What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses have always been around, causing mild illnesses like the common cold. Today’s pandemic is caused by the new or “novel” coronavirus — called COVID-19 — and it’s a serious respiratory disease that can cause coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Many people who get COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms (or no symptoms at all). But up to 1 out of 5 people who get it will become very sick and need to go to the hospital. Some people with COVID-19 die.
How do you get COVID-19?
COVID-19 is highly contagious — it spreads very easily between people. You get COVID-19 from other people who have the virus. It spreads through spit and mucus — usually through tiny, often invisible, liquid droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough, sneeze, or breathe out.
If you’re within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19, or they cough or sneeze when you’re nearby, these infected droplets can get inside your nose or mouth and make you sick. That’s why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from people if you ever need to leave the house, and wear a fabric face mask while you’re out.
It also may be possible to get COVID-19 if you touch things — like a doorknob, lightswitch, or table — that have the virus on them, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face.
People are most likely to spread COVID-19 when they’re really sick and showing symptoms, like a fever and cough. But it’s possible for people with COVID-19 to spread it when they have no symptoms and don’t even know they’re sick. COVID-19 is new, and scientists are still trying to learn more about how it spreads and why it makes some people sicker than others.
Right now, there’s no evidence to show that COVID-19 is spread in food. But it’s important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water especially before cooking and eating, to avoid getting germs from your hands into your mouth.
COVID-19 has been found in semen (cum), but it’s not clear whether the virus can spread from one person to another through semen. But COVID-19 does spread easily between people when they’re within about 6 feet of each other, or sharing other body fluids like saliva (spit). So it’s very easy to get COVID-19 if you have in-person sexual contact with someone who has it. Learn more about COVID-19 and sexual health.
Viruses don’t discriminate, and COVID-19 doesn’t target people based on their race, ethnicity, immigration status, or income level. It’s dangerous and harmful to link COVID-19 with a particular racial or ethnic group. Anybody can get COVID-19 if they come in contact with the virus.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
There are several ways you can help protect yourself and others in your community from COVID-19:
- Avoid traveling or going out in public if you can, especially if you:
- Are over 65 years old
- Live in an area with a lot of cases of COVID-19
- Have a condition that affects your immune system (like HIV that’s not well controlled with medicine, or are going through cancer treatment)
- Have an ongoing lung disease, including asthma
- Have serious heart conditions — like high blood pressure — or diabetes that’s not well controlled
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, especially if they’re coughing or sneezing. This helps you avoid breathing infected droplets that spray out when people cough, sneeze, or breathe out.
- Wear a cloth face mask or covering when you’re out in public — especially in places where you’ll be near other people (like the grocery store or doctor’s office), and even if you stay 6 feet away from others. Cloth masks slow the spread of the virus. You can make your own mask from T-shirts, bandanas, or other types of cotton fabric. The CDC has more information on how to make and use face coverings. Don’t buy surgical masks or N-95 respirators — they’re in short supply and health care workers and hospitals really need them to keep themselves and their patients safe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water — especially after going to the bathroom, being out in public, or being around someone who’s sick; and before eating, handling food, or touching your face. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, cleaning all surfaces on your hands including between your fingers and under your nails. You can also use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol in it.
- Try not to touch your face if you haven’t washed your hands. Your hands touch lots of things throughout the day, and can pick up lots of germs, including the new coronavirus. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the germs on your hands can get into your body and make you sick.
State and local governments have labeled some jobs as essential. These include certain jobs in farming, hospitals and health centers, child care, grocery stores and pharmacies, home health and elderly care, mail and delivery services, and others. If you’re considered an essential worker, or need to leave your house for work or urgent reasons you will want to try to protect yourself from COVID-19. All of the tips listed above can also help you stay safe during your commute and while you’re at your job. You can also talk to your employer about on-the-job protection steps available for you and your co-workers during this time.
Follow the recommendations of your state and local government and health authorities. Right now, the safest thing for everyone to do is stay home and avoid being physically close to other people as much as you can — especially if your city, town, or county is telling people to self-isolate, practice distancing, or shelter in place. You’ll not only protect yourself, but you’ll help your family, friends, and community stay healthy and safe, too. The more people stay home, the easier it will be to stop the virus from spreading, which will save lives.
Scientists think it can take 2-14 days for someone who has COVID-19 to start showing symptoms, but they may still be able to spread the virus during that time. You can’t tell who does or doesn’t have COVID-19 just by looking at them — so the safest thing to do right now is limit your contact with other people as much as you can. Read more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.
You may have to stop working because of local laws related to COVID-19. The federal government has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide financial assistance to workers and families. Some people, like those who are undocumented, may not qualify for this support. Many local groups — like churches, schools, and community-based organizations — may also offer help with rent and groceries. Learn more about resources available for undocumented immigrants.
How do I know if I have COVID-19?
Not everyone who gets COVID-19 has symptoms. For some, the symptoms are mild. But others can get very sick, may need to go to the hospital, and could die. COVID-19 symptoms may start showing up about 2-14 days after you’ve had contact with the virus.
Some symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell or taste
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Chills/shaking with chills
The only way to know for sure if you have COVID-19 is with a lab test. But right now there are a limited number of tests, so it may be hard to find a place to get tested. Tests are most important for people with very serious symptoms or some people who know they’ve been exposed.
The best thing to do if you’re wondering if you should get tested for COVID-19 is call your doctor or your local health department and ask. There is currently no treatment for COVID-19, and most people can safely recover at home. So you may not need to be tested.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
If you think you may have COVID-19, call a doctor to find out if you need medical treatment, even if you don’t have a doctor who you see regularly. Most people with COVID-19 can recover safely at home. Staying home as much as you can will help stop the spread of the virus, and help protect you from getting COVID-19 or another illness.
If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19:
- Don’t go out in public, except to get medical care. But call first before going to the doctor, so they can let you know for sure if you need treatment and direct you to the right place for care.
- If you do have to go out, wear a cloth face mask any time you’re in public. Learn how to make and wear cloth face coverings on the CDC website.
- Always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. Use the inside of your elbow (not your hand) or a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands right away. The tiny droplets that come out of your nose and mouth can spread COVID-19 to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it — especially after coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or touching your face, and before handling food or touching other people. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, cleaning all surfaces on your hands, including between your fingers and under your nails. This helps kill germs that may be on your hands.
- If you feel sick, stay home and try to avoid other people as much as possible. If you have a fever, cough, or are having a hard time breathing, call your doctor. If you live with family members or roommates, try to keep away from them as much you can, especially if their age or health put them at high risk of getting very sick if they get the virus.Read more about what to do if you feel sick, or are caring for someone who’s sick If you have to stay home from work because you feel sick, your employer may offer paid sick leave. There are new laws in place that some employers to offer paid sick leave laws for those affected by COVID-19. Learn more about employee paid leave rights under the new federal law.
Call 911 right away if you develop emergency warning signs like:
- Trouble breathing or gasping for air
- Severe chest pain or pressure
- Confusion that’s not normal for you
- Not being able to stay awake or respond
- Blue color in your lips or face
Tell the 911 operator if you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or have been to an area where there are lots of people who have COVID-19.
If you’re not sure whether you need treatment, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker to help you know if you need medical care, and to find other resources in your area.
Your state and local government and health departments will have the most up-to-date information about the new coronavirus in your area, and where to get treatment if you need it. Checking with them before you get treatment can help you make sure you go to the right place for care, and help prevent more people (including you) from getting sick.
If you’re an immigrant, it’s important to know that getting testing, health care, or treatment for COVID-19 will not count against you when applying for a green card or visa. Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can still get care at a hospital or health center. Learn more about your rights when accessing health care.
COVID-19 isn’t an STD. But you can get it if you have close physical contact with someone who has COVID-19. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to connect with people while you’re social distancing.
Can you get COVID-19 from sex?
You can get COVID-19 if you’re within 6 feet of someone who has it when they cough, sneeze, or breathe out. And COVID-19 is also spread through direct contact with saliva (spit) or mucus. So intimate activities that involve being physically close to someone, or coming into contact with their spit — like kissing — can easily spread COVID-19.
COVID-19 may also spread through feces (poop). So it may be possible to get COVID-19 from sexual activities that could expose you to fecal matter, including unprotected oral sex on an anus, or putting a penis or sex toy in your mouth after it’s been in someone’s anus.
Scientists have found COVID-19 in semen (cum), but they don’t know yet if it can spread from one person to another through semen. There’s no evidence so far that the virus is in vaginal fluids. Either way, it’s always a good idea to use barriers like condoms, to help protect you and your partner from infections that can definitely spread through sex.
Some people with COVID-19 might not have symptoms, or their symptoms may be mild. So you can’t know for sure if someone has COVID-19 based on how they look or feel.
How can I safely have sex during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to try to avoid close, physical contact — including sex — with anyone who doesn’t live with you. The safest person to have sex with is yourself: masturbation doesn’t spread COVID-19, or any other infections. Just make sure to wash your hands and sex toys with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after.
The safest sexual partners are people who already live with you. Right now, it’s best to try not to have close contact with anybody outside your home if you can. Staying away from as many people as possible will help protect you and others from COVID-19.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you still need to ask for consent every time you want to have any kind of sex. Even if you’ve had sex before, and even if you’re in a relationship, live together, or are married. If your partner doesn’t want to have sex for any reason — including being worried about COVID-19 — it’s important to respect that.
Using condoms and dental dams will help protect you and your partners from STDs. Dental dams and condoms may also help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during oral sex by preventing contact with spit. And using condoms during vaginal and anal sex may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through things like poop and semen, if it turns out the virus can be spread that way (but scientists still don’t know if it can). It’s important to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after you have sex. You and your partner can also wear masks.
If you or your partner are feeling sick or think you may have COVID-19, don’t have sex, kiss, or be physically close to each other until you’re feeling better. Call a doctor for next steps, including how to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your own home.
You may want to totally avoid sex and other kinds of close contact if you or your partner have a medical condition that increases your risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, like a chronic lung disease (including moderate to severe asthma), serious heart disease, or diabetes that’s not well controlled. This also includes people who are immunocompromised — like people undergoing cancer treatment or living with HIV that’s not well managed with medicine.
Being home all day every day with a sexual partner with extra free time might mean you’re having sex more often. This can be a great way to build a connection with your partner and reduce stress and anxiety. But it’s important to make sure you’re still taking steps to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancy, along with COVID-19.
If you can’t get your regular birth control method during the COVID-19 pandemic, use a method that you can buy over-the-counter, like condoms. (Condoms will help protect you and your partner from STDs, too.) You can also buy the morning-after pill (aka emergency contraception) at pharmacies, drugstores, and online without having to go to a doctor’s office or health center. Because emergency contraception works better the sooner you take it after unprotected sex, it’s a good idea buy it ahead of time and keep it at home, so you can take it as soon as possible if you need it.
You may also be able to get birth control and other sexual health services at your local Abortion Pillcare health center, and some Abortion Pillcare affiliates are offering health care services remotely through telehealth. Call your local Planned Parenthood health center for more information.
How can I connect with my partner while I’m social distancing?
Social distancing — which means staying at home as much as possible, and staying at least 6 feet away from other people when you do leave the house — is needed during this pandemic. Keeping yourself and your community healthy may mean making some changes to sex and relationships at this time, and that can be frustrating or lonely. But it doesn’t mean you can’t connect with partners in other ways. There are still things you can do to be intimate and stay safe, alone or with a partner:
- Masturbation is the safest kind of sex there is — there’s no risk of unintended pregnancy or STDs, and no risk of spreading COVID-19. Masturbation can also help you relax if you’re feeling anxious or stressed out. Just make sure you wash your hands and sex toys with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after.
- If you’re away from your partner, you can connect by doing things like making playlists of your favorite sexy songs, reading the same romantic or sexy story (or writing your own!), and sending letters or postcards to each other.
- Put on your favorite outfit, glam yourself up, and do a photoshoot.
- If you and your partner are consenting adults who agree to respect each other’s boundaries and privacy, you can be sexually active with each other virtually through text, photos, or video.
- If you’re dating, you can go on a virtual date — watch a movie together over video, play a video game or virtual board game, video chat over coffee or a meal, or listen to an album or playlist together.
Self isolation and social distancing are ways you can help keep yourself, your partners, and your community safe during this pandemic. It can be hard, but try to remember that it won’t last forever. And the more people practice social distancing now, the more lives will be saved and the sooner everyone can get back to normal.
How can I stay safe while staying at home if I’m in an abusive relationship?
Social distancing can help protect you from COVID-19. But for some, isolation at home may lead to relationship abuse, sexual violence, or reproductive coercion (when a partner pressures you to have sex or messes with your birth control to cause a pregnancy). Any form of relationship or sexual abuse is not OK, and you don’t deserve to be treated that way. You deserve respect and support.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers virtual support online and over the phone.
COVID-19 is a new illness, and scientists are still learning how it affects pregnancy and a newborn baby’s health.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnancy?
At this time, scientists don’t know:
- If you can pass COVID-19 to your baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. And scientists haven’t found the virus in breast milk or amniotic fluid.
- If pregnant people have a higher chance of getting COVID-19.
- If pregnant people are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.
- If COVID-19 can cause problems during pregnancy or delivery.
- If COVID-19 can affect the health of your fetus or newborn.
People who are pregnant may have a higher risk of getting certain illnesses (like the flu), or getting very sick from these illnesses. But scientists don’t know if this is true for COVID-19. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to try to stay as healthy as you can by doing your best to avoid COVID-19 and other illnesses.
You can help protect yourself by doing the same things others are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol in it.
- Stay home and avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with other people as much as you can, especially if they’re sick.
- If you do have to go out, wear a cloth face mask any time you’re in public. Learn how to make and wear cloth face coverings on the CDC website.
- Avoid touching your face unless your hands are clean.
Read more about how to prevent COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 affect breastfeeding?
Scientists don’t know if a baby can get COVID-19 through breast milk — so far, tests have not found the COVID-19 virus in breast milk. But if you have COVID-19, it may be possible to pass it to your baby while you are breastfeeding. That’s because COVID-19 spreads easily during close contact with other people, through unwashed hands or small liquid droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough, sneeze, or breathe out.
If you’re feeling sick, think you have COVID-19, or have had contact with someone who has COVID-19, call your doctor for more information on how to safely care for yourself and your baby, including feeding them. If you breastfeed and may have COVID-19, take precautions to avoid spreading it to your baby, like:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you touch your baby or any breastfeeding equipment, like breast pumps and bottle parts.
- Properly clean and disinfect surfaces, bottles, and breast pump parts.
- Wear a face mask while you’re breastfeeding.
- If possible, have someone who isn’t sick feed pumped breast milk to your baby.
If you need food assistance and breastfeeding support as a person who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or the parent of a child under 5, you can contact your local WIC program. If you’re an immigrant, WIC assistance does not count against you when applying for a green card or visa under the Public Charge rule.
Can I still go to Planned Parenthood for health care during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Planned Parenthood health centers across the country are working hard to adjust to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know your sexual and reproductive health care can’t wait. We’re here with you. And we’re doing everything we can to get you the services and information you need — whether we provide care by phone, video, online, or in person.
Many Planned Parenthood health centers are open and able to provide services, with precautions in place to protect the health and safety of patients and staff. Some Planned Parenthood health centers have had to reduce hours or suspend walk-in appointments. And some Planned Parenthood health centers have made the difficult decision to close during this time and refer patients to other locations or health care providers.
Health center hours and the services they provide will vary depending on the location and the laws in your area, and may change as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. So the best thing to do is call your local Planned Parenthood for the most up-to-date information on what’s available near you.
Many Planned Parenthood health centers offer sexual and reproductive health care services through telehealth — reaching patients online or over the phone to provide services like birth control, STD testing, and gender-affirming hormone therapy. We’re working as quickly as possible to expand our telehealth services, including services in Spanish, so that more patients will be able to access the health care services they need without physically going to a health center.
How can I get birth control during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are many different methods of birth control. Some have to be put in place by a nurse or doctor — like the IUD or implant. Some require a prescription from a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist — like the pill, patch, ring, and shot. And some are sold over-the-counter at drugstores, grocery stores, and online — like condoms, spermicide, and the morning-after pill (aka emergency contraception).
Right now, the options available to you may vary depending on whether health care providers in your area are open. For example, you might not be able to get an IUD or implant if the health center is closed for in-person visits. But you may be able to get a prescription for the birth control pill, patch, or ring online or over the phone. Call your doctor or nurse for more information.
Planned Parenthood is doing everything we can to get you the services you need. Check your local Planned Parenthood health center. You may be able to get birth control, either in person or by using telehealth — where you get services through a phone call or video visit.
What do I do if I need a birth control refill, or if my method is about to expire?
The birth control pill, patch, and ring:
Call your nurse or doctor to see if they can send a refill prescription for the pill, patch, or ring straight to your local drugstore. Or you might be able to have your birth control mailed to you through your doctor’s office or health insurance. You can ask if you can get a few extra months’ supply of your method so you can stock up ahead of time.
Your local Planned Parenthood health center may also be able to help you get a birth control prescription or refill. And depending on the state you live in, you may be able to get the pill, patch, or ring online through the Planned Parenthood direct app.
If you can’t get birth control from a doctor or nurse, some states also allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. If you live in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, or West Virginia, you can call your local pharmacist to see if you can get a prescription for birth control. abortpill.com also has a handy map to help you locate many of the pharmacies that can prescribe birth control
The birth control shot:
You may be able to get your next scheduled birth control shot at your local Planned Parenthood health center, walk-in clinic, or pharmacy, if you can’t get it on time from your usual nurse or doctor. You might even be able to get a prescription for a birth control shot that you can give yourself at home.
If you can’t get your birth control shot within 15 weeks of your last shot, use a backup method of birth control (like condoms) until you can get your next shot. You can also use over-the-counter emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) if your shot expired and you had unprotected sex within the last 5 days.
The birth control implant and IUD:
If you’re using a long-term method of birth control — like the IUD or implant — and you’re worried that your method expires soon, you may have more time left than you think. Research shows that some of these methods work to prevent pregnancy longer than experts once thought:
- Nexplanon (birth control arm implant): Up to 5 years
- Paragard IUD (non-hormonal/copper IUD): Up to 12 years
- Mirena IUD: Up to 7 years
- Liletta IUD: Up to 7 years
- Kyleena IUD: Up to 5 years
- Skyla IUD: Up to 3 years
If your implant or IUD will expire soon, call the nurse or doctor who placed it to ask about getting a replacement. You may also be able to get a replacement at your local Planned Parenthood health center. If you can’t get your implant or IUD replaced by the time it expires, use a backup method of birth control such as condoms.
What can I do if I can’t get my prescription birth control method during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are still ways to prevent pregnancy if you can’t get your prescription birth control method during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can use a method that you buy over-the-counter, like condoms. (Bonus: condoms will help protect you and your partner from STDs, too.) You can get condoms at most drugstores, pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, superstores, and online. If you use condoms along with another birth control method — like spermicide or withdrawal (aka pulling out) — you’ll get extra protection from pregnancy.
If you make a birth control mistake or have unprotected sex, you can use emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) to help prevent pregnancy. You don’t need a prescription to get Plan B and other generic brands of emergency contraception pills. Anybody — no matter your age or gender — can buy emergency contraception pills at pharmacies, drugstores, and online, without having to visit a doctor’s office or health center first.
You can use emergency contraception up to 5 days after you have unprotected sex. But most kinds work better the sooner you take them. So it’s a good idea to buy emergency contraception before you need it, so you can take it as soon as possible if the time comes. Emergency contraception is NOT the same thing as the abortion pill, and it won’t harm a pregnancy if you’re already pregnant.
Your weight can affect how well emergency contraception works. Levonorgestrel pills, like Plan B and other over-the-counter brands, may not work if you weigh 155 pounds or more. There is another type of morning-after pill, called ella, that’s more effective than other morning-after pills and works for people who weigh 155 pounds or more. But you need a prescription to get ella, and ella may not work as well if you weigh 195 pounds or more. If you have questions about emergency contraception and weight, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist, and make sure to read all of the information that comes in the package. Learn more about emergency contraception.
Can I still get an abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Abortion is still legal in all 50 states in the U.S. Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential, and nurses and doctors are doing the best they can to continue to provide abortions. If you’re trying to schedule an abortion, our Abortion Care Finder can help you find your closest provider — give them a call to make an appointment or for more information.
Many Planned Parenthood health centers and other abortion providers are still open and offering services at this time. But this situation is changing every day as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. So the best thing to do is call your local Planned Parenthood health center or other abortion provider for the most up-to-date information