Call your doctor before leaving home if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms

Due to the presence of COVID-19 in our community, visitor restrictions are in place for all Duke clinics and hospitals. For your safety and the safety of others, we recommend patients do not bring a visitor to Duke clinics, if at all possible. If a visitor must accompany a patient, only one individual over 12 years of age is allowed. Patients and visitors will be screened for symptoms upon arrival. Individuals with flu-like symptoms are not allowed. View the complete list of Visitor Restrictions.

Effective immediately, Duke Health is prioritizing and rescheduling some non-emergent or non-critical surgeries, procedures, and appointments. Check our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) page for updates.

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

If You Think You've Been Exposed or Are Sick

What should I do if I think I or a family member has COVID-19?
Patients with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention. Call your doctor before going to any medical facility. Not everyone needs to be tested. If your symptoms are mild, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest you should stay home and self-isolate.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed?
If you’ve traveled to a state or country where the coronavirus is present, or been in contact with someone who has symptoms, keep your distance from others. It’s recommended to maintain at least six feet of distance from people and stay out of public places. Symptoms of COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to appear.

If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus 2019), it’s important to prevent the spread of the illness to health care providers, other patients, your family, and the broader community.

What does it mean to self-isolate?
Unless your doctor tells you to leave your home, you should not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid any forms of transportation that put you in contact with others, including public buses and ride-sharing.

Talk to your health care provider before ending self-isolation. The decision to discontinue home isolation will be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with health care providers and state and local health departments.

Am I at risk for COVID-19?
Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are being reported in a growing number of states. The CDC is the best resource for the most accurate information.

What populations of people are at higher risk for COVID-19?
Older adults and people with severe, chronic health conditions are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing serious complications. Those with heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are most at risk.

Duke Health Appointments

I have a scheduled doctor’s appointment. Should I be worried about getting infected with COVID-19?
You should not avoid seeking necessary care and you should keep appointments unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Your doctor will contact you if your appointment can be done virtually through a telemedicine visit or by phone, otherwise, plan to come to the office. However, if you are experiencing symptoms or think you've been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor before going to your appointment.

Should I discontinue my medications, especially immunosuppressants?
Continue taking all medications as prescribed, including any immunosuppressants, unless otherwise instructed by your physician. Contact your doctor if you have questions.

How will I know if my appointment is canceled?
We are reaching out to reschedule some nonurgent clinic screenings, visits, and procedures. If we need to reschedule your appointment, we will call or notify you through MyChart.

Duke Health Hospitals and Clinics Visitor Restrictions

Can I bring someone with me to an appointment in a Duke hospital or clinic?
Visitor restrictions are in place. Read the full list of visitor restrictions here.

Duke Health Preparations

What is Duke doing about COVID-19?
Duke Health has comprehensive plans to care for our community and support our employees. We are following CDC guidance, and adapting daily to recommendations made by the CDC and World Health Organization. We also follow the guidelines of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. You can read more about our efforts here.

Is Duke Health offering drive-up COVID-19 testing?
At this time widespread testing including drive-up testing is not available.  Duke Health is currently is building capabilities to offer drive-up testing and will continue to follow CDC and State guidance on who to test.

How does drive-up COVID-19 testing work?
In general, drive-up testing allows for people who have been screened during a virtual appointment to come to a designated location for a COVID-19 test. The recommendation is based on the health care provider’s assessment of their symptoms and exposure. The test only takes a few minutes. To increase safety, patients remain in their vehicles while the test is performed by a health care provider in protective clothing, goggles, masks, and gloves.

Are you still performing elective surgeries?
We may need to reschedule some non-emergent or non-critical surgeries procedures and appointments. This includes routine screenings such as mammography and colonoscopy. If there are changes to your care, you will be contacted by your provider.

We believe that taking this step now is in the best interest of all as we respond to the spread of COVID-19. Duke Health leaders are working to determine if a reschedule is necessary based on many important factors most important being the well-being of our patients.

Are you still allowing volunteers to work in the hospital?
All hospital volunteer programs are currently suspended until further notice. We look forward to welcoming volunteers back to our hospitals as soon as possible and will post updates about the program as they become available.

Are you still enrolling and conducting clinical trials?
We are currently limiting study enrollments and not enrolling patients in studies that require in-person visits or provide a direct benefit or life-saving treatment. We are also limiting visits to trial participants in critical care. More information can be found here.

We are working to continue research that can benefit patients while protecting our community. We’re assessing approved remote technologies that allow ongoing interactions with participants.

Is there anything I can do to help? Do you need supplies?
You can read suggestions for how you can help the community here. The page will be updated regularly as the situation evolves.

General Coronavirus 2019 Questions

What is coronavirus?
Novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China and spread to countries throughout the globe. Information about the virus can be found on the CDC’s website. 

How does the virus spread?
Person-to-person spread is believed to occur via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object 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.

The latest situation summary updates are available on the CDC’s website.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had a mild-to-severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The CDC believes symptoms of COVID-19 may appear up to 14 days after exposure.

How is COVID-19 treated?
While there are no approved treatments for COVID-19 at this time, you can relieve symptoms by remaining well-hydrated and using pain and fever relief medications such as TYLENOL (acetaminophen). Tamiflu is not indicated for the treatment of COVID-19.

If symptoms get worse and you become short of breath or breathless with minimal activity, contact your health care provider.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family

How can I protect myself and my family?
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Every day, preventive actions can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:

Practice good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If someone in your house tests positive for COVID-19, stay home.

Stay Home

  • Work or engage in school from home.
  • Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings, physical contact (handshakes, kisses, hugs), and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet with people.


Should I wear a facemask?
The CDC does not recommend that healthy people wear a facemask for protection from COVID-19 or other respiratory diseases. Facemasks should be worn by individuals with viral infection since the mask keeps droplets from traveling through the air and landing on other people, objects and surfaces.