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Published on March 09, 2020

COVID-19 frequently asked questions

Gundersen encourages patients to stay informed about the COVID-19 pandemic through reliable information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. State information is available at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Minnesota Department of Health and the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Your health department is also providing updated local information on the virus available at:

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

It is a virus that belongs to a larger family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause mild illness like the common cold. In years past, two other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) have caused health problems here and abroad. Like them, COVID-19 requires heightened public concern and caution.

Spread and symptoms

How does COVID-19 spread?
This virus is likely to spread:

  • Person-to-person (which is thought to be the main way)
  • By contact with infected surfaces or objects

Person-to-person can occur when people are within about 6 feet of each other. Airborne droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person can be breathed in by others nearby. A less likely way could be touching a surface or object with virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. 

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when symptoms make them very sick. There have been reports of people without symptoms spreading the disease. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus seems to spread. 

How easily does the virus spread?
COVID-19 spreads easily and can remain in the community if not contained. "Community spread" means people who catch the virus are not sure how, where or when they were near someone who was sick with it. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common are:

  • Fever
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea are less common. In most cases, symptoms are mild and take effect slowly. Even after infection, some people show no symptoms and do not feel sick. Most people (about 80 percent) recover without needing special treatment.

Some people will become very ill and have trouble breathing and some may be at risk of dying. Like many other respiratory illnesses, more severe illness is likely among older people and those with medical problems such as:

  • Immunocompromised
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes

Exposure and isolation

What's the difference between isolation and quarantine?
Isolation keeps someone who is infected with the virus away from others. Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others.

How long do I need to isolate if I think or know I had COVID-19?
You can be with others after:

  • At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
  • Symptoms have improved
  • Read more

How long do I need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19?
A 14-day quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 remains the gold standard. Quarantine can end earlier in some situations. Read more about quarantine.


Protection measures for everyone
For most of us, COVID-19 may be a mild illness. For others, COVID-19 can be much more severe. To care for yourself and protect those at higher risk of contracting cold, flu and COVID-19, here are some simple, yet effective guidelines:

  • Clean hands often with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Either method will remove the virus on your hands.
  • Keep at least 6 feet away from any person who is coughing or sneezing. They may be spraying droplets that contain COVID-19 or some other virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in those droplets.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. One touch with dirty hands can infect you.
  • Make sure you and others nearby practice good hygiene when you cough or sneeze. Droplets spread virus. Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue. Dispose of used tissue right away and then wash your hands.
  • If you feel ill, stay home. If you have a fever, cough and trouble breathing, call your local clinic or Gundersen Telephone Nurse Advisor at (608) 775-4454 or 800) 858-1050. Those who answer will know where you should go for the right level of medical care.

Stay informed. How you should react to the spread of COVID-19 will change daily. A good place to get current information is the CDC website. Your healthcare provider, local public health department or employer will provide more information as it becomes available.

How do masks help prevent COVID-19 spread?
Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, along with distancing and consistent, frequent hand washing, are simple actions that are important for reducing the spread of COVID-19. The virus is most commonly spread when respiratory droplets are exhaled into the air when we cough sneeze, and even when we talk, yell and exercise. We encourage everyone to wear a mask when they are around people outside of their household, especially when distancing is difficult, to keep everyone healthy and safe.


If you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, there are two options for screening and testing at Gundersen Health System:

  1. Screening and self-scheduling in MyChart (select locations)
  2. Screening and scheduling by phone

By phone or online, you will be asked screening questions to determine your next steps.

Learn more

Note: You must be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested at Gundersen Health System.

For questions about COVID-19, ask Ayla, our digital helper. You can find her in the lower right corner of our website.

Pregnancy and children

I'm pregnant. What do I need to know about COVID-19?
See the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the risk of COVID-19 for children?
See CDC Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children

What is the risk of COVID-19 in pregnancy and for newborn babies?
See CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Pregnancy

What is the risk of COVID-19 when breastfeeding?
See CDC Interim Guidance on Breastfeeding

How can I help?

There are many ways to help Gundersen and our communities as we face COVID-19 together. Read more about ways to give.

what to expect

We've taken steps at all our locations to keep you and our staff healthy and safe. Here's what to expect when you visit us.

Stay safe