We are getting many questions from our community around COVID-19. Frequently asked questions are included below and these are updated frequently. If you have a question that is not listed, please complete this form. Someone from the Larimer County Department of Health & Environment will respond as soon as possible. If you are feeling sick or have medical questions, please call your healthcare provider.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the new coronavirus strain.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses with symptoms that include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These viruses spread through coughing or sneezing, much like the flu. Some coronaviruses are common and regularly cause illness in the U.S. in the fall and winter. Other coronaviruses, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, have caused outbreaks internationally and have been known to cause severe illness. 

Self-observation means people should remain alert for subjective fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop cough or difficulty breathing during the self-observation period, they should take their temperature, self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether a medical evaluation is needed.

Self-monitoring means people should monitor themselves for fever by taking their temperatures twice a day and remain alert for cough or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop measured fever, cough, or difficulty breathing during the self-monitoring period, they should self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether a medical evaluation is needed.

Active monitoring means that the state or local public health authority assumes responsibility for establishing regular communication with potentially exposed people to assess for the presence of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. For people with high-risk exposures, CDC recommends this communication occurs at least once each day. The mode of communication can be determined by the state or local public health authority and may include telephone calls or any electronic or internet-based means of communication.

Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case

Public health orders are legally enforceable directives issued under the authority of a relevant federal, state, or local entity that, when applied to a person or group, may place restrictions on the activities undertaken by that person or group, potentially including movement restrictions or a requirement for monitoring by a public health authority, for the purposes of protecting the public’s health. Federal, state, or local public health orders may be issued to enforce isolation and/or quarantine.

Isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent the spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.

Quarantine in general means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

Congregate settings are crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums.

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

How did the COVID-19 outbreak begin?

On December 31, 2019, Chinese health officials alerted the World Health Organization of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The pneumonia was caused by a virus that did not match any other known virus. This raised concerns because when a virus is new, public health officials do not know how it affects people.

One week later, on January 7, 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a type of coronavirus. It is from the same family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

Since then, cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have been identified in several countries. For the most current information on global and national cases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites. For up to date maps of the outbreak from Johns Hopkins University, click here.

How common is COVID-19 in Colorado?

There are cases of COVID-19 in Larimer County and in Colorado. It is hard to know how many people have had COVID-19 at this time because testing has been so limited. Visit our case information page for the most current information on positive cases in Larimer County.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is committed to protecting the health and safety of Coloradans. They will continue to investigate and test possible cases and provide timely updates on COVID-19 cases.

Case information will be updated weekly on Wednesdays on CDPHE’s webpage

CDPHE will update the web page with other information for the public as often as necessary and will communicate via media releases and social media as appropriate.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is able to spread from person-to-person and is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets produced when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread. Someone can unknowingly spread the virus before they start to have symptoms.

Who is at risk of getting COVID-19?

It’s important to understand that risk is based on exposure. At this time, people at higher risk are:

  • People who are 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, especially if those conditions are not carefully controlled:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised
      • Many conditions can cause someone to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease

There are people of Chinese or Asian descent in my work/school/church/community - are they at higher risk for getting COVID-19?

No, they are not at higher risk for getting COVID-19.  Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic, or racial group is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19. At this time, risk is based on recent travel to China and close contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19. 

What can I do to protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

People who are worried about this, or any respiratory virus, like the flu, can protect themselves by practicing everyday actions:

  • Stay home except to do essential errands (like go to the grocery store or pharmacy) or if you work for a critical business
  • Clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Getting a flu shot if you haven’t gotten one this year.

Do I need a facemask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear a cloth face covering to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to others. These coverings should not be surgical masks or N95 masks because those are needed by our healthcare workers. 

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time. 

Should I cancel my travel plans?

At this time, travel is not recommended at this time unless absolutely necessary. For more information visit the CDC website about travel.

What should seniors, older adults, and those with underlying health conditions be doing? 

Those who are older or who have underlying health conditions are at higher risk of having severe complications from COVID-19.  We've set up a page on this website to provide specific information for seniors and those with underlying health conditions that we will update frequently.

Can packages or products shipped from China or other areas with COVID-19 be contaminated with the virus?

There is likely a very low risk of spreading the virus from products or packages that are shipped over days and weeks. Coronaviruses are generally spread through respiratory droplets and don’t survive well on surfaces. There is still a lot unknown about how the virus spreads, but there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 through imported goods or shipped packages. 

Can I get COVID-19 again if I had it once?

It is too early to know for sure. Other types of coronaviruses have been known to make someone who catches them sick again if they get it a second time but we don't yet know what the long-term immunity will be for this new coronavirus.

What is the State of Colorado doing to respond to COVID-19?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is prepared. The department and its partners are committed to protecting the health and safety of Coloradans, ensuring their response is proactive, strong and collaborative. Their response includes:

  • Providing information about the outbreak and how to report suspect cases to local health departments and health care providers in Colorado.
  • Coordinating with local public health agencies to determine the need for monitoring, quarantine, or other restriction of movement and activities for travelers.
  • Assuring that health care providers know how to safely manage persons with possible COVID-19 infection.
  • Supporting healthcare providers and local public health with testing.
  • Actively monitoring the situation and refining response plans. 

Are people who have COVID-19 or who have been exposed to COVID-19 being isolated or quarantined?

State and local public health are working together, following federal guidance, to assess Colorado those who have been exposed to COVID-19 to determine the need for monitoring, quarantine, or other restriction of movement and activities.

How is the county supporting our seniors and reaching out to them with information?

We are providing guidance to our long-term care facilities, retirement communities, and nursing homes regarding visitors, isolation, testing, etc. We're working with our local organizations that provide services/programs for seniors. We've talked with many seniors over the phone who want info to share with their friends.

What if cases spike after moving into Safer at Home?

We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Larimer County residents. This could include moving back to Stay at Home or other adopting other restrictions to keep our community safe. We all have a responsibility to ourselves, friends, family, neighbors and local businesses to do our part by staying home as much as possible and wearing a face covering when outside of our homes.

I am at higher risk of having a severe case of COVID-19 that has been asked to continue to follow Stay at Home restrictions, per the Governor's orders, but my employer wants me to come back to work.

Per Safer at Home Executive Order D 2020-044, no vulnerable individuals can be compelled by their employer to return to work if their work requires in person work near others. If the workplace is particularly unsafe -- e.g., if it had an outbreak -- unemployment benefits might be available, depending on the facts, and OSHA safety rules might limit requirements to return.

Employers must accommodate vulnerable individuals with remote work options, if the work can be done remotely. If you refuse to return to work, are fired or quit due to unsatisfactory or hazardous working conditions, you may be eligible for unemployment to the degree of risk involved to your health.

If an employer requires work from an employee entitled to paid leave (due to illness or a quarantine/isolation order) under the Colorado HELP Rules, that would be unlawful under those rules, and should be reported to CO-HELP at 303-389-1687.

Can my employer discriminate against me for being at higher risk?

No, it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone based on age, disability, pregnancy. Anyone believing they have been discriminated against or not accommodated should contact Colorado Civil Rights Division or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I live with someone who is at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19. What should I do?

If you live with someone who is at higher risk, you also should follow stay at home guidelines to the greatest extent possible so as not to bring exposure into your household. 

What if my home is not a safe environment?

If it is not safe for you to remain home, you are able and urged to find another safe place to stay during this order. Please reach out so we can help. Call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233, Crossroads Safe House (970-482-3502), Alternatives to Violence (970-669-5150; after-hours 970-880-1000), Estes Valley Crisis Advocates (970-577-9781), or contact local law enforcement.

What can re-open during Safer at Home?

Non-critical retail, real estate showings (no open houses), non-critical and non-commercial businesses, and limited personal services. For more information on what industries are re-opening and their restrictions, please visit our Safer at Home page.

What is still closed during Safer at Home?

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption. Delivery and drive-up service is available.
  • Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Gymnasiums, yoga and fitness studios, except for use in personal training scenarios following the guidelines of the Public Health Order, "Personal training and classes in any setting are limited to all members of a single household or a mixed group of 4 or fewer individuals complying with Social Distancing Requirements; except for members of a single household, sharing equipment is prohibited."
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Playgrounds.
  • Movie and performance theaters, opera houses, concert halls, music halls and museums.  
  • Casinos.
  • Horse tracks and simulcast facilities, also known as off-track betting facilities. 
  • Downhill ski areas.

What requirements do businesses have to follow as they re-open?

Information and guidance for local businesses is available on our Safer at Home-Businesses and Workplaces page. 

What if a local business or workplace is not following the Safer at Home restrictions?

Businesses will only be allowed to open if they are in compliance with Safer at Home requirements, and it is in a business’ best interest to ensure the safety of their customers and employees. If you observe a concern at a local business, let our compliance team know here so they can follow-up. There is a lot of new information on how to operate safely at this time so our team is taking an educational and informational approach in working with our local businesses. If a business is still not adhering to the requirements after being contacted by our compliance team, additional enforcement action could be taken. 

Has anything changed for critical businesses during Safer at Home?

Critical businesses that were open under the Stay-at-Home order will remain open during the Safer at Home level with the same strict precautions (physical distancing, masks for all employees, more frequent cleanings, etc.). Critical businesses must continue to comply with distancing requirements at all times, adopt work from home or telework policies for any operations that can be done remotely, and implement other strategies, such as staggered schedules or redesigning workplaces, to create more distance between workers unless doing so would make it impossible to carry out critical functions. Larimer County Critical Businesses should review and complete the Larimer County Checklist for re-opening, as items on this checklist may be requested by our compliance team if we receive a complaint about the business. A list of critical businesses is available at covid19.colorado.gov/critical-businesses.

When will P-12 schools re-open for in-person learning?

Under Executive Order D 2020 041, normal in-person instruction at all P-12 schools in Colorado will be suspended until the scheduled end of the 2019-2020 regular school year. The Governor is hopeful that students can return to in-person learning in the fall, but Colorado’s public health experts will analyze the data and latest information to determine the best course of action. 

Will I be fined or jailed if I don't wear a mask when I'm out in public?

No, we are asking that Larimer County residents voluntarily abide by the order to wear face masks when outside of their homes. Local businesses may refuse service to someone for coming to their facilities without a face covering. Some people cannot or should not wear a mask for health reasons so it is not appropriate to ask why someone is not wearing a mask. Employees must wear masks when interacting with the public.

How will the Safer at Home orders be enforced?

The health department enforces the Safer at Home orders on a complaint basis. When someone observes something that may be a violation, they can complete our compliance team's online form. They will use the information from the complaint to follow-up with the business or group about the concerns and address any misunderstandings or issues.

Can houses of worship have services again during Safer at Home?

During the Safer at Home level, gatherings in both public and private spaces of more than 10 people are prohibited. Places of worship are encouraged to continue providing access to services online or drive-up worship (as long as vehicles are turned off and not idling).

Can I socialize with others in a group outside?

It is best to socialize only with your household members, but physical activity promotes health and well-being. If you are engaging in outdoor activities with people outside your household, limit group size to 10 or fewer, and make sure there is at least 6 feet of physical distance between all people at all times. People should not gather in any outdoor space where they cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance from one another. That includes pavilions, areas that offer shelter, or other outdoor areas that invite people to congregate in groups and do not allow for 6 feet of physical distance.

Testing information - If you think you might have COVID-19 and feel you need testing, please contact your primary care provider. They will screen patients and if a test is recommended, order testing at a testing location. Adults who have symptoms can receive testing through the health department. Please click here for more information.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Symptoms include: cough and shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, and muscle pain. In more severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. 

How long does it take to develop symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19?

2-14 days

How would someone know if they were in contact with someone who has COVID-19?

Public health has protocols in place to investigate any reportable infectious disease once a case has been identified. Public health staff would determine who might have been exposed through close contact. If known exposures occurred, those exposed would be notified and followed-up with. We work closely with healthcare providers and other local agencies to ensure that any further spread of an infectious disease is minimized. 

At this time anyone due to limited testing and because someone can unknowingly spread the virus before they feel sick, anyone could be exposed if they are in close contact with someone outside of their household. We recommend that everyone stay home unless you need to go out for an essential activity or job to reduce your risk of being exposed in our community.

I think I have been exposed to COVID-19 -- what should I do?

If you have been exposed to someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and you develop a fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away. Call ahead before going to see a doctor or emergency room. Tell them your symptoms and that you suspect you were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 treated?

There is no specific treatment for illness caused by COVID-19 at this time. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Many people will be able to recover on their own.

Many hospitals and medical facilities have notices saying not to go to their facilities if you suspect that you may have COVID-19. If you have serious trouble breathing, what should a patient suppose to do?

The guidance is and has been to call the provider ahead of time. Always call 911 or go to an ER if you are having an emergency, such as difficulty breathing.

What is the total open capacity of hospital beds in Larimer county? Approximately how many additional patients can our hospitals handle?

We have emergency response plans in place for local epidemics, which includes planning for mass hospitalizations. This includes working with regional hospitals to ensure beds are available when they are needed.

Can I be evicted if I can't work due to COVID-19?

Governor Polis recently updated his executive order limiting Evictions, Foreclosures, and Public Utility Connections. This executive order also helps to expedite unemployment insurance claims during COVID-19.

If you feel sick and stay home because you have symptoms similar to coronavirus, how long should you wait after feeling well to go back to work, shopping, etc.?

It is always recommended for people to stay home when sick and avoid other people for at least 7 days after the start of your symptoms AND at least 72 hours since your fever went away without using fever-reducing medications, such as ibuprofen.

For our high-altitude residents, what plans are in place for quarantines at lower elevation are in place?

We will do everything we can to make sure that anyone who needs quarantine (i.e., homeless, elderly, immunocompromised) will have a safe and adequate location to do so.