What you need to know about the coronavirus (COVID-19)

The CVS Health Enterprise Response and Resiliency and Infectious Disease Response teams are actively monitoring the rapidly evolving international coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 12.

Below is information about the virus – including guidance from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — tips for staying healthy and a few procedures that CVS Health has implemented that focus on the health and safety of our colleagues, customers and patients. Please note: Due to the fluidity of the situation, we are continuously updating these FAQs.

For more information about the virus, please visit the CDC and/or WHO websites dedicated to this issue.

The content below is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

The information contained on this page is subject to change at the discretion of CVS at any time, for any reason and without advanced notice.


Introduction

CVS Health’s top medical professionals explain what you need to know about Coronavirus in this brief video.


General questions

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a novel respiratory coronavirus. COVID-19 poses a serious public health risk and is highly contagious. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the situation a pandemic. Visit the CDC Traveler’s Health website for travel notices and precautions.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common signs of infection include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Chills

  • Repeated shaking with chills

  • Muscle pain

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • New loss of taste or smell

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. Visit the CDC website for more information about symptoms.

Who is at a higher risk for COVID-19?

Older adults, as well as people with underlying chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, seem to be at higher risk for developing serious complications with COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is thought to spread primarily though human-to-human contact via respiratory droplets that are produced when a person coughs, sneezes, or even talks. Infected droplets may be inhaled or land on or in the noses or mouths of people nearby, spreading the disease.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Similarly, contracting the disease from an infected animal or pet is considered low risk.

COVID-19 is spreading very easily, more efficiently than the flu. For this reason, it is critical to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands properly and disinfect frequently used surfaces.

For more information about the transmission of COVID-19, please see the CDC website.

What is the impact of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy?

Currently, there is limited information about risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women. During pregnancy, women experience immunologic and physiologic changes that might increase their risk for severe illness with COVID-19. Because of this, pregnant women are considered an at-risk population for adverse outcomes. Prevention efforts are especially important.

Can COVID-19 be passed in the uterus or at the time of delivery from pregnant mother to baby?

Although studies to date are small, no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus while at the time of delivery. To date, the virus has not been found in amniotic fluid or breastmilk of women who have the infection.

Can a newborn baby get infected with COVID-19?

Yes, a small number of cases have been described of infants only a few days old being infected with COVID-19.

Photo of someone washing their hands.

Protecting yourself

How can you protect yourself or others from COVID-19?

  • Although there are currently no vaccines available to protect against human coronavirus infection, you may be able to reduce your risk of infection by washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

  • If you have cold-like symptoms, as a courtesy to your co-workers and others, please remain at home while you are sick:

    • Along these lines, CVS Pharmacy is waiving chargesFree 1- to 2-day Rx shipping applies to orders from March 9, 2020, to May 1, 2020. for home delivery of prescription medications. With the CDC encouraging people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications to stay at home as much as possible, this is a convenient option to avoid coming to the pharmacy for refills or new prescriptions.

    • Additionally, through Aetna, CVS Health is offering 90-day maintenance medication prescriptions for insured and Medicare members, and is working with state governments to make the same option available to Medicaid members when allowable.

    • Aetna is also waiving early refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications for all members with pharmacy benefits administered through CVS Caremark.

  • If you share a workstation or equipment with others, please wipe it down with disinfectant wipes after use. Surfaces in any area occupied by an individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 should be washed with 70 percent ethyl alcohol chlorine solution.

For information about disinfecting your work station, equipment, or home, visit the CDC's Clean and Disinfect website.

Many states, counties, cities and countries have issued “stay at home” or “social distancing” orders. To help protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19, it is important to follow these orders and limit the amount of time spent outside the home and around other people.

What should you do if you suspect you or someone else has contracted COVID-19?

Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. However, it is important to treat symptoms and limit the chances of infecting others. If you suspect you may have COVID-19, stay at home and reach out to a local health care provider.

Although there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses, you can take the following actions to help relieve symptoms if you are mildly sick:

  • Take pain and fever medications. Ask your pharmacist how they may interact with any medications you currently take. Caution: The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend not giving aspirin to children.

  • Use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.

  • Drink plenty of liquids.

  • Stay home and rest.
     

Monitor your symptoms and reach out to a health care provider immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

For additional guidance on what to do if you or someone you know is sick, visit the CDC website.

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

In addition to taking pain and fever medications to manage the symptoms of COVID-19, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) on May 1, 2020, for a broad antiviral drug called remdesivir. In early trials, remdesivir has been shown to speed recovery from the virus, although testing is still ongoing.

In cases where it is appropriate, remdesivir will be used only to treat adults and children with suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and severe disease defined as blood oxygen saturation levels of less than or equal to 94%. The drug is administered intravenously. The maker of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, Inc., has the suggested five- and 10-day courses of therapy will be provided at no cost. Coverage under your pharmacy and medical benefit plan is not necessary.

Is COVID-19 transmitted through the eyes?

While there is no agreed-upon evidence indicating that COVID-19 is transmitted directly through the eyes, it is possible. Here’s why:

  • When a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks, virus particles can be transmitted from their mouth into another person’s face. You’re most likely to inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, but it is possible for them to enter through your eyes and then into your nasal passage

  • People who have coronavirus may spread the virus through their tears. Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed can be another portal to infection.

  • You may become infected by touching something that has the virus on it – like a table or doorknob – and then touching your eyes

Do glasses protect against COVID-19?

Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection. Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets, but they don’t provide 100% security. The virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses. If you’re caring for a sick patient or potentially exposed person, safety goggles may offer a stronger defense.

Is it safe to wear contact lenses?

Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person – increasing their risk of their eyes being a potential portal for diseases. Substituting glasses for contact lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eyes. If you wish to continue wearing contact lenses, it’s critical that you follow proper hygiene and care as prescribed by your eye care professional. NOTE: You should discontinue wearing contact lenses if you’re sick irrespective of the type of illness.

What can I do to protect my eyes while wearing contact lenses?

Here are the general guidelines for handling your contact lenses and proper hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer and dry them with a lint-free towel before handling your contacts.

  • Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.

  • Use fresh solution in your contact lens case everyday and when rinsing lenses.

  • Don’t rub your eyes if they become irritated; use drops or give your eyes a break and wear glasses.

  • Follow your eye care professional's schedule for wearing and replacing your contacts.

Does getting the flu or pneumonia vaccine reduce an individual’s risk of developing COVID-19?

No, but since there is no treatment for COVID-19, getting available immunizations for other lung infections, like flu, pneumonia and whooping cough is important. This is especially important for those who have weakened immune systems or who may have a more serious illness. Additionally, while COVID-19 is circulating, these immunizations will help decrease the burden on health care delivery systems.

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)?

Doctors around the world have noted a severe inflammatory response that appears to be related to infections of COVID-19 in children. The multisystem inflammatory response presents with Kawasaki-like symptoms, including persistent fever, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, rash, and elevated inflammatory markers. Children generally make a full recovery, though MIS-C has been fatal in some cases, indicating that the pediatric risk of COVID-19 is higher than initially presumed. Doctors are still learning about the syndrome, its diagnosis, and its treatment. For more information, please see the CDC website.

If I am pregnant, what should I do to protect myself and unborn baby (fetus) from coronavirus?

There are not separate prevention recommendations for pregnant women. The CDC provides general recommendations for infection prevention in the management of COVID-19.

What breastfeeding precautions should women with COVID-19 infections take?

The CDC recommends that during temporary mother-infant separation, women who intend to breastfeed should be encouraged to express their breast milk to establish and maintain the milk supply. Expressed breast milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver.

For women and infants who are not separated, the CDC recommends that if a woman and newborn do room-in and the woman wishes to feed at the breast, she should put on a facemask and practice hand washing before each feeding.

What is the current CVS Health guidance about wearing a facemask in our stores and other CVS Health sites?

The CDC has issued recent guidance that states surgical, cloth or other face coverings may be helpful for those already infected with COVID-19 if they are in close contact with others. The CDC also has stated that face masks and face coverings may slow the spread of the virus by individuals who may have the virus but do not know it. Today, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. Please remember, however, that there is no substitute for proper social distancing measures and frequent and thorough hand washing.

In an effort to keep our colleagues and customers safe from COVID-19 infection, effective immediately, we are requiring that all CVS Health employees wear either a company-issued face mask or cloth face covering while working at a CVS Health site. Colleagues who choose not to wear a company-provided face mask must wear a cloth face covering that meets CDC guidelines and is suitable for the workplace. Additionally, we are encouraging customers to wear face masks or a cloth face covering when inside our stores and requiring they do so in those parts of the country where a face covering is mandated.

We are also requiring all CVS vendors and suppliers, and their associated employees, contractors and agents, to follow all relevant COVID-19 guidelines issued by the CDC. These guidelines include, but are not limited to:

  • Wearing a mask/cloth face cover

  • Maintaining social distancing and personal hygiene (frequent hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer)

  • Frequently sanitizing any shared surfaces, equipment, or technology, including keys, touchpads, and styluses

  • Ensuring employees stay home if they show any symptoms of illness

Testing for COVID-19

How is CVS Health supporting testing efforts in local communities?

CVS Health is uniquely positioned to play a vital role in supporting local communities and the overall health care system in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ability to coordinate the availability of COVID-19 testing bolsters states’ efforts to manage the spread of the virus.

In April, CVS Health joined forces with state governments in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island to help increase access to rapid COVID-19 testing. Each site operates seven days a week and is administering an average of 1,000 tests per day.

In May, CVS Health will begin to expand its COVID-19 testing to offer self-swab tests at up to 1,000 CVS Pharmacy locations across the country, with the goal of processing 1.5 million tests per month.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, who has been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or who lives in or has recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19 (such as a CDC-designated “Level 2” or “Level 3” advisory area) should contact their health care provider and be tested.

How can I access COVID-19 testing?

Patients who have concerns that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or may have symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider. The tests will be nasal or pharyngeal swabs that are then sent to a laboratory. Please see “COVID-19 testing: Information and locations” for more information.

Will Aetna cover the cost of COVID-19 testing for members?

Aetna is waiving member cost-sharing for diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. The test can be done by any approved testing facility. This member cost-sharing waiver applies to all Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid lines of business. The policy also aligns with new Families First legislation and regulations requiring all health plans to provide coverage of COVID-19 testing without cost share. The requirement also applies to self-insured plans. Per guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury, all Commercial, Medicaid and Medicare plans must cover certain serological (antibody) testing with no cost-sharing.

I asked for a COVID-19 test, but my doctor said I don’t need one. What are my options?

Your doctor is in the best position to advise if testing is needed based on your symptoms. With tests in limited supply, providers are using a strict set of guidelines to determine when testing is appropriate.

If your symptoms change, contact your doctor again.

Where can I get additional information?

You can find more information on COVID-19 at these links:

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