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.
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.
On August 23, 2021, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine officially received full FDA approval. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive this approval. This action by the FDA may influence some unvaccinated citizens to get vaccinated, as it is additional validation that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection.
On Sept. 24, the CDC updated the interim recommendation on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The recommendation includes:
The recommendation applies to those who are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine only, if it has been more than 6 months since their second dose.
Boosters extend immunity after the initial shots’ potency starts to decrease over time. This guidance is specific to Pfizer vaccine recipients; there are no booster recommendations yet for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines. Boosters for qualifying individuals can be scheduled at BJC public vaccine clinics and other resources such as public health departments and retail pharmacies.
You can now directly schedule your COVID-19 vaccination at www.bjc.org/covid-vaccine. Those without internet or email access can call 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.
COVID-19 vaccines are readily available through local pharmacy and retail locations, physician offices and public health departments. BJC currently offers appointments at two locations, on the academic medical center campus at I-64 and Kingshighway Boulevard and at the Christian Hospital campus in North St. Louis County. You can schedule a BJC appointment here. Those without internet or email access can call 314-236-0125.
You do not need to be a current patient of BJC HealthCare or Washington University School of Medicine to register for and receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
You do not need to have a BJC doctor, be in the BJC network or have a MyChart account to receive a vaccine. However, if you have a MyChart account, a record of your vaccination will appear there. 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.
There are opportunities for both scheduled appointments and walk-ins at some of our clinics. Click here for a list of locations and hours.
Some individual physician offices are offering COVID-19 vaccines. Check with your doctor’s office to see if vaccine is available.
Yes. All BJC clinics are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, and concierge service and wheelchairs are available at each location, as needed.
A physician is not required to be on site at the BJC COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics.
All sites are equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs), as well as Epi-pens and some other medications, and staff are prepared to call EMS in the event of a medical emergency.
All sites are equipped with interpreter iPads, which connect trained interpreters to those in need of interpreter services.
No, clinic staff may not administer medications prior to vaccination. Patients may self-administer medications — for example, a patient may request numbing cream from his or her primary care physician and apply it prior to vaccination.
Transportation assistance is not available; however, there are some BJC vaccination locations near Metro bus stops and MetroLink stations. There are no BJC drive-through clinics.
The BJC public vaccination clinics in the St. Louis metro area are providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 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.
There is no cost to you. If you have insurance – including Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance – we will bill your insurance for administration of the vaccine. Insurance is not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please bring your insurance card to your appointment if you have insurance.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will require two doses separated by three to four weeks, depending upon which vaccine you receive. If you receive your first dose at a BJC clinic, second dose appointments will be scheduled in person when you receive 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 21-28 day window, within six weeks (42 days) is acceptable. Also, as a reminder, the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine requires only one dose.
Yes, if the vaccine you received requires two doses (Pfizer or Moderna), you will receive both doses from the same manufacturer. As a reminder, the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine requires only one dose.
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.
See additional vaccine FAQs.
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 three vaccines available for COVID-19. On August 23, 2021, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine officially received full FDA approval. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive this approval. The other two vaccines, made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, are available under Emergency Use Authorization.
While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults — children can be infected with COVID-19, get sick from COVID-19, and 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. More children than ever are currently hospitalized or in the ICU with COVID-19.
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 are fully vaccinated. That means people who have received both doses of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19, but are fully vaccinated, quarantine is no longer necessary due to your level of protection from the vaccine. It is still critically important to monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days after your exposure and to continue safety practices to protect those around you — wearing masks, practicing physical and social distance, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing. Post-exposure testing is recommended 3 – 5 days after an exposure, regardless of vaccination status.
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. Effective September 15, 2021, BJC employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Patients, visitor exceptions and all employees are required to wear masks throughout our hospital buildings.
If a patient is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, we provide symptom 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. If you are looking for COVID test, or have non-urgent symptoms, you may also consider visiting one of BJC’s Convenient Care locations.
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. To follow recommendations for social distancing in order not to spread the virus, no additional family members or friends are allowed in the facility. View the complete policy here.
If they have a test pending, the visitor should wait until they have test results 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. View the complete policy here.
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, vaccines, 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 who may have the disease and not know it because they have minimal or mild symptoms or 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. Even if you have been vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing masks when out in public, particularly when the vaccination status of those around you is unknown, and particularly if you are in a geographic area with a high infection rate. 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, you will be offered a medical-grade isolation or KN95 mask upon arrival to the facility.
Unless instructed otherwise, 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.
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, we recommend medical-grade masks in the hospital setting. Surgical, KN95 and isolation masks not only decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19, but also provide greater protection for you than cloth masks in health care settings. N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers caring for sick patients. However, if you prefer to wear your cloth mask, you may do so.
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 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.
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.