting up a MyChart account, please call the MyChart help desk at 314.273.1966 and they will walk you through the process.
MyChart is a secure portal to store patient information including medical records, test results and upcoming visits. It’s also how we schedule appointments. Because this site contains private information, we have a security process to validate your identity when you set up your account. Using the information you provide, the tool is able to recognize you and confirm your identity using security questions that only you would know — such as the name of your bank or monthly car payment. It won’t ask for your account number, but it may ask where you have an account. This is a routine process in setting up a secure MyChart account.
Several pre-reregistration websites have been set up by counties and other health systems. You may pre-register on multiple sites, and we recommend that you accept the first opportunity provided to receive a vaccine.
Fill out this pre-registration form and we will contact you by email when you are eligible and as appointments become available.
BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine strongly encourage vaccination for anyone who is eligible when supply is available. Talk to your provider if you have questions regarding your personal health situation.
Get more information on the CDC website.
Your ability to get the vaccine depends the production of the vaccine and when it is distributed to the states, and then to the local vaccine administrators such as BJC and Washington University. BJC receives weekly shipments, depending on how much is available. Since states and health care providers are not yet receiving enough vaccine to meet demand, vaccinations will be scheduled over time during the coming months, following federal and state public health guidelines.
Decisions about who will receive the vaccine, and when, are made by U.S. and state public health agencies, with a goal of providing the vaccine first to those believed to be at highest risk of exposure and severe illness. For more information and to see which tier you may be in, visit:
You will receive details about the vaccination clinics, including available locations and options for time slots, when you are contacted to schedule your vaccine.
Appointments are required in order to plan appropriate supplies and distribution of vaccine across multiple clinic sites. This also helps prevent doses of the vaccine from going unused and encourages social distancing at the vaccination sites.
No, this is not true. Vaccinations at BJC locations are by appointment only and vaccines are supplied and prepared daily as needed to accommodate those who are eligible to be vaccinated and who have appointments. No vaccine is discarded or thrown away at the end of the day. Those who show up at the end of the day without an appointment cannot be accommodated and will instead be asked to pre-register for a future appointment. Pre-register at a BJC location.
Individual physician offices are not likely to be a source of vaccine at this time. The two vaccines that are currently available require special storage and/or special handling and training that aren’t as widely available in an office setting.
The state of Missouri is currently vaccinating people in Tiers 1 and 2 of the Phase 1B eligibility group. Illinois is in the 1A tier. If you are not personally in the open tier, you may still register for a vaccine and you will be contacted when your eligibility window opens.
BJC HealthCare will play an important role in providing COVID-19 vaccines to the public. To fulfill this critical community need, we require enough vaccine and supplies to administer the vaccine to all those who have made appointments. Due to scarce and unpredictable supply, it most likely will not be possible to vaccinate others who do not have appointments, regardless of their eligibility status. Anybody interested in receiving a vaccine — including those who are currently eligible for vaccination — may pre-register to receive the vaccine on our website and we will follow up to schedule their appointment when supply allows. Every effort will be made to send scheduling links out at the same time to those who meet the criteria and share a household, based on the home address you provide during your pre-registration. Eventually, this should allow spouses and partners to schedule their vaccinations together, whenever possible.
Yes, and wheelchairs are available at each location if needed.
Transportation assistance is not available; however, there will be BJC vaccination locations near Metro bus stops and MetroLink stations.
There are two vaccines authorized by the FDA for use at this time. One is made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna. The vaccines are similar in how they work and how effective they are, and both require two doses three to four weeks apart. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires special ultra-cold storage freezers that are not widely available in all health-care settings. So, this means that the Pfizer vaccine is distributed only to vaccine administrators such as BJC that can store the vaccine. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19 so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
Yes, BJC is receiving Pfizer vaccine in Missouri and both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in Illinois. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19 so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
BJC will be administering the vaccine it receives from public health departments and is not able to allow recipients to select the vaccine manufacturer. Based on review by the FDA and CDC, both vaccines are equally safe and effective against COVID-19 so there is no reason to be concerned about which manufacturer produced the vaccine you receive.
The vaccine is free but some places may charge an administration fee to your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid, so you should bring your insurance card with you when you receive your vaccine. BJC will not be charging an administration fee. If you don’t have insurance or cannot afford the administration fee, it will be waived and you can receive the vaccine free of charge.
The email that will be sent to you when you are able to schedule a vaccination appointment will advise you regarding the identification to bring, such as a driver’s license or other official ID, and an insurance card if you have one. You do not need to bring a doctor’s note.
The first vaccines will require two doses separated by three to four weeks, depending upon which vaccine you receive. Appointments will either be scheduled in person when you receive your first dose or potentially online when you schedule your first dose.
Yes, return to the same location for your second dose. Vaccine distribution for dose two is based on quantity of first doses administered so you should get both vaccines with the same organization. This helps manage critical supply levels, ensures equity within our registration process and maintains consistency of records and reporting. Also, it is important to get the same vaccine (Pfizer vs. Moderna), which might not be possible if you receive the vaccine with two different organizations. Remember, if you cannot get your second dose in the 21-24 day window, within six weeks (42 days) is acceptable.
The availability of second doses will depend on ongoing national supply. At this time, we have no concerns about insufficient supply of second doses.
Consistent with safety guidance around preventing infection, you are required to wear a mask at all times while at a vaccination clinic. You are also asked to limit attendance to those receiving vaccines, in order to minimize crowding and encourage safe distancing. However, one person will be able to accompany you if you require assistance. After you receive your vaccine, you will need to remain on site for 15 minutes to allow clinicians to monitor any reactions and take necessary steps. If you have a medical history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, we will ask you to remain on site for observation for 30 minutes as a precaution.
We expect to continue receiving regular vaccine shipments so we can eventually offer vaccines to all who wish to receive them. The exact supply and timing are unknown at this time.
Submitting a pre-registration does not obligate you to receive the vaccine. You may register to ensure you are on the list and make a decision about whether to schedule a vaccine when you receive notification that your scheduling window is available.
BJC expects to partner with public health officials to offer vaccine to the general public. Those plans are currently being developed.
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, shortness of breath and new loss of taste and smell. Other symptoms can include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, headache and sore throat. They usually appear about five days after exposure to someone infected with the virus but could occur up to 14 days after an exposure. View our symptom checker to compare symptoms of COVID-19, the common cold and seasonal allergies.
Some people infected with the virus will experience pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure, blood clots, stroke, neurological damage and, in some cases, death. Doctors are still learning about complications from COVID-19.
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. There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away. These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation.
Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity or lung disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
To reduce your chances getting sick with COVID-19:
Note: Infants and children younger than age 2 should never wear a mask, as it poses a suffocation risk.
Watch this video on How to Wash Your Hands
Yes. There are currently two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. One is made by Pfizer/BioNTech; the other is made by Moderna. Vaccine doses have been delivered to BJC sites.
Front-line health care providers and nursing home residents will receive priority access to the vaccine. Until vaccine doses become more available, the best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often.
While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults — children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.
Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19. 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.
Also, getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever this year. By getting the vaccine, you will not only protect yourself and the people around you from flu, but you are helping to reduce the strain on health care systems in the area responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A small number of pets worldwide have been reported to be infected with COVID-19 after close contact with infected humans. Based on available evidence, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is low.
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.
As patients recover from the disease, researchers are exploring this question, but it may be some time before we know the answer. There have been a few reported cases of reinfection by the virus causing COVID-19. In these cases, symptoms were milder than the initial infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its quarantine recommendations following a COVID-19 exposure for people who have received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine series. If you have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19, but have received both doses of vaccine within the last 90 days, quarantine is no longer necessary due to your level of protection from the vaccine. While the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing severe illness for those vaccinated is documented, it is not yet fully understood how well it prevents you from transmitting COVID-19 to others. It is still critically important to continue safety practices to protect those around you — wearing masks, practicing physical and social distance, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing.
Although some lab studies have reported results, the 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 have been 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:
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.
Our hospitals follow an infection prevention plan that has been built upon years of experience treating infectious diseases. That plan includes:
Any individuals suspected of having COVID-19 are isolated from other patients, visitors and staff. All employees are required to complete a work entry screening prior to their shift. Patients, visitor exceptions and all employees are required to wear masks throughout our hospital buildings.
If a patient is experiencing COVID-19 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 (quarantine) to reduce exposure in the community. Those with severe symptoms are hospitalized in isolation.
BJC’s virtual visit program allows patients in isolation to designate a loved one as point-of-contact for regular phone updates by their nurse. The nurse can also help loved ones set up a Zoom account for virtual visits with the patient.
Our emergency department is open to patients needing any kind of emergency care. Patients with suspected COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are triaged to different areas to isolate them from other patients. Don’t let concerns about the coronavirus keep you from seeking necessary medical treatment.
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 is committed to the health and safety of our patients, families and community. We recognize the role loved ones play in the healing process and are committed to providing our patients with an environment that is both warm and supportive, and safely designed to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Patients are encouraged to have Virtual Visitors through phone calls, FaceTime and other virtual methods. In cases where patients are unable to do so on their own, the care team will help facilitate virtual visits through the BJC Virtual Visitor Program.
BJC HealthCare has a limited visitor policy in place. View the complete policy here.
No. To follow recommendations for social distancing in order not to spread the virus, no additional family members or friends are allowed in the facility.
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.
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 we do for 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.
All employees working in BJC facilities are required to wear masks to lower the risk of COVID-19 infection from those people with minimal or mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic (have no symptoms). BJC has adopted a policy that all employees and any visitors must wear masks. Masking can provide protection to employees from pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic patients, and to patients from pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic employees.
Yes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that citizens should wear "non-medical, cloth masks" when it is essential to be in public places to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cloth masks, bought at stores, ordered online or homemade, can help protect others nearby and can help protect wearers as well. Medical and surgical masks are ideal for use inside health care facilities. 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.
Yes. BJC facilities require all patients and visitors to wear a face covering when entering the facility and to continue to wear it while in the facility unless instructed otherwise. If you don’t have a mask already, you will be provided with one. Regardless of whether you have a mask or not, you will be offered a medical-grade isolation or KN95 mask upon arrival to the facility.
Patients should wear masks while in the facility until instructed otherwise, which includes when in public areas such as hallways and being transported for tests and therapy. Patients can remove masks when alone in their rooms but should put their mask on when health care workers enter the room, whenever possible. If you do not have your own mask, you will be given an isolation mask or KN95 mask and instructed how to reuse it over the course of the day. You should be offered a new isolation mask or KN95 mask daily. Find complete care recommendations for cloth masks here.
Children younger than age 2, patients who have difficulty breathing or patients who are unable to remove their own mask without assistance should not wear a mask. Social distancing should be maintained.
The mask is used to reduce community spread of COVID-19. It will protect others from COVID-19 in case you are infected. Many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could spread COVID-19 to others. A cloth mask also offers some protection to you too. How well it protects you from breathing in the virus likely depends on the fabrics used and how your mask is made (for example, the type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, how well the mask fits). The CDC is currently studying these factors.
When it comes to masking, think of quality first. Wear a mask that:
The CDC provides recommendations about how to choose a mask that fits properly and ways to improve the fit and filtration of your mask. You will be offered a medical-grade isolation mask or KN95 mask upon arrival to BJC facilities and recommend use of these masks during your visit.
You will be offered a medical-grade isolation mask or KN95 mask upon arrival to the facility. These offer better protection to you while visiting the health care setting. If you have your own cloth mask, you may wear it as long as the mask covers your nose and mouth.
You are encouraged to wear your own mask when coming to a BJC facility. If you don’t have a mask, you will be provided with one. Even if you already have a mask, you will be offered a medical-grade isolation mask or KN95 mask upon arrival to the facility.
The CDC provides recommendations about how to choose a mask that fits properly and ways to improve the fit and filtration of your mask.
Yes, social distancing is also used to reduce spread of COVID-19 and prevent transmission. A face mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
Yes. You should wear a mask at all times throughout the building to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Unless you are bringing your child to been seen by a health care provider, children should remain at home if possible. If your child is coming to be seen by a health care provider and is 2 years old or older, they should wear a cloth face mask. The mask should fit over the nose and mouth and allow the child to breathe comfortably. A child wearing a mask should always be monitored; if the child has difficulty breathing with the face covering, it should be removed immediately.
Children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask. Health care providers, team members and visitors in the hospital are required to wear masks to protect those who cannot wear a mask. Frequent hand hygiene and social distancing (staying more than 6 feet apart) from others is strongly recommended to protect yourself and your children. An infant in a baby carrier may benefit from having a lightweight cloth or light blanket draped over the carrier. An infant should always be monitored to ensure they can breathe comfortably.
Yes. Surgical, KN95 and isolation masks not only decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19, but also provide added protection over cloth masks for you. N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers caring for sick patients.
Note: Infants and children younger than age 2 should never wear a face mask, as it poses a suffocation risk.
Yes. It is not yet known how long a person is immune to getting COVID-19 again after being infected, so a mask will help protect others in case you become infected again and lower your risk of being reinfected.
Yes. Wearing a mask will help protect others in case you became infected since your test or if you are infected and your test did not detect COVID-19. Wearing a mask also can protect you by reducing your exposure to respiratory droplets.
Carbon dioxide is the gas you breathe out from your lungs when you exhale. We all breathe in small amounts of carbon dioxide each time we take a breath, with or without a mask. Masks allow exhaled carbon dioxide to pass through the same way oxygen is pulled in through the mask when we inhale. While medical-grade masks and cloth masks allow this gas exchange to occur, plastic and other non-porous materials can prevent this exchange of gases and put the user at risk of breathing difficulties or even suffocation. It is very important that you wear cloth and medical-grade masks, as opposed to masks made of other materials. If, at any time, your mask becomes difficult to breathe through or noticeably moist, you should remove the mask and put on a new mask to help ensure good air exchange.
Most masks are made of porous materials that dry quickly. If your mask becomes noticeably moist, you should put on a new mask. No increase in bacterial respiratory infections caused by masks has ever been reported in health care providers, construction workers or surgeons who all wear masks at work daily to protect themselves.
Serology tests detect the presence of antibodies in the blood, part of the body’s immune response to infectious agents, such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies can remain in the blood months or years after an infection. Because serology tests don’t detect the presence of the virus itself, they cannot be used to diagnose active infections with COVID-19.
“Swab” tests are used to evaluate for an active COVID-19 infection. Swab testing involves collecting a nasal, nasopharyngeal or throat sample to check for active infection. Serology testing uses a blood sample to look for antibodies — evidence that you have already had an infection.
COVID-19 is a new disease requiring the development of new tests. Although there are many different serology tests available, not all of these tests have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration to determine if they work well.
There is no clear indication for the use of a serology test. In the early days of an infection, when the body’s immune response is still building, antibodies may not be present in detectable levels. Therefore, serology tests cannot be used to diagnose an active infection. Serology tests cannot be used to determine when individuals may return to work. Additionally, a positive test does not mean that an individual is immune from getting infected with COVID-19 in the future. If you have symptoms concerning for COVID-19, you should consult with your primary care physician for evaluation.
Interpreting a positive test is difficult because the performance of most serology tests is unknown. A false positive result may occur due to the test detecting other similar viruses. Additionally, a positive test result does not mean that you are immune to future infections with COVID-19. Negative results can also occur if individuals are tested before the immune system has had enough time to mount a response to the infection.
In order not to overwhelm the care needed for critically ill patients, you should first call your health care provider if you suspect you might have COVID-19 and are exhibiting symptoms. Your health care provider will give you instructions on how to get tested and receive care, if needed, without exposing other people to your illness. Use this online screening tool to help determine if you need COVID-19 testing.
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.