What is COVID-19

Human coronaviruses are the second most common cause of colds and generally cause mild to moderate symptoms. Sometimes, coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and become a new human coronavirus, as in the case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, or the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, which first appeared in late 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19, which was first identified in China. According to the CDC, the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood.

UAB — along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health — are closely monitoring the ongoing situation. COVID-19 can cause mild illness that can be overcome, but more severe cases can be life-threatening. More information about the 2019 novel coronavirus is available on the CDC website.

If you are experiencing symptoms, call your primary care physician or urgent care facility first. For the latest COVID-19 information from the Alabama Department of Public Health, call 1-800-338-8374.

With a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) cases in the United States, feeling sick can be scary. But the best thing to do if you feel ill is to stay calm and contact your doctor. If you have symptoms like cough, fever or other respiratory problems, contact your doctor before coming to a clinic or hospital. Please do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

Johns Hopkins Map

johns hopkins map

Interactive web-based dashboard hosted by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, to visualize and track reported cases in real-time.

Alabama's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard

alabama map

Health officials have launched a COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, which offers live updates of the illness's spread in the state.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

What if someone is diagnosed? How will I know if I was in contact?

Alabama and Jefferson County are experiencing community spread of COVID-19. UAB has taken proactive steps to fight the pandemic (e.g., online/alternative classes, limited business operations, aggressive social distancing), but we expect people to have questions about how they may be notified if they were in contact with someone who tested positive as testing increases in Birmingham. Based on requirements regarding student, employee and patient privacy, we are limited in what health information can be shared, but UAB works closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The health department gathers and provides verified tests, contacts the case, determines the contacts at risk, and notifies them of what to do. If an individual is determined to have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed, ADPH – or an official designee (which could be UAB Student or Employee Health) – will contact that individual to discuss next steps.

ADPH clarified the law and process: COVID-19 is a notifiable disease by law in Alabama. This means that all labs are required to report positive tests for COVID-19 to public health within 4 hours of results. Once the health department receives notification of a positive result, the health department – or an official designee (which could be UAB Student or Employee Health) – will contact the person who tested positive and begin determining who around the person might have been exposed.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in China. It is spread from person to person, causing mild to severe respiratory illnesses. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that often cause respiratory tract infections. Common human coronaviruses cause upper respiratory tract infections with symptoms of the common cold. Occasionally, human coronaviruses can cause lower respiratory tract infections, like pneumonia. Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, may cause severe infections.

What are the signs/symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you have been exposed to someone with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 and are experiencing fever with either cough or shortness of breath, you might have COVID-19. You should call your primary care physician or urgent care facility first to see if you need to be tested.

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What should I do if I was potentially exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19?

If you think you have been exposed to someone with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, follow these steps to monitor your health to avoid spreading the disease to others if you get sick.

  • Stay home except to get medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Wear a face mask when you are around other people
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sharing personal household items like dishes, cups, towels and bedding
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day with a household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Monitor your symptoms and let your healthcare provider know you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to COVID-19
  • If you are told to go to the doctor’s office, wear a face mask before entering the facility

If you get sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are very mild), you likely have COVID-19. You should isolate yourself at home and away from other people. If you have any of the following conditions that may increase your risk for a serious infection—age 60 years or older, are pregnant, or have medical conditions—contact your physician’s office and tell them that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. They may want to monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19.

If you do not have a high-risk condition but want medical advice, call your healthcare provider and tell them you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if you need to be evaluated in person. There are currently no medications to treat COVID-19.

If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you may have been exposed to COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive or immediately after they arrive.

Information for UAB faculty, staff, hospital employees and students:

  • UAB Students should call UAB Student Health Services at (205) 934-3580
  • UAB employees (faculty, staff and hospital) should call UAB Employee Health at (205) 934-3675 from 6:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday. After hours and on weekends, call the UAB Call Center at (205) 934-3411 and ask them to page the needlestick/exposure nurse on-call.
  • UAB Employee Health will offer testing for providers and staff exhibiting possible COVID-19 symptoms. If an employee has been exposed to the virus, or if that employee has fever or symptoms that make them concerned they may have the virus, they can call the UAB Employee Health Triage Line at 205.934.3675 for guidance on whether to seek further evaluation.

What should I do if I am suspected to or confirmed to have COVID-19?

If you are sick and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 because you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, follow these steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID19 and have not been around anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath but have not been around anyone you know has COVID19, follow these steps to help prevent your infection from spreading to people in your home and community.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Virus-carrying airborne droplets can remain in the air or on surfaces even after the ill person is no longer near.

Dr. Ellen Eaton, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that social gatherings of any type with anyone other than your immediate family are no longer safe for the community.

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What constitutes “contact with someone who has COVID-19”?

You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:

  • Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19,
  • Caring for a sick person with COVID-19,
  • Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 10 minutes, OR
  • Being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).

If you have not been in close contact with a sick person with COVID-19, you are at low risk for infection.

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How can I protect against COVID-19?

  • Avoid crowds of 10 or more people.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching the nose, eyes, mouth and face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work or class when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow if no tissue is available, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Getting a flu shot will not prevent COVID-19, but can help keep you well during this flu season, and can keep you out of doctor’s offices and hospitals where you could be exposed to others who are sick.

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How can I protect myself, my home and my loved ones?

  • Now is the time to disinfect and clean your home. Use isopropyl alcohol, or disinfecting wipes, to wipe down countertops and common areas.
  • Keep the surfaces of your home clean, especially areas where you eat and spend the most time. Use soap and water to wash your hands after you touch contaminated areas, such as doorknobs, toilet and faucet handles, and any cooking items. If you do not have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid shaking hands with others right now. If you do, wash your hands or use sanitizer right away, especially before touching your face.
  • Limit the amount of time spent in public places and avoid people who are sick, including those who are coughing or presenting symptoms.
  • If you have a fever or other symptoms, stay home. If your children have a fever, do not send them to school. Consider working from home if your workplace allows it.
  • Plan ahead for your daily medications. Be sure that you have plenty of the medicines that you routinely take so that if you become ill you can avoid going out in public to retrieve these things. In the case of a pandemic or major outbreak in the United States, it is a good idea to stock up on non-perishable foods should your community be quarantined.
  • Currently, we are still in peak influenza season. If you have not received a flu shot, it is not too late. For more information and guidance about common flu symptoms and treatment, please visit uab.edu/flu. To find where you can get the flu vaccine near you, visit the CDC Vaccine Finder website.

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What are the proper hand washing techniques?

  • UAB experts encourage you to make sure your hands are as clean as possible. Wash your hands as much as you can, especially before you eat anything, before making food for other people and after you use the restroom. Wash your hands anytime you touch a doorknob, or any other items touched by others; if there is hand sanitizer around, use it.
  • Lather your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — this is the length of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself twice.
  • Be cautious of touching your face. Every time you touch a door handle and then scratch your nose, you are susceptible to contracting viruses.

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What is social distancing?

Social distancing is staying away from crowds or congregations of 10 or more people with the intent of minimizing transmission of infectious disease outbreaks. Even within small groups of fewer than 10 people should maintain six feet of distance between each other to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This could include but is not limited to attending concerts, sporting events, religious gatherings, going to movie theaters or using public transportation such as buses and subways for travel.

Social distancing do's and don'ts.

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What does it mean to "flatten the curve"?

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the National Institutes of Health, has encouraged all to do their part to halt the spread of new infections by “flattening the curve.”

“By flattening the curve, you’re essentially trying to challenge the health care system with the same number of cases but spread out over a longer period of time,” explained Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases. “In slowing down the spread of disease by minimizing transmission opportunities through social distancing techniques, we aren’t overwhelming health systems as we are able to curb the spread of new infections.”

Learn more how to stop the spread of COVID-19 and why ‘flattening the curve’ is critical.

How do I self-quarantine? How is that different than isolation?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of certain diseases. For example, hospitals use isolation for patients with infectious tuberculosis.
  • Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Quarantine can also help limit the spread of communicable disease.

If an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in a community or workplace, people may be asked to self-quarantine at home to prevent the spread of any disease. If a patient has a confirmed case of COVID-19, they will be put in isolation to avoid spreading to others directly.

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How do I know if I have been exposed to COVID-19?

You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected.

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Are there any cases of COVID-19 among UAB students, faculty or staff?

Federal privacy laws limit what information can be shared when it comes to health information, so UAB must defer to the Jefferson County Health Department and Alabama Department of Public Health to share the appropriate amount of information about the status of COVID-19 in Alabama (which they are already doing). 

Health professionals at UAB are trained and equipped to safely isolate and care for patients with infectious diseases. If a positive case appeared in a particular location, the health department – in partnership with appropriate organizations – would coordinate the notification of those possibly affected in the interest of public health and safety.

Mental Health Resources

Disease outbreaks such as the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can bring stress and increased levels of fear and anxiety. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created this resource related to mental health and coping during COVID-19.

Who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis?

  • People who have preexisting mental health conditions, including problems with substance use.
  • Children.
  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, including doctors and other health care providers.

What are some signs of distress?

Here is a self-check list to recognize distress: 

  • Increased anxiety, worry, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed. 
  • Depressive symptoms that persist and/or intensify. 
  • Inability to focus or concentrate accompanied by decreased work performance. 
  • A feeling of hopelessness and/or a paralyzing fear about the future. 
  • Sudden anger and disruptive behaviors or noticeable changes in personality. 
  • Sleep difficulties. 
  • Excessive crying. 
  • Isolating or withdrawing from others, fear of going into public situations. 
  • Unhealthy coping (e.g., increased alcohol or drug use, engaging in risky/impulsive behaviors). 

How will people react to the stress of an infectious disease outbreak?

Reactions can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health status and that of your loved ones.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

What should people who have existing mental health conditions do during this time?

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms.

How can people cope with stress and support themselves during this time?

  • Acknowledge reactions. Allow yourself time to reflect on what you are feeling and how you may be reacting to any fears and uncertainties of the future. 
  • Maintain your day-to-day normal activities and social outlets as it follows guidance from the CDC, particularly when it comes to social distancing. Resist withdrawing and isolating yourself from the support and caring that others can provide. 
  • Seek accurate information from the CDC and limit exposure to social media and news reports that provide no new information. 
  • Pay attention to positive news instead of only focusing on negative and fear-producing reports. 
  • Follow the protection and prevention tips given by medical professionals, national medical authorities and your own medical doctor. 
  • Practice calming rituals: 
    • Stay grounded in the present moment, which can help you maintain an internal sense of stability and balance when outside events feel threatening. 
    • Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness exercises can help. 
  • Download the myStrength app. Call or email the UAB Employee Assistance Counseling Center for your access code. The app is free and confidential for UAB employees.
  • Take care of your body by getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep, eat healthy meals, take deep breaths and stretch. Meditation may also help.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Take breaks from the news, make time to unwind and do activities you normally enjoy.
  • Maintain positive thinking.
  • Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family and your community recover from a disaster. Connect with family, friends and others in your community. Take care of yourself and each other and know when and how to seek help.

Who can I call for help in dealing with anxiety and stress during this time?

If you are experiencing a crisis, call 911, call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255), call the Birmingham Crisis Line at 205-323-7777 or text “UAB” to 741741 to text with a crisis counselor.

UAB Students

UAB Student Health Services remains open, but anyone who suspects that they might be contagious should call first — 205-934-3580 during regular hours or 205-934-3411 after hours to page the provider on call.

The Student Counseling Services facility is closed to students; counselors are working remotely

  • Counselors will not be providing counseling sessions, but will be providing transition plans, case management, referral, and monitoring for students who are current clients.
  • Students with scheduled appointments will be contacted by their counselor and should send a portal message to their counselor verifying the number they want to be reached. Students may cancel scheduled appointments through the patient portal.
  • Students requesting assistance may call the office at 205-934-5816 during business hours (8 – 5) and will be able to leave a voice mail. Calls will be returned by a staff member the same or next business day.
  • Students experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis should follow the steps listed here.
  • Students may continue to send portal messages to their counselors. Counselors will respond within 24 business hours. Portal messaging is not for crisis or emergency situations.

The UAB Student Counseling Services facility is closed to students; counselors are working remotely.

  • Counselors will not be providing counseling sessions, but will be providing transition plans, case management, referral, and monitoring for students who are current clients.
  • Students with scheduled appointments will be contacted by their counselor and should send a portal message to their counselor verifying the number they want to be reached. Students may cancel scheduled appointments through the patient portal.
  • Students requesting assistance may call the office at 205-934-5816 during business hours (8 – 5) and will be able to leave a voice mail. Calls will be returned by a staff member the same or next business day.
  • Students experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis should follow the steps listed here.
  • Students may continue to send portal messages to their counselors. Counselors will respond within 24 business hours. Portal messaging is not for crisis or emergency situations.

UAB Employees

Contact the UAB Employee Assistance & Counseling Center by calling 205-934-228, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit uab.edu/eacc. If you are calling after business hours or on the weekends, call UAB Connect at 205-934-3411 to access the EACC on-call counselor. 

If you are experiencing a crisis, call 911, call the Birmingham Crisis Line at 205-323-7777 or text “UAB” to 741-741 to text with a crisis counselor. 

What distance and telemental health services and resources are available to UAB students?

Student Mental health Support During COVID-19

UAB offers a wide array of options to support student mental health. For the most current information about services and resources to support student mental health, please visit the Student Counseling Services website at www.uab.edu/students/counseling.

TAO (Therapy Assistance Online)

Free and available to all UAB students. Through TAO’s completely self-directed, self-help app and online program, students are provided an opportunity to learn stress management, mindfulness skills, problem-solving and strategies to avoid rumination and develop more helpful thinking patterns. To sign up, go to https://thepath.taoconnect.org/.

Crisis and Emergency Resources

Students who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or another mental health emergency should call 911 or go to the UAB Emergency Department (ED), the UAB Highlands ED, or the nearest ED for immediate assistance. You may also access additional emergency and community resources here.

Distance Counseling Services

UAB Student Counseling Services is closed to in-person appointments during the UAB Limited Business Model period; however, counselors are providing counseling services remotely.

    If you are a current SCS client with a scheduled appointment in the next 2 weeks, your counselor has reached out to you by phone and/or patient portal. If you need to communicate with your counselor or cancel a scheduled appointment, use your patient portal.
    Other students requesting assistance may call our main line at 205-934-5816 and leave a message and we will return your call within 1 business day.

Additional Distance Counseling Services are available by clicking here.

Hotlines and 24-7 Support:

    Emotional Support Help Line for COVID-19 1-866-342-6892 Free access to specially trained mental health specialists to support people experiencing anxiety or stress around COVID-19.
    National Crisis Text Lin Text “UAB” to 741-741
    National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    Birmingham Crisis Center Crisis Line 1-205-323-7777

Mental Health Apps

Numerous mental health apps exist to support and encourage positive mental health practices. Many of these are free and available for download on your device.

Coronavirus Testing FAQs

Where can I get tested at UAB?

The testing site will be located at the corner of University Boulevard and 22nd Street South.

Beginning at noon Sunday, March 22, those who have symptoms of COVID-19 — cough, fever or shortness of breath — or believe they may have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 can call 205-975-1881 and be screened by a medical provider. The provider will then schedule an appointment time for testing at the downtown site if the caller has a positive screen for COVID-19 symptoms.

Learn more here.

When does UAB offer testing for COVID-19?

The Call Center is open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., seven days a week, except for Tuesdays, when hours are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Appointments will be scheduled from 9 a.m.-11:15 a.m. seven days a week.

Those who are given appointments will be asked to arrive no more than 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment time and to follow the detailed instructions located on-site.

Learn more here.

Do I need an appointment for testing at UAB?

Yes.

Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 — cough, fever or shortness of breath — or believe they may have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 can call 205-975-1881 and be screened by a medical provider. The provider will then schedule an appointment time for testing at the downtown site if the caller has a positive screen for COVID-19 symptoms.

The Call Center: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., seven days a week, except for Tuesdays, when hours are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Learn more here.

What do I do when I arrive for my testing appointment at UAB?

The on-site instructions for the Downtown Testing Site include:

  • You must have an appointment to be tested.
  • You must have a cell phone to communicate with staff as the testing site.
  • Tune your radio to 90.7 FM for important testing instructions.
  • Do not roll down your window until instructed to do so.
  • Stay inside your vehicle.

Learn more here.

How long will it take for me to receive my test results?

Testing results from the Downtown Site should be available in 3-4 days.

Learn more here.

If I get a positive test, is there a form that will be provided for employers/schools to justify the two-week quarantine?

Should you test positive for COVID-19, local and state health officials will issue next steps on your care, whether that is to be self-quarantined or isolated. That will be communicated to your employer and other necessary organizations.