COVID-19: Frequently asked questions
Geisinger is committed to the safety and well-being of our patients, members, employees and communities. Check this page for the latest information regarding COVID-19.
Updated August 16, 2021
Having reliable information is key to staying safe from — and slowing the spread of — COVID-19. On this page, you’ll find the latest updates and a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand the facts about the virus.
What are coronaviruses and COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of diverse, common viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from a common cold to a severe lower respiratory tract infection, like pneumonia. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that usually includes not only an upper respiratory tract infection, but also a lower respiratory tract infection, which can lead to pneumonia and breathing issues.
Should I be worried about the delta variant (and other COVID-19 variants)?
It’s common to have multiple strains of the same virus spreading at the same time, like what we’re seeing with COVID-19 variants. Today, the delta variant is the dominant variant of COVID-19 in many countries, including the U.S.
The major concern about delta is that it’s been found to be more than 50% more contagious than the original COVID strain. The good news? Studies have shown that the available COVID-19 vaccines are effective against some COVID variants, including delta.
So, if you haven’t gotten your COVID vaccine yet, there’s no better time than now. Get a COVID vaccine.
And to maximize your protection against delta, the CDC also recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces if you live in an area of substantial or high transmission.
How is COVID-19 spread?
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads like many respiratory viruses, including the flu or a cold:
- Close contact with others (within 6 feet)
- Droplets traveling through the air by talking, coughing or sneezing
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your nose, mouth or eyes
What symptoms should I be on the lookout for?
COVID-19 symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Most people with COVID-19 have minimal symptoms and fully recover. Those with certain underlying health conditions and who are over age 60 are at a higher risk of infection and related complications. However, don’t assume that you’re safe from COVID or its complications if you’re young and healthy. Anyone can get very sick from the virus.
What should I do if I have flu-like symptoms?
If you aren’t feeling well, stay home, rest and drink lots of fluids. Keep an eye on your symptoms and call your doctor if they worsen.
If you’re having symptoms you think may be related to COVID-19, before you visit a doctor’s office, clinic or emergency room, use our self-screening tool or call your doctor for care guidance or to talk with a nurse.
We ask that you do this before heading to the ER or seeking care at your doctor’s office, unless your symptoms worsen, and you have no other options for care. The ER is often a crowded place, and the risk of infection to you and others is higher there.
What can people do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are to:
- Get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others, especially in areas where COVID-19 cases are high.
- Practice physical distancing. Don’t shake hands, avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others, especially if you aren’t fully vaccinated.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing and visiting public areas. Alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes with at least 60% alcohol are also good options for hand hygiene.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.
- Keep surfaces clean at your home, workplace and school.
Most importantly, if you’re feeling sick or showing signs of an illness, be very cautious about going into public spaces. It’s best to stay home and isolate yourself from others.
What should I do about upcoming international and domestic travel?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly updates travel recommendations during the pandemic. Visit the CDC website to get the most up-to-date information.
Should I self-quarantine if I’m feeling ill or returning from international travel?
It’s a good idea to stay home when feeling sick to prevent the spread of any virus or other disease. The CDC COVID-19 website has full recommendations for people returning from international travel.
Where can I find information about the COVID-19 vaccine?
For more information about the vaccine and its distribution, visit our vaccine FAQ page.
Will my flu shot protect me from COVID-19?
No. However, getting a flu shot can help you avoid influenza, which could be confused with COVID-19 due to similar symptoms. And you can get the flu and COVID at the same time.
Should I get tested for COVID?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined guidelines for the prioritization of COVID-19 tests, which are used for:
- Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing
- And those who have been in close contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 or who has had a laboratory-confirmed positive test
Learn more about COVID-19 testing at Geisinger.
What should I do if I would like to get tested?
Having symptoms you think are from COVID-19? First, contact your primary care physician. They can advise you on proper treatment — and if necessary, recommend further testing. Geisinger patients can also screen themselves and schedule a COVID-19 test in myGeisinger.
You can also call our nurse triage line at 570-284-3657. They’ll answer your questions about symptoms or let you know if you need further evaluation or testing.
If you need a COVID-19 test for upcoming vacation travel, we offer self-pay testing at our ConvenientCare walk-in clinics. Learn more about COVID travel testing.
Is Geisinger using monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19?
Yes. We’re administering these one-time antibody treatments via intravenous infusion to those who test positive for COVID-19 and meet certain criteria.
Studies suggest that patients with COVID-19 who meet criteria and are treated with monoclonal antibodies are less likely to require hospitalization.
Should I cancel my upcoming appointments?
At Geisinger, we follow CDC best practices and guidelines for infection control and prevention to keep our facilities safe. There’s no need to avoid our clinics or hospitals when seeking scheduled or emergency care.
Can I see a provider virtually during the pandemic?
If you’d prefer to see a healthcare provider from the comfort of home, Geisinger offers telemedicine visits for routine and specialty care. We also offer same-day video visits for your urgent care needs. Learn about virtual urgent care.
- Through Oct. 18, 2021, all GHP members can use Teladoc telehealth services without any cost sharing.
Is Geisinger restricting visitation in its hospitals?
Visitation policies are subject to change. Before traveling to visit a patient, check our updated hospital visitor policy.
How will Geisinger Health Plan cover the cost of COVID-19 tests or treatments?
Geisinger Health Plan (GHP) wants to be sure that cost is not a barrier to testing for COVID-19.
To address the spread of COVID-19, GHP is doing the following for its members
- Copays for testing: Costs will be waived through Oct. 18, 2021 for all COVID-19 testing at an approved laboratory location for all our GHP members who meet the CDC guidelines for testing. Self-insured/TPA groups can opt out of this program.
- Treatment costs: If a member is hospitalized for COVID-19, all in-network, inpatient treatment costs will be waived. This is also effective through Oct. 18, 2021.
- Prescription refills: We are relaxing refill quantity and frequency restrictions to offer 90-day maintenance medication prescriptions and allowing GHP members to refill their prescriptions early.
- Home prescription delivery: We are relaxing restrictions on home prescription delivery. We’re also encouraging eligible GHP members to use mail-order pharmacy.
- Telehealth: We’re working with our clinical teams and Teladoc to expand telehealth offerings for our GHP members.