FAQ

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: April 1, 2021

COVID-19 is a new illness. This information is based on what we know so far and will continue to be updated as we learn more about this illness and the virus that causes it.

Northwestern Medicine is inviting established patients in phases to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination at Northwestern Medicine. If you are an eligible essential worker, we recommend finding a community-based clinic to arrange for vaccination. Note that this plan may change quickly at any time.

Find information on COVID-19 vaccine distribution on our COVID-19 vaccine page.

COVID-19 spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with one another. It spreads easily between people, and the risk is higher the closer and longer people interact.

Touching a surface or object that has the SARS-CoV-2 virus on it and then touching your face, mouth or eyes is a possible means of infection, but is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Learn more about how the virus is thought to spread.

Wearing a face mask when you cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distancing is one important way to avoid infecting others or becoming infected yourself.

Good hand hygiene is crucial to avoid the spread of germs. Help protect yourself and your family against illness by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoid close contact with people who are sick or who are known to have been exposed to COVID-19.

Illinois residents are required to wear a face covering or mask when in a public place and 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. The requirement applies to anyone over the age of 2 who is able to medically tolerate wearing a face mask. Guidance from the State of Illinois can be found here.

Northwestern Medicine requires everyone to wear a face mask while in our facilities. A mask will be provided to you when you arrive.

Both influenza (or the flu) and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses caused by a viral infection. Both can cause fever, cough and body aches. Although they have similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your physician's office for direction about testing and treatment. If you do not have a primary care physician, you may call the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 Hotline at 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843).

If you are undergoing cancer treatment or have heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, you are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. It is very important you take steps to protect yourself from the disease, including staying home as much as possible, ensuring you have medications and medical supplies on hand, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick or who may have been exposed to COVID-19. You should contact your physician's office with any questions you have.

To confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19, your provider may use a swab in your nose or throat to collect a sample of your respiratory secretions. A lab will then determine if the sample contains the virus that causes COVID-19.

However, it is important to note that not everyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested. Your care provider will determine if testing is required. Even if you do not get tested, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should follow all precautions as though you have the infection.

Northwestern Medicine requires a physician order for COVID-19 testing. A list of the current testing locations and details can be found here. These locations and hours are subject to change. Please discuss your preferred testing location with your physician.

If you are mildly ill, you should stay at home in isolation unless you need to seek medical attention. If you share a home with others, use a separate bathroom if possible and avoid interacting with them. Clean all surfaces regularly, such as doorknobs, counters and bathroom fixtures. Continue to monitor your symptoms.

If symptoms worsen, contact your physician’s office immediately.

Northwestern Medicine offers COVID-19 testing at multiple locations in Chicago and surrounding communities. A Northwestern Medicine physician’s order is required for testing. The order must designate the location for your test. If you do not have an order for testing, contact your Northwestern Medicine physician or visit a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center for an evaluation to determine if a test is needed.

A list of current testing locations and details can be found here. Please note that locations may change.

Children can be tested at many Northwestern Medicine locations. A Northwestern Medicine physician’s order is required for testing. The current testing locations and details, including the ages tested, can be found here. Please note that locations may change.

You can visit a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center, where a healthcare provider will examine you and order a test if needed. Walk-in evaluations are available at all sites. Visit nm.org/immediate to schedule a virtual visit or submit your name as a walk-in to let us know that you are coming.

A list of the current testing locations and details can be found here. Please note that locations may change.

COVID-19 test results will be sent via MyNM, powered by MyChart. If you do not already have a MyNM account, you will receive a code to set up an account.

If you have additional questions about COVID-19, please contact the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 Hotline by calling 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843), TTY 711.