Frequently asked questions are included below and these are updated regularly. For additional data points and metrics pertaining to COVID-19 in Larimer County, please visit our Data Dashboard. The data that is available to the health department on an ongoing basis is presented on our dashboard and updated frequently. If you are feeling sick or have medical questions, please call your healthcare provider.

COVID-19 (also known as SARS CoV-2) 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 to telehealth 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.

Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for at least 15 minutes at one time or a total time of 15 minutes over several hours; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, working with, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a someone who has COVID-19.

Contact tracing is the process of public health identifying close contacts of a case of a communicable disease, including COVID-19, to identify any additional cases as early as possible to reduce additional exposures to an illness. Public health routinely conducts contact tracing for many communicable diseases including HIV, varicella (chickenpox), measles, and other illnesses.

Public health orders are legally enforceable directives that may be applied to a person or group to restrict the activities undertaken by that person or group, potentially including movement restrictions or a requirement for monitoring by a public health authority, in order to protect the public’s health. These orders are issued under the authority of a relevant federal, state, or local entity. 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 believed to have a communicable disease and who are potentially infectious from those who do not have the disease 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 who do not yet have symptoms, from others who have not been 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/physical distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus (specifically, a coronavirus) that causes COVID-19. 

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) Test is a molecular test that detects genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. PCR tests for COVID-19 are designed specifically to detect SARS-CoV-2. This type of testing detects the presence of a virus if you have the virus at the time of the test. This test may also detect fragments of the virus even after you are no longer infectious. PCR tests are considered the gold standard test for diagnosing COVID-19 and have been the gold standard since they were authorized for use in February 2020. 


  1. There is widespread confusion around natural immunity and whether someone who has already been infected with COVID-19 should still be vaccinated. Natural immunity, while robust, is far more unpredictable and dangerous to acquire than vaccine immunity. The only way to gain natural immunity is by contracting COVID-19, which means risking serious illness, long-term effects, and death. Moreover, not everyone who has previously had COVID-19 develops enough antibodies to fight reinfection. One recent study found that vaccination after a previous infection decreases reinfection risk. Yes, individuals should receive a COVID vaccine even if they have had COVID-19. 

    Natural immunity from having COVID varies from person to person and we know that for many people, a vaccine will produce a more effective immune response than prior infection. Asymptomatic infections in particular may not produce long-lasting immune response. We also know that both vaccination and prior infection combined produce the most effective and strongest immune response. 

    Because the risks of contracting COVID are persistent, unpredictable, and substantial, the vaccine is the safest option for protection from COVID-19. 

    Those who are interested in additional data about reinfection may also refer to the following resources: 

    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado School of Public Health released an updated statewide modeling report showing one in 99 Coloradans are estimated to be currently infected—and 70% of Coloradans are estimated to be immune, by vaccination or by prior infection.

  2. Studies show that vaccines are safe and effective. The CDC has extensive resources outlining this. Additional details can also be found in the COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group Reports

    When individuals are vaccinated with us, we answer questions they may have regarding vaccination at the time of their appointment. Those with additional questions are also encouraged to speak with their primary care physician. 

  3. There are several available resources for those interested in knowing the ingredients in the vaccine they select, including the CDC and DailyMed Database. Vaccine ingredients may vary by manufacturer. 

  4. After a drug or treatment is approved for use those treatments continue to be monitored for safety issues by federal organizations like the FDA and CDC (Phase IV clinical trials). Adverse reactions are not monitored at the local level because the rate of safety issues of approved treatments is typically so low that risks of harm can only be potentially detected by examining a very large dataset such as is available at the national level.

    The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment reports adverse reactions (side effects) in the U.S. to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS. VAERS is one component of the United States' comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring system. VAERS reports are monitored carefully by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Reports of possible side effects after vaccination do not mean that the reported problem was caused by a vaccine. Reports are signals that can alert scientists of possible cause-and-effect relationships that need to be investigated. Anyone can submit a report to VAERS, including healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, vaccine recipients, and parents or family members of people who have received the vaccine. Individual provider practices report their own data to VAERS. 

    You can learn more about VAERS and VAERS data at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-vaers-color-office.pdf 

  5. Reported side effects for all U.S. vaccines can be found using data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS data is available to the public for download at http://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index.

    People may also request information about adverse events reported to VAERS by contacting them directly via one of the following methods:

    • Send a fax: 301-443-1726
    • Call:  301-442-1726
    • Write: Food and Drug Administration, Freedom of Information Staff (HFI-35) 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857. 
  6. This may depend upon the practice of the site administering the vaccine. Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) lists available vaccines, by date and vaccine clinic site, on the website at www.larimer.org/covidvaccine. A person will not receive a vaccine that they do not wish to receive at any LCDHE vaccine clinic.

    If a vaccine requested is not in stock, we can contact the person at such time as the vaccine is made available. 

    Other COVID-19 vaccine providers in Larimer County may have any and all of the COVID vaccines depending on their ordering preferences and the availability of the vaccines requested. There is significant variety among providers in Larimer County and LCDHE receives a variety of vaccines from week to week, depending on availability at the state and federal level. 

  7. There is no evidence that fertility issues are a side-effect of the COVID vaccination, or any other vaccination.  Experts from the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) continue to recommend vaccination for all those who are eligible, including those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. 

    Those interested in additional information about COVID vaccines and fertility may wish to view the following resources:

  8. Someone who is fully vaccinated and shows no symptoms of COVID-19 may not be required to quarantine. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their 2nd dose of Pfizer or Moderna and 2 weeks after the single dose of Janssen (J&J). 

    The CDC recommends that individuals who are fully vaccinated get tested 3-5 days after an exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days, or until a negative test is received.

  9. Until vaccination has a high enough uptake to contain the virus and limit transmission in our community, we will need to supplement vaccination with additional protections such as masking, contact tracing, and social distancing. 

    The CDC has provided detailed guidance for mask wearing and other mitigation strategies when you've been fully vaccinated. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their 2nd dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer or Moderna) and 2 weeks after their single-dose vaccine (such as Johnson and Johnson).

  10. Masks work to reduce transmission of COVID-19 by limiting the dispersal of particles that can carry the virus when we speak, breath, sing, or yell. Mask wearing and vaccination are two of the best tools available to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

    Those interested in learning more about the effectiveness of masks and mask wearing to reduce COVID transmission may refer to the following resources: 

  11. According to the CDC, individuals who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days may not be required to quarantine as long as they have recovered and remain without COVID-19 symptoms (ex: fever, coughing, difficulty breathing). In order for this quarantine exemption to apply, individuals must have received a positive test from a CLIA-certified provider (healthcare provider, urgent care, community testing site, etc.) within 90 days from the time of exposure. After this 90-day period, those who have recovered from COVID-19 and are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated would be required to quarantine following close-contact with someone who has COVID-19. Larimer County is required to follow CDC and CDPHE quarantine guidelines. 

    The CDC has assessed that most individuals have a relatively low risk of reinfection over the first 90 days post-infection. Because infections and symptoms can vary widely, not all diagnoses of COVID may produce the same immune response, both in terms of strength and duration. It is still unclear how well or how consistently prior infections protect against reinfection in all persons, as experts have yet to identify a good clinical test to assess COVID immunity levels, and research is still ongoing. 

    Those who are interested in additional data about reinfection may also refer to the following resources: 

  12. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment runs genomic sequencing of positive PCR samples to identify variants of concern including the Delta variant. Delta has been the dominant variant since early June and virtually all sequenced cases in recent weeks were the Delta variant or an associated subvariant.

    More detailed information about the frequency and distribution of variants of concern is available on the Colorado COVID data dashboard. 

    At this time, there is no way for individuals to request for their test to receive additional sequencing for the Delta variant. Standalone COVID tests do not detect variants of concern without additional sequencing. 

  13. CDPHE and their contractor, Mako Medical, are now offering testing in Larimer County

    Larimer County is no longer offering COVID-19 PCR testing at our Larimer County Health Department testing locations. 

    Previously, the specific COVID test used at our Larimer County testing sites was a brand of real-time PCR test called the ThermoFisher COVID-19 TaqPath real-time PCR assay. This test is currently authorized for Emergency Use Authorization and specifically detects the presence of SARS CoV-2. This test does not detect the presence of seasonal influenza or other viruses. 

  14. When PCR tests are performed, we receive a "cycle threshold" or "Ct value". This Ct value is the point at which a positive sample crosses that threshold. The more positive the sample, the earlier it will cross the threshold. These values may vary by laboratory. 

    Previously, tests performed at the Larimer Health Department testing sites were processed by our lab partners at CSU and were run for 40 Ct and the threshold for a positive test is 37 cycles.

    Note that PCR tests will not detect the presence of the virus (SARS CoV-2) in individuals who do not have the virus.

    The CDC has more information about Ct values and PCR tests here: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 for Laboratories

  15. Larimer County receives hospital data from the EMResource system and from our partnerships with local hospitals. The EMResource is a system that is used statewide for tracking available hospital beds and hospital and Emergency Medical Services resources. 

  16. The number of hospitalizations due to COVID shown on our dashboard would reflect any individuals who were transported to our hospital system from other areas. The hospitals in Larimer County are part of a larger regional system, which plans to admit and serve people from other counties and regions in addition to Larimer County. 

  17. There have been a very small number of Larimer County children hospitalized with COVID-19, including both those eligible for vaccination and those too young to be vaccinated. 

    Our current hospitalizations are just one part of the overall picture, and we are also concerned with community transmission of COVID-19.  Due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, children who are pre-symptomatic or whose symptoms could be confused for another illness (e.g. allergies) are likely to infect a significant number of individuals, including household members. 

    High levels of transmission among unvaccinated groups, including children, presents a risk not only to those individuals who are infected, but to other members of the community. 

  18. We do not have data for ICU use by age group or preexisting conditions. 

  19. Data reported by the CDC for 10 states including Colorado has shown that 46% of children hospitalized with COVID-19 have no known underlying conditions. 

    A study of Colorado pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 found the following conditions were associated with hospitalization of children in Colorado:

    • Age <3 months Breathing conditions (asthma and sleep apnea)
    • Gastrointestinal diseases
    • Diabetes
    • Neurological condition
    • Immune-compromise
    • Preterm birth
    • Obesity
    • Larger household size

    We do not see individual-level medical records for hospitalized patients in most cases and would be unable to comment on local preexisting conditions among those hospitalized with COVID. 

  20. Larimer County is currently following the statewide guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for COVID mitigation and prevention in school and childcare settings.

    The state's updated guidance provides schools the authority to implement multiple layers of protection, and is designed to allow schools to make decisions that will provide a safer environment while prioritizing in-person learning. The Larimer County Department of Health is continuing to work closely with our schools and childcares providing consultation in the interpretation and implementation of this guidance.

    Larimer County Health Department also works with schools and childcares when cases are identified to implement strategies and require additional protection, which may include masking, testing, and contact tracing and case investigation. 

  21. Schools in Larimer County currently have their own layered approaches to protecting students, teachers, and the broader community. This may include requiring masks, social distancing, contact tracing and case investigation, and routinely testing students/staff.  Additional information about Larimer County COVID-19 operations in schools can be found on our COVID-19 Resource Page for Schools. 

    For other frequently asked questions specific to schools and childcare settings, we recommend viewing this resource from Children's Hospital of Colorado for more detailed questions and answers. 

  22. Pfizer has said that they will be submitting their data on children ages 5 to 11 in September. After this submission, experts indicate that the FDA review could take as little as 4 to 6 weeks. 

    The timeline for vaccine approval for children under 5 is still unclear. 

    Until vaccines are approved for this age group, parental vaccination and vaccination of everyone else in the household helps protect children who cannot yet be vaccinated. 

  23. Schools in Larimer County are currently following Colorado's Practical Guide for Operationalizing CDC's School Guidance, which aligns with the CDC in it's recommendations for determining close contacts for quarantine and isolation.

    Because in-person learning is critical for our students to thrive in our communities, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) suggests that quarantine may not be required in all situations when schools meet certain levels of community-wide protection, such as levels of vaccination and levels of participation in serial COVID testing. 

    Additional details may also be found on our COVID-19 resource page for schools, found here: COVID-19 Resources for Schools.

  24. The four metric risk factors are listed on our data dashboard. The transitions between levels are listed for each metric, and can be viewed when users hover their cursors over any of the metrics. The levels were originally set at points based on the Colorado Dial 3.0 and at thresholds where local hospital systems indicated their resources would be strained. When all factors are at least at level medium, any single factor that reaches level red will move the overall indicator to red.