COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions



Last Update: 11/23/2020

Staying Healthy

What are the best ways to prevent getting COVID-19?

The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Read CDC's tips about handwashing, avoiding close contact and more:

What should people who are at higher risk for COVID-19 do?

Here are some ways to get ready for COVID-19 now:

  • Have supplies on hand
    • Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
    • If you cannot get extra medications, consider using mail-order for medications.
    • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, thermometer, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
    • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time
  • Take everyday precautions
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • Take everyday preventive actions
      • Clean your hands often
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
      • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
      • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
      • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
      • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
      • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
      • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
  • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people
    • Stay home as much as possible.
      • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks
  • Have a plan for if you get sick:
    • Consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
    • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc. if you become sick.
    • Determine who can provide you with care if your caregiver gets sick

Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs:

  • Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs*:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.

What are the current requirements for wearing face masks?

Follow the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health's recommendations for using a facemask.

  • Effective Friday, November 6th, Governor Baker has issued a state mandate requiring all persons over the age of 5 to wear face coverings when they are in public. This includes time spent in businesses, outside, and on public transportation. Masks are also required when in a carpool with non-household members. Violation of this order may result in a civil fine of up to $300. 
  • CDC has updated its guidelines and recommends wearing a cloth face-covering whenever in a community setting. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also issued an Advisory Regarding Face Coverings and Cloth Masks
  • Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers or other medical first responders

Should children wear masks?

  • CDC recommends that everyone 2 years and older wear a cloth face covering that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community. Cloth face covering should NOT be placed on babies or children younger than 2 because of the danger of suffocation. Anyone who has a medical condition that would prevent them from wearing face-coverings also should not do so. Children ages 2-5 are encouraged but not required to wear a mask as per Governor Baker's November 6th order. 

You can find more information on the CDC's recommendations for wearing cloth face coverings here, along with a video from the Surgeon General showing how to make one.

How will I know if I am a contact of a positive case?

Newton residents who are close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases will be contacted and provided with specific instructions about testing, self-quarantine and self-monitoring based on guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

What does social distancing mean?

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

Stay home as much as you can.

If you must go out, i.e. grocery store or pharmacy:

  • Don’t gather in groups (i.e. no play dates or group sports activities)
  • Stay 6 feet away from others
  • Don’t shake hands or hug
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Call/video chat online with friends and family to stay connected.
  • Wear a face covering

Social Distancing Infographic

When school's out can my child hang out with their friends?

The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household.

To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.

Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as washing their hands often with soap and water. Remember, if children meet outside of school in groups, it can put everyone at risk.

What should I do if someone in my house gets sick with COVID-19?

  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide your sick household member with clean disposable facemasks to wear at home, if available, to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.
  • Clean the sick room and bathroom, as needed, to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, food, and drinks.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including restaurant take out, refrigerated or frozen packaged food?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day use a tissue to cover your coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.

Symptoms and Onset

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read the CDC's guide: COVID-19 Symptoms.

Some people with COVID-19 can manage symptoms at home after consulting with their healthcare provider.

Click to view PDF

How can I be tested for COVID-19?

If you think you may have symptoms or have come into close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, first call your health care provider. If your clinician thinks you should be tested but they are unable to offer a test at their own health care facility, they will provide a referral and you can be tested at test site near you.

These are not walk-in sites. An appointment is necessary. View the current list:

Massachusetts has a resource that you can use to assess symptoms and find the right care: Check your symptoms for COVID-19 online.

For detailed information, visit the CDC’s webpage: Testing for COVID-19 or the MDPH page that includes testing information for essential workers.

For more detailed testing information, including the steps involved in testing, and what type of test may be right for you, visit the FDA's Coronavirus Testing Basics page.
Are children more susceptible to COVID-19?

No, there is no evidence that children are more susceptible. In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults. However, infections in children have been reported, including in very young children. From limited information published from past Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreaks, infection among children was relatively uncommon. More information about children and COVID-19 is available here:

Are some people at higher risk for COVID-19?

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults
  • People who live in a nursing home or long term care facility
  • People of all ages who have underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled including:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Sickle cell disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • People who are immunocompromised
    • People with obesity (BMI > or = to 30)
    • People with serious heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies

More information is available from the CDC.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets or other animals?

CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.

Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations.

Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.

Check here for more information about pets:

Newton HHS Response and Recommendations

Will I be alerted of Newton residents who have COVID-19?

Confirmed COVID-19 cases among Newton residents will be updated on the COVID-19 data page on weekdays.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also updates this page with statewide data.

MDPH and CDC guidance will be followed to communicate with people who may have been a close contact of a person with COVID-19 to reduce the spread of illness.

What does the local health department do to follow up with people who have COVID-19 and their contacts?

Contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 are managed at the local health department level by Newton HHS nurses. The nurses interview the person with COVID-19 to determine who their close contacts are and then the nurses reach out to all those contacts. HHS will be in touch by phone/email both with cases and their contacts while they are isolated or quarantined.

How does the new information about gatherings apply to my religious organization?

Religious organizations are encouraged to hold services virtually or outdoors and to ensure that attendees who are not from the same immediate household are spaced at least 6 feet apart. When conducting services, religious organizations must abide by the following state requirements for indoor services.

  • Building occupancy must not exceed 50% of the building’s maximum permitted occupancy.
  • In any case, occupancy may not exceed 10 persons per 1,000 square feet.
  • Attendees who are not part of the same immediate household must be seated at least 6 feet apart. Members of the same immediate household are permitted to sit together and less than 6 feet apart.

Further state guidance regarding distancing, staffing, and hygiene protocols for religious organizations is available. 

How should I handle gatherings at my business? Who can businesses contact with questions or concerns?

All businesses must follow state guidelines and reopening protocols, which are dependent upon the type of business.

Buisnesses must also follow state occupancy restriction requirements. As of 11/23/20 these restrictions are as follows... 

  • Outdoor events/gatherings 
    • 8 people per 1000 sq. ft. (50 people maximum)
  • Indoor events/gatherings 
    • 8 people per 1000 sq. ft. (25 people maximum) 

Effective November 6, 2020 certain businesses and activities must close to the general public between the hours of 9:30pm and 5:00am in accordance with state guidelines. 

Newton businesses may reach out to Economic Development Director Devra Bailin with questions, concerns or comments at or 617-796-1122


What if I traveled? How do I know what I should do upon return?

Travelers arriving to Massachusetts from high risk states are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days, or be tested not more than 72 hours from return. Travelers from high risk states must also complete a Massachusetts Travel form prior to arrival. An up to date list of risk level by state and travel form exemptions can be found here.

All nonessential travel is discouraged at this time. Newton residents who are planning travel or have traveled internationally are strongly encouraged to check the CDC website for travel alerts. The CDC continues to update their list of countries with travel health notices and the specific levels for those travel health notices.

The CDC is frequently updating these countries and the guidance for travelers returning to the United States. Read it here.

Resources and Additional Information

How can I talk with my kids about COVID-19?

Here are some talking points for families helping kids to deal with stressful events, from the Riverside Trauma Center.

Is there someone I can talk to if I am worried?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) runs the Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Additionally, you may call to request assistance from a member of Newton’s Social Services team at (617) 796-1420.

Who can I call for general COVID-19 questions?

Call 2-1-1 for general COVID-19 questions.
Mass 211 is an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their community. Always a confidential call, Mass 211 maintains the integrity of the 9-1-1 system saving that vital community resource for life and death emergencies.
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Mass 211 is an easy way to find help in your community.
Mass 211 responds immediately during times of crisis, to field calls regarding the crisis and to direct callers to services most appropriate for their needs. If you are unable to reach 2-1-1 due to your telephone or cell phone carrier, a toll-free number is available 1-877-211-MASS (6277); Hearing impaired callers can reach us using 508-370-4890 TTY

Where can I get more information about COVID-19?

CDC COVID-19 page


CDC FAQs for children

CDC FAQs for pregnant women

CDC FAQs for breastfeeding women

MDPH COVID-19 page


If your question is not answered here or on the website links above, please feel free to reach out to us. You can call us at 617-796-1420 or email your question to:


Where can I find more information about Newton COVID-19 data?

Newton-specific COVID-19 data is available on our data page.

Where is the color-coded map the state publishes with risk level by city/town?

Are college students included in Newton's data?

Cases are counted in the city/town where they live. College students who currently live in Newton are included in Newton data. If a college is in more than one jurisdiction, students are counted in the city where their campus residence is located. For example, Boston College has dormitories both in Boston and Newton. Only the students who live in the Newton dorms are included in Newton case counts.

Are the colleges posting data?

Boston College:

Lasell University:

University of Massachusets Amherst (includes Mt Ida campus in Newton):

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