COVID-19 is a disease caused by the novel coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.
SARS-CoV-2 typically spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, talks, or breathes, it releases droplets. Someone nearby can inhale the droplets into their lungs, or the droplets can land in their eyes, nose, or mouth, infecting them.
Infected droplets also can land on surfaces or objects. When a person touches those surfaces and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes without washing their hands, this also can cause an infection.
If a person is infected, they can spread the coronavirus even if they don't have symptoms of COVID-19.
People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are at the greatest risk of infection. However, the COVID-19 vaccine can significantly reduce your risk of infection. The COVID-19 vaccines are effective against COVID-19, especially in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Certain groups of people also are more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death. People more at risk of COVID-19 complications include older adults and people with existing medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and more. Unvaccinated people also are at greater risk for severe illness than vaccinated people.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Symptoms usually appear within 2-14 days after exposure. They can range from mild to severe. Some people may experience no symptoms at all. However, even asymptomatic people can spread the coronavirus.
To prevent the spread of this virus:
Get vaccinated. Ensure you are vaccinated and encourage your family members and loved ones to get vaccinated. To schedule a vaccine, contact a primary care provider or visit UPMC Urgent Care.
Masking: Wearing a mask can help protect others from the spread of respiratory viruses. If you have COVID-19, you are considered contagious for 10 days. After self-isolating for five days, you should wear a mask in in public for an additional five days. Of course, you can choose to wear a mask whether you are vaccinated or not — especially in crowded public places. To learn about masking guidelines at UPMC, see information for visitors to UPMC locations.
Other ways you can protect yourself include:
If you are experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms without breathing problems, or if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your primary care provider or schedule an appointment online for a COVID-19 test or vaccine at UPMC Urgent Care locations.
The UPMC Emergency Department is not the place to get a COVID-19 test, unless you are experiencing breathing problems or other severe symptoms. Test results do not come back more quickly by coming to the Emergency Department. For more information on COVID-19 testing, please visit our testing page.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires providers to list the “cash price" of COVID-19 tests on their public websites. UPMC's standard charge for a COVID-19 diagnostic lab test is $125, and the standard charge for the specimen collection is $30. If you have insurance, most plans will waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, so there should be no out-of-pocket cost to you for this test.
Please contact your insurer if you have questions about your plan. Similarly, if you do not have insurance, you will not have an out-of-pocket cost for the COVID-19 diagnostic lab test. The CARES Act provides a financial support mechanism for hospitals and providers that conduct COVID-19 diagnostic testing on uninsured patients during the public health emergency.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized multiple COVID-19 treatments. UPMC recommends an oral medication called Paxlovid™.
Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medication that must be taken within five (5) days of symptom onset. Paxlovid is available at retail pharmacies and can be prescribed by a medical provider (doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant). If you have low renal function (eGFR < 30 mL/min), you are not eligible for Paxlovid. Your doctor should carefully review your list of medications before you take Paxlovid, as some medications cannot be taken with Paxlovid.
To learn more about this treatment and find out if you are eligible, visit our COVID-19 treatment webpage.
UPMC takes measures to keep patients, visitors, and employees safe inside its facilities.
At UPMC, your health and safety are our top priorities. UPMC has used universal masking as an effective tool to prevent transmission of COVID-19 when the virus was prevalent in the community and the possibility of serious complications and consequences of infection were high.
As of Monday, May 1, 2023, masks are no longer required at most UPMC facilities and locations under the current universal masking guidelines.
UPMC remains an environment welcoming of those choosing to mask, and masks will continue to be widely available.
It’s important to note that masking will remain required in some specific patient care areas where patients are susceptible to infection (such as transplant units and NICUs).
The way COVID-19 spreads is different than mpox. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that is very contagious and can spread even when an individual has no symptoms. COVID-19 can spread through talking, laughing, coughing, and sneezing. Mpox requires very close contact to spread and is not a respiratory virus. Mpox is not contagious until you have symptoms.
In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved updated COVID-19 vaccines formulated to target current circulating variants and to provide better protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.
Given this most recent update, UPMC will no longer administer our current supply of the COVID-19 vaccine. The new COVID-19 vaccine will be ordered soon. We will provide information on vaccines and appointment scheduling as soon as supplies arrive.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized or approved three COVID-19 vaccines:
UPMC is providing all three vaccines.
In the United States, people age 6 months and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine is free.
After being vaccinated, you may receive a notice electronically or in the mail from your insurance company, called an Explanation of Benefits (EOB), that a charge to give the vaccine was submitted. It is not a bill, and it is not a charge for the vaccine. The government allows your vaccine provider to charge your insurance for the cost of giving/administering the vaccine.
For those who do not have insurance, or if insurance does not cover the fee, you will not be responsible for the fee. If you receive an EOB and would like more information, please contact your health insurer.
UPMC providers offer vaccine appointments regardless of where you received your first dose. For information about scheduling a COVID vaccine, contact a primary care provider or local pharmacy, or visit UPMC Urgent Care. Keep your vaccine card handy so you can provide important details about your first dose.
UPMC will offer the COVID-19 seasonal vaccine. The updated vaccine is authorized and recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Most people aged 5 and older can receive a single dose, at least two months after receiving any previous COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination history affects the number of and timing for recommended doses for children aged 6 months to 4 years. If you have questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine for yourself or your child, be sure to check with your medical provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can get your COVID-19 vaccine without regard to the timing of other vaccines. You can even get the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day as another vaccine.
You should not get the vaccine if you are currently infected with COVID-19, if you have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you have another respiratory illness. If you have symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19, you should not get vaccinated until you meet the CDC’s guidelines for ending isolation. Talk to your provider about rescheduling.
If you have another respiratory illness, talk to your provider about when it is safe for you to receive the vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective. They are especially effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged. The vaccines continue to be effective in preventing COVID-19, even with the variants. They are most effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalizations and deaths.
Yes. The vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19.
Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccines, they underwent a thorough safety review. All available data from clinical trials and since distribution began report the vaccines are safe. Health officials are continuing to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
The most common side effects of the vaccines include pain and swelling where you received the shot, fever, chills, fatigue, and headache. These are common for many vaccines because a vaccine triggers an immune response. The side effects should go away within a few days.
There have been some reports of isolated allergic reactions to the vaccine, which scientists are investigating. Allergic reactions to vaccines are not common and are typically mild.
If you have a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, vaccine component, or injectable medication, you should consult your primary care physician or allergist before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have allergies that don’t relate to vaccines or injectable medicines, the CDC recommends you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant now, or who may become pregnant in the future. Pregnant women are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, including severe illness, so vaccination is a key preventive step. The benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) also recommend COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women.
Despite online rumors that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect fertility, this is not true. The COVID-19 vaccine has no impact on fertility in men or women.
Like any vaccine, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is your personal choice. You can choose to get it or not when it becomes available to you. However, getting the vaccine can protect both you and the people around you, including our most vulnerable individuals. The vaccine is a crucial step to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
The following people should not get the vaccine:
People with a history of certain health conditions should talk to their doctor before scheduling their COVID-19 vaccine appointment.