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Last Updated: March 8, 2023

What are coronaviruses and what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1950s and generally cause mild upper respiratory illness characterized by cough, fever, and/or body aches. This is very similar to most viral illnesses including flu and the common cold. 

The current situation involves a new, or “novel,” coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 and the illness it causes is called COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

Am I at risk for catching SARS-CoV-2?

SARS-CoV-2 is a highly contagious virus. While anyone can get infected, the risk of infection and how sick you get is highly variable. The risk of infection seems to increase with age. Younger children seem to be at lower risk.

Other factors that increase risk include the type of work you do and the number of people you are around. In particular, being in crowded areas, where you cannot keep a safe distance, increases your risk for infection. Wearing a mask has been shown to reduce your risk, while being around others without your mask on increases your risk.

What can we do to reduce the spread of the disease?

Here are things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the community:

  • The best way for us to end the pandemic is to get vaccinated when you meet eligibility criteria. As of April 19, all individuals 12 years and older are eligible for vaccination in New Jersey.
  • If you feel unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms, wear a mask, and get evaluated.
  • See the CDC webpage for other recommendations

What are the symptoms caused by coronavirus?

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms – from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms appear within 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and can be very different in different people. 

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue or loss of energy

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Is there a way to predict how sick I will get if I get infected?

There is no way to fully predict how sick someone will get after infection. Some people have very mild symptoms while others get very ill. Older age is one risk factor for severity of illness, but even young people can get very sick.

Other factors that increase your risk of severe illness include having chronic medical conditions, particularly: diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, immune disorders, obesity, heart failure, coronary artery disease and sickle cell disease.

It also seems there is increased risk among ethnic minorities.

Can COVID-19 be treated?

For persons with mild symptoms and risk factors e there are now several treatments that have been shown to reduce risk of hospitalization and death.  These treatments are called monoclonal antibodies and they care given by intravenous infusion.  If you have symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild you should get evaluated because early treatment with the monoclonal antibodies will reduce your risk of getting sicker.

To learn more visit the Health and Human Services webpage.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms? 

If you are in respiratory distress, call 911. If you have a fever, cough, and other symptoms of respiratory infection, please visit a Summit Health or CityMD urgent care location for evaluation. 

Can I come in to be tested for coronavirus?

  • Asymptomatic patients who have an established Summit Health provider may call their provider’s office and select prompt 2 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to schedule an appointment to be tested.
  • Most Summit Health primary care offices can offer a rapid antigen test that can yield results within 20 minutes. If a PCR result is required, this will be collected in the office and sent to the lab. Results for PCR tests may take several days.
  • Due to limited capacity and the need to prioritize patients needing urgent medical attention, asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients (based on specific criteria), who are seeking a COVID-19 test may be asked to return at a scheduled appointment time that can be made at check in. If we cannot accommodate you shortly after you arrive, you will be given a time to return in an effort to minimize your wait. Please do not call for an appointment ahead of time.
  • Asymptomatic patients who do not have an established Summit Health provider may go to one of our CityMD sites for evaluation and testing.

Please note: If you have had close contact with a known COVID-19 positive person:

  • It takes time after exposure to turn positive. Getting a test within the first few days of exposure is of limited value as it takes time for the test to convert.
  • Anyone who has had close contact should quarantine and seek guidance from their provider or Urgent Care for testing and length of quarantine.
  • Other NJ Testing Options 

What should I do to avoid infection?

Here are some things you can do to reduce not only risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus but also other germs that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home from school or work when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. ​

Are you offering telemedicine?

Yes, we offer telemedicine visits with our providers. Almost all specialties can offer video and telephone-based telemedicine visits. 

Please call your provider or reach out by portal message to see if there is an opportunity to schedule your visit virtually. For more information visit our Telemedicine Options page.

What is Summit Health doing to keep patients safe?

Summit Health continues to offer access to patients needing care both related and non-related to COVID-19. We’re keeping our facilities safe to provide essential preventive care, chronic care and acute care by continuing to do things in a proactive and thoughtful way to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and health care teams.

We have universal screening protocols for all patients and staff at all our sites.  We have adjusted our offices spaces and schedules to maximize distancing.  And we are limiting visitors and using technologies such as virtual waiting rooms to help reduce the number of people in clinical spaces. 

To learn more about how Summit Health is keeping you safe during your visit, please visit our In-Office Visit FAQs page.


Is there help available for coping during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fear and anxiety concerning COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Individuals who are struggling specifically with anxiety about the COVID-19 outbreak can call (908) 277-8908 to speak to one of Summit Health’s behavioral health clinicians who will conduct a brief phone assessment and provide coping tools. The service is available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 


Where can I get more information?

NJ Department of Health:  

NJ COVID-19 Information Hub:

NY Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: