If you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, use the search bar above to find your local 211 or dial 211 to speak to someone who can help.
The COVID-19 situation in the United States is evolving rapidly as more becomes known about the virus, how it is spread, and how it effects people. For the most accurate and timely information, visit the CDC’s website or monitor CDC social media channels. This page is being kept up-to-date as regularly as possible with answers to the most common questions 211s receive.
If you are looking for guidance about how to respond as a school administrator, non-profit or faith-based organization staff member, business owner, or event planner, the CDC has provided detailed information for different sectors here.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
On this page:
- Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and the outbreak
- Resources available to those impacted
- How the 211 network is responding
PLEASE NOTE: If you hear that a United Way fund for financial assistance has been established in your area, consider finding your local United Way’s website to learn more about eligibility and application before reaching out to 211. Financial assistance is NOT available through every 211.
Want to help?
Please consider donating to your local 211 agency directly, local United Way or community fund.
Join the Response to COVID-19
To support the entire 211 network and communities most in need, please consider donating to the United Way National COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.
What is COVID-19?
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published this video which helps answer many common questions about the origin and spread of the virus.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of COVID-19 and are similar to symptoms of a common cold or the flu.
Symptoms such as chills, body aches, and a runny nose are more likely associated with the flu, not COVID-19. But you should contact your healthcare provider or telemedicine service provided by your health insurer to get medical guidance.
What should I do if I or someone I care for is sick?
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, are over the age of 60, or have an underlying medical condition like heart, lung, or kidney disease, and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. If you are young, otherwise healthy, and have not been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or recently traveled to a country with a high rate of COVID-19, contact your medical provider and follow their guidance. Where COVID-19 tests are limited, people who are otherwise healthy may be asked to stay home and monitor their symptoms rather than seek in-person care.
Is COVID-19 fatal?
While people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and abroad, the majority of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 do recover. Early data suggest that a majority of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among adults 60 years of age and older and among persons with serious underlying health conditions. The virus appears to only be severe if it reaches the lungs and remains untreated. Most otherwise healthy people can recover from COVID-19 at home.
Are there confirmed COVID-19 cases in my community?
All states in the U.S. have confirmed at least one case of COVID-19. CDC has made a map available to the public with information about confirmed COVID-19 cases by state. For specific information about your community, visit the website for your state health department and look for COVID-19 updates. Regardless of whether there is an active outbreak in your community, you should wash your hands thoroughly, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and stay home and away from large gatherings of people if possible. If experiencing you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, fever, and shortness of breath), contact your medical provider for guidance.
Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?
Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. COVID-19 can result in severe disease, including hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit, and death, especially among older adults. However, the CDC recently reported that nearly 40% of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55. Everyone can take actions, such as social distancing, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect older adults from severe illness.
There is not currently information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
There is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19. In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults. Infections in children have been reported, including in very young children. There is an ongoing investigation to determine more about this outbreak.
How does the virus spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest) but some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.
It may also be possible that a person can 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.
Should I keep my children home from school or avoid going to work?
You should follow guidance from your specific school district and employer about closures. Many school districts are closing schools temporarily to facilitate deep cleaning and to monitor the situation, and many businesses have asked workers who can do so to work from home.
Should I cancel my travel plans?
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel at this time due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice. If you travel, take the same precautions you would while home to avoid getting sick or spreading germs including washing your hands thoroughly and often and avoiding contact with sick people. If you are returning or have returned from traveling abroad, visit the State Department's website detailing requirements by origin country.
If you have domestic travel planned, the CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the U.S. However, cases of COVID-19 have been reported in all states, and some areas are experiencing severe community spread of the disease. Depending on your unique circumstances, you may choose to delay or cancel your plans. If you travel, take the same precautions you would while home to avoid getting sick or spreading germs including washing your hands thoroughly and often and avoiding contact with sick people. If you have a trip planned, check the CDC’s site for a risk assessment of your destination and follow guidance provided about self-quarantining upon return.
Should I cancel my event or gathering?
Avoid social gatherings in groups of 10 or more people, and cancel these events if they serve high-risk populations. Gatherings of any size should be reconsidered unless organizers can protect vulnerable people, ensure proper hand hygiene and social distancing. This guidance is resulting in more school and workplace closures and, in some states and cities, closing of restaurants and other public spaces.
I saw an ad for a vaccine - are vaccines available for COVID-19?
Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. Public health officials and the FDA are working closely with drug developers to develop and test COVID-19 vaccinations but none are available to the public yet.
How can I help?
The most helpful thing people can do is take extra precautions to avoid spreading germs. This includes thoroughly washing hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds, disinfecting common surfaces, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, avoid unnecessary contact such as shaking hands or giving high-fives, and staying home and away from others if sick.
PLEASE NOTE: Financial assistance is NOT available through every 211. If you hear that a United Way fund for financial assistance has been established in your area, consider finding your local United Way’s website to learn more about eligibility and application before reaching out to 211.
Economic Impact Payments/Stimulus Payments from Federal Government
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act authorized stimulus payments to be made to many people in the U.S. The distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks (mid-April) and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. The payments are available to many people, even people who do not make enough money to file taxes usually. Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action and will receive their payment directly to their bank account. People who are undocumented, lack Social Security numbers, file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or adults who were claimed as dependents are not eligible. The amount of these payments varies depending on your financial situation. The IRS will update this page as more information becomes avialable and you can also find more information and FAQs here.
Health Insurance and Medical Expenses
If you have health insurance, visit the website for your provider or contact their customer support line with any questions about coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Many healthcare insurers are also making telemedicine available to customers for low or no cost.
If you do not have health insurance, you may be eligible for benefits through your state. Visit this website to explore options based on your household income, children in the home, and state.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, fever, and shortness of breath) and are concerned that you cannot afford to seek treatment or a test, contact your medical provider or the nearest Urgent Care facility to seek guidance. Free testing for COVID-19 is becoming available in many places, but medical care may still incur a charge. Be sure to ask questions about cost if you seek medical care or treatment.
Home Internet Access
If you do not have internet access at home, or cannot afford to maintain it, but need internet for work or school, there are several options available through providers:
- Comcast Internet Essentials, a low-cost home internet package for qualifying individuals and households, is now available for free for the first two months.
- Access from AT&T is a low-cost home internet package for qualifying individuals and households (no special for COVID-19 but still available at a low cost)
Additionally, many internet providers have announced that they are waiving late payment fees, increasing caps on internet speeds, and will not disconnect customers for not paying monthly bills on time. If you have questions or concerns about your internet connection, contact your provider or visit their website for more information.
Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans for Small Businesses
The U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance for state unemployment insurance programs to extend benefits to individuals whose employment status is impacted by COVID-19. Use this tool to find the agency that manages unemployment insurance in your state and visit their website for more information about eligibility and how to apply for benefits.
Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they work for a covered employer and:
- have worked for their employer for at least 12 months
- have at least 1,250 hours of service over the previous 12 months
- and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.
Employers are required to give eligible FMLA workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected (but not necessarily paid) leave if they are sick, including with complications from the flu or a similar illness and/or they need to care for an immediate family member (children, spouse, parents) who are ill. Visit this Department of Labor resource for more information.
Mortgage, Rent, and Utilities Payment Assistance
At this time there is no nation-wide resource available to assist with mortgage or rent payments. Some localities have announced that no eviction-notices will be served temporarily. Additionally, some localities have announced that they will temporarily reinstate or not shut off utilities, most oftentimes water, due to non-payment.
Be sure to follow local news, radio, and official social media profiles to learn the latest in your community.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps
Visit the SNAP Eligibility Page to learn more about eligibility requirements. To apply for benefits, or get information about SNAP in your state, contact your local SNAP office by selecting your state on the this map and using the contact information. Each state has its own application form. If your state’s form is not available online, you'll need to contact your local SNAP office to request one.
If you are not already a SNAP recipient but have a food need, consider applying for SNAP benefits online today. To be eligible for SNAP in most states, households must demonstrate consistently low bank balances. The threshold for a “low balance” may be higher for households with an elderly (over 60) or disabled household member.
As a part of application, in-person interviews are normally required; however, most states are conducting telephone interviews instead of face-to face-interviews for SNAP Quality Control purposes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP)/Disaster Food Stamps have not yet been activated for COVID-19.
Contact your local 211 or search for your local 211 using the search bar above for more information about food pantries and food distribution sites.
Relief for “Gig Economy” Workers & Self Employed
Self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, people seeking part-time work, and those who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state unemployment benefits may qualify for benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Those seeking benefits should check with the Department of Labor in their state for the rules.
Mental Health and Crisis
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Visit this CDC page to learn more about things you can do to support yourself and your loved ones. If you need to talk to someone, these resources are confidential and available for free 24/7:
- Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Text HOME to 741-741 for Crisis Text Line
- Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66-746 for the Disaster Distress Hotline
- Call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678 or click here to chat with The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ youth)
- Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22-522 to connect with The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
All 211 providers across the United States and Canada are operational and continue to connect people with services and resources in their local communities, including people who are in need of financial or other assistance as a result of lost wages from event cancellations, business closures, and quarantines.
Additionally, many 211s are working closely with state and local health officials to provide up-to-date information to the general public about the virus and outbreak. If you live in one of these states and have questions or need help related to COVID-19, you can call 211 or visit your local 211's website by using the search bar at the top of this page:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Remember if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.