Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know

Health and safety are always among our top priorities at Weill Cornell Medicine. We are closely watching updates from trusted healthcare organizations and governmental recommendations about the new coronavirus (COVID-19), and will continue to keep you informed. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that for most people, the immediate risk of infection of COVID-19 is thought to be lowPeople in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location. New York City is experiencing community transmission, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The CDC has provided the public with guidance on travel, health safety and preventative measures so you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. 

If you have developed a fever, cough, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms, please call your provider before visiting one of our practice locations.

Here is Guidance from the CDC on Staying Healthy:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and encourage family to do the same. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash and immediately wash your hands. No tissue? Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

To stay up to date on the latest information and updates to our policies, please visit our patient care blog including physician interviews, trending health topics and more.

COVID-19 Hotline

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19), please call our hotline:

(646) 697-4000

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

The following responses are based on the information provided to us and the general public by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene along with guidance offered by the CDC.

Symptoms and Testing Information

How serious is this virus and what are the range of symptoms?

Reported symptoms due to infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe. Symptoms may include fever, cough or shortness of breath. There is some evidence that children have milder disease but experts are still learning about the range of illness caused by COVID-19.

How long before symptoms of the virus appear?

The CDC believe at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear between two and 14 days after exposure.

Should I wear a mask and gloves?

Masks and gloves are not a long-term solution and may in fact increase the likelihood that you excessively touch your face. The best precaution is:

  • Handwashing
  • Frequently disinfecting high touch surfaces (door knobs, etc.)
  • Social distancing (at least 6 feet)
  • Stay away from sick individual

How can I get tested for COVID-19?

At this time all testing must be approved by the New York State Department of Health. Testing is currently limited to patients with severe disease or those with symptoms who have recently traveled to one of the high-risk countries or have had close contact with a known case of COVID-19. Patients without symptoms or with typical cold symptoms are not eligible for testing. Even when expanded testing is available, healthcare providers will still only test those for whom there is a clinical indication for testing.

How do I tell the difference between the flu, a cold, and COVID-19?

Influenza (flu) can have very similar symptoms as the common cold but often with more acute onset, severe muscle aches, headache and fever of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit with chills, sweats and often profound fatigue and malaise.

Symptoms of the common cold usually include runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, mild aches and cough. The symptoms are typically mild with minimal to no fever.

COVID-19 symptoms may range from mild to severe, and include fever and cough and possibly shortness of breath. If your symptoms are mild, with only low-grade fever, and accompanied by sore throat, runny nose and/or nasal congestion, you do not have infection with COVID-19.

What happens if I’ve been exposed or diagnosed with the COVID-19?

If you have been exposed or diagnosed by a healthcare professional, you might be provided with instructions for at-home self-monitoring. This includes checking yourself for fever and remaining alert to any changes in fever, cough or shortness of breath for 14 days.

Weill Cornell Medicine Patient Care and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Visitation Updates

Can I visit family or loved ones who are staying at the hospital?

Updated Visitor Policy:

While we understand that visitation and caretakers are extremely important to the recovery and general well-being of our patients, we have decided to enact these policy changes to take effect immediately in an effort to protect our healthcare staff, patients and particularly high risk, immunocompromised patients who may be seeking treatment at our locations.

In-Patient Services (NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital): 

  • At this time, no visitors are permitted for adult patients. 

  • One visitor per pediatric patient are allowed in the pediatric units and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These visitors can only be parents, guardians, or family care partners. When possible, the designated visitors should remain the same for the course of admission. 

  • At this time, no visitors including birthing partners and support persons are permitted for obstetric patients. We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote the safety of our new mothers and children. 

  • Please refer to the hospital’s visitation policies for the latest information. 

Out-Patient Services (Weill Cornell Medicine Practice Locations):

  • Please bring only one assistant or family member with you to an appointment if absolutely necessary. This is to protect visitors and patients, as well as physicians and staff.
  • Any visitor who is coughing or shows any signs of illness will be required to wear a mask or asked to leave, if deemed appropriate by our healthcare team.

Will my elective procedure be rescheduled?

In response to the current COVID-19 public health crisis, and out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to postpone all elective procedures and surgeries beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice. The health and safety of our patients and staff are always our top priority.  We believe that taking this step now is in the best interest of all, and will help us to further concentrate on the adequacy of our equipment and supplies during this challenging period.   

Please contact your doctor’s office to receive more information about your specific care, including rescheduling. 

What telemedicine or virtual visit options are available for care?

We are utilizing Telemedicine service whenever possible to ensure that you and your family still have access to your care team and can remain indoors. Virtual Visits are available for patients with non-urgent matters, follow-up appointments, or for those who are at higher risk for COVID-19 and would like to maintain social distancing. 

Before you cancel your next appointment, please contact your provider’s practice to determine if previously scheduled appointments can be converted to a Video Visits.

Our Primary Care physicians offer Video Visits for both adults and children. Many of our specialists also offer Video Visits for follow-up appointments, so we encourage you to visit weillcornell.org/video-visits and call your practice to learn more. 

If you do not have a Weill Cornell Medicine primary care physician, you can setup a Virtual Urgent Care visit from home, with our healthcare providers at NewYork-Presbyterian.

Self-Monitoring Information

What is home self-monitoring?

Home self-monitoring means you check yourself for fever and remain alert for cough or shortness of breath. Everyone who's at home self-monitoring has been provided a plan for whom to contact during the self-monitoring period to determine whether medical evaluation is needed if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath. People on home self-monitoring are also asked to stay at home and avoid going outside for the entire self-monitoring period. You should not attend work, school, public events or group gatherings. You can get a doctor’s note here if you need to provide documentation of your absence to your school or employer.

If I’m under self-monitoring, what if I need to leave home to receive medical care for a chronic illness or other issue?

If you need to see a doctor or healthcare provider for a medical problem, you should call your provider ahead of your visit and let them know about your recent travel.

Do I need to get cleared to return to work or school?

No. If you did not have any fever, cough or shortness of breath during your 14-day home self-monitoring period, you can go back to work or school. There is no formal clearance process. People without fever, cough or shortness of breath are not tested for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Update: As of Sunday March 22, 2020, "New York State on Pause" executive order calls for 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services. Schools statewide have also been closed and have moved to remote learning.

My employer or school is not allowing me to return after I completed home self-monitoring. What are my options?

There is no medical reason for your work or school to exclude you after the home self-monitoring period is over. Please show them the doctor’s note from the NYC Health Department. You can also report this situation to the NYC Commission on Human Rights by calling 311 and saying, “human rights.”

Click here for the school/work note.

Update: As of Sunday March 22, 2020, "New York State on Pause" executive order calls for 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services. Schools statewide have also been closed and have moved to remote learning.

Work, Life and Travel Recommendations

Can I still go to the gym or attend other group fitness activities?

At this time, gyms and studios are closed to help minimize exposure to crowds. If you are exercising, please remember to use proper hand hygiene and also wipe down equipment with the proper alcohol-based wipes before and after use.

Can COVID-19 be spread through food? Should I eat or avoid certain foods?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food you should make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Be sure to wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom or touching surfaces that may have been touched by others.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Keep all work surfaces clean and disinfected with common household cleaners on a regular basis.

Is it recommended that I work from home?

As of Sunday March 22, 2020, "New York State on Pause" executive order calls for 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services. We recommend that you check with your employer and keep up with the New York State Department of Health guidance.

I have a trip planned. Should I cancel it?

The CDC provides recommendations—called travel notices—on postponing or canceling travel. These notices are based on assessments of the potential health risks involved in traveling to a certain area. Here is a list of destinations with travel notices. Physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian are following the CDC guidelines in our recommendations

I’m hearing about different levels of travel notices. What do they mean?

Warning Level 3: CDC recommends travelers avoid all non-essential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.

Alert Level 2: Because COVID-19 can be more serious in older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, people in these groups should speak with a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with level 2 travel notices.

Watch Level 1: CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices because the risk of COVID-19 is considered low. If you travel, take the following routine precautions:

  • Avoid contact with those who are showing signs and symptoms of illness.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
  • It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose

I don't want to travel because of COVID-19. Can the CDC help me get a refund from my airline or cruise travel?

Although some companies may base their policies on CDC’s travel health notices, each company—not the CDC—establishes its own refund policies. The CDC does not intervene in business policy. Here’s some more information about the CDC’s travel notices.

Same Day Virtual Care Services

If you have concerns or are experiencing symptoms, you can schedule an immediate appointment.

Returning Patients

For existing Weill Cornell Medicine primary care patients, you may contact us to schedule a video visit.

Schedule a Visit

New Patients

If you do not have a Weill Cornell Medicine primary care physician, you can setup a Virtual Urgent Care visit from home, with our healthcare providers at NewYork-Presbyterian.

  • Open 7 days a week
  • Adults: 8 a.m. – midnight
  • Children: 4 p.m. – midnight

Schedule a Visit

For more information on COVID-19, please visit nyc.gov/health/coronavirus or cdc.gov/coronavirus/.