Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

COVID-19 Information: Santa Clara County and Bay Area, California

Trustworthy information about COVID-19

What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

Diagnosing COVID without a test is bewildering, because there are so many possible symptoms (one ongoing study in the UK identified over 20!). It is possible that symptoms could also vary depending on whether the person is unvaccinated, was vaccinated, or had a booster.

Some symptoms may be more common in one variant of SARS-CoV-2 than another. For example, perhaps because the omicron variant tends to infect cells in the throat and nasal passages at first (as opposed to other variants that went deep into the lungs), people report more sore throats, sneezing, and runny or stuffy noses than people infected with earlier variants.

 

This chart illustrates how confusing it can be to tell whether it's a cold, allergy, flu or COVID:

Symptoms of cold, flu, and COVID

Source: Kaiser Permanente, Dec. 28, 2021.

But here are the most common symptoms reported in November in the UK, when most cases are from the omicron variant and with a significant number of people vaccinated:

Omicron symptoms reported in the UK dec. 2021

Source: ZOE COVID Study [UK], Nov. 18, 2021

People ill with COVID-19 might not have all those symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all. When in doubt, get a test to be sure.

What are the Danger Signs?

The Centers for Disease Control warns to get medical treatment immediately if these symptoms appear:

  • trouble breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest [or back]
  • new confusion, or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face. [or very low oxygen, measured by a pulse oximeter, without difficulty breathing]

What To Do If You're Exposed

The omicron variant spreads faster and further than earlier versions of this disease, which means a lot more people will need to take precautions if they were close to someone infected.  Advice from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department on what to do if you've been in close contact with someone infected is slightly different, depending on vaccination status:

Not vaccinated? Vaccinated more than 6 months ago, but not yet boosted? Follow these directions:

what to do if exposed to COVID and not fully vaccinated

when to end quarantine

If your vaccinations are up-to-date and recent:

What to do if exposed and fully vaccinated

What if I test positive, or have symptoms? What if someone in my family does?

People who have symptoms that fit the profile of COVID-19 disease should:

  • get tested (either with a PCR test or an antigen test);
  • self-quarantine until the test results come back; 
  • wear a mask indoors if there are other people at home; and 
  • check with healthcare providers to assess the severity of their symptoms and see whether they need treatment.

Don't wait to get medical attention if symptoms are severe (see Danger Signs, above).

Guidelines for how long to isolate if you have (or suspect you have) COVID have recently changed. Santa Clara County Public Health has collected comprehensive updated advice on these webpages:

Before showing up at a medical facility, check in first. If your health plan offers medical advice by telephone, call them. If you don't have that option, don't just show up at an urgent care or emergency room -- call ahead, if possible, to let them know it's suspected COVID-19. It is vital that health facilities have time to prepare before you arrive, to protect staff and the other patients from potential infection. 

If you feel sick and do not have health insurance at present, call your local county public health department  for instructions.

What if I'm not that sick? People with mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can take steps to manage this disease (supportive care) while staying home. Seek medical attention ASAP if any of the danger signs of severe disease are present, though.

Supportive care includes:

  • lots of rest;
  • stay hydrated (drink lots of liquids); and
  • use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower a fever or relieve pain as needed.

If you are sharing a home with someone who has COVID-19, do your best to isolate them in the home away from everyone else. If they can't be in a room by themselves, with a door that closes, see if they can have a bed to themselves, with screens or curtains or furniture to separate them from other people in the home. Sick people should wear masks to avoid sharing the virus. Disinfecting bathroom surfaces after each use can protect others in the home; ditto eating alone (not sharing meals with other people), and carefully washing dishes and utensils afterwards. People who are fully vaccinated (at least 14 days past their last vaccine dose) are much less likely to become infected, but their chances of getting sick are not zero;  it is still wise to take precautions.

If one person in the household is sick, we should assume that other unvaccinated people sharing that space are sick, too, and just don't have symptoms [yet]. Everyone in that household should self-quarantine as best they can. People who have been fully vaccinated do not need to self-quarantine, however.

Since people can continue to shed coronavirus even after they start to feel better, it's safest to follow the CDC precautions for some days afterwards. Later, if someone else in the household gets sick, that resets the self-quarantine clock for everyone in that household.

(Ask your health care team about when/if the other people in the household should get tested.)

 

In rare cases, SARS-CoV-2 has been discovered in sick pets. Currently, the CDC advises:

What if I'm Pregnant, or Have a Newborn?

If you can, get vaccinated and boosted ASAP!

Reports have found that the risk of adverse effects to both mothers and babies is extremely low when mothers get vaccinated -- but both face much greater risks if mothers get seriously ill with COVID while pregnant.  (See the page on Vaccines in this guide for more details on getting vaccinated while pregnant or breastfeeding.)

The CDC's guidance includes advice on pregnancy and delivery, on breastfeeding mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections, and on new baby care during this pandemic.

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators or copyright holders.