The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic involves information that is continually evolving and being updated as public health officials and scientists develop a better understanding of the virus. Health professionals should check this page and other respected websites for the latest information.

Learn more: COVID-19 information for community providers

The most current evidence shows the virus transmits easily between people, most often through droplets generated by coughs and sneezes. Part of the idea of social distancing is that droplets can generally carry for only 5 to 6 feet. If you’re farther than that, your chances of getting the virus are generally lower.

There continues to be debate about how far the virus can travel in the air. Based upon UC Davis Health evidence and peer-reviewed research, UC Davis Health believes the virus can be spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, or through aerosol generating procedures (AGPs), such as intubation, which create small droplet spread. UC Davis Health does not believe the virus is truly airborne, like measles, where persons in adjacent rooms or floors above or below may become infected. While droplets can be detected in the air farther than 6 feet, it does not appear these particles contain enough active virus to deliver an infection-causing dose.

COVID-19 may also be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (i.e., “asymptomatic”). The disease might be transmitted when people touch, or cough on, a surface or object and then touch their face, nose or mouth or eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Current data and information also suggest that the risk of COVID-19 spreading from pets to people is low as well.

Receiving an infection-causing level of virus appears to be dependent upon several factors, including amount of virus transmitted as determined by a combination of ventilation level in the area, time spent being exposed to the virus, and level of personal protective equipment (PPE) used by both people involved.

UC Davis Health is currently vaccinating anyone age 12 and older, regardless of profession or status as a UC Davis Health patient. COVID-19 vaccinations are provided by appointment only. The number of appointments we can offer is based on vaccine supplies. As more vaccines become available, more appointments will open.

Get more on how to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment at UC Davis Health

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines from UC Davis Health

Many healthy people who become infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms or have mild symptoms. However, there have been healthy people who have progressed to severe disease. We must be vigilant regardless of age and underlying illness. People who have underlying illness and who are older are at higher risk for getting severe disease, but they’re not the only ones at risk.

Overall mortality statistics for COVID-19 continue show those at the highest risk are age 65 or over and/or reside in group living facilities. Overall, 80% of COVID-19 deaths to date have been in the 65+ age group. Deaths age 55 and over make up over 91% of all COVID-19 in the U.S. to date.

However, when looking at the choice between getting COVID-19 or getting a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the evidence is very clear: It is far less of a risk to receive the vaccine than to get COVID-19.

Procedures that release upper and lower respiratory tract specimens into the air are at higher risk for releasing airborne particulates by aerosolization. These procedures include intubation, BiPAP, high-flow nasal cannula, nebulizing medications, CPR and resuscitation and bronchoscopy. During these aerosol-generating procedures, providers should wear PAPR or an N95 mask as well as eye protection, a gown, and gloves. If available, it is preferred that the procedure be conducted in an airborne isolation room or private room, and personnel should be limited.

Protection for health professionals

Contact droplet is the predominant route of COVID-19 transmission. Using appropriate contact droplet precautions, and in the circumstance where the patient can be masked, you increase the potential protection. If aerosolization is expected, then providers should upgrade to N95 or PAPR-level protection. Since surfaces are at lower but not zero risk of virus transmission, good hand hygiene, as well as keeping hands away from face and appropriate housekeeping within the health care facility are still the best ways to protect against COVID-19 transmission.

In every location, all employees need to either maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people at all times and wear a mask for additional protection. In clinical areas at UC Davis Health where 6 feet of space between people cannot be maintained, clinical masks (ear loop/procedure masks) and eye protection are required. In non-clinical areas, employees should stay 6 feet apart at all times, or there should be a barrier in place (example: office walls), or a face covering needs to be worn. In non-clinical areas, these masks can be cloth or homemade (with no logos).

This aligns with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s direction on April 14, 2020 to ensure our actions are aligned to achieve the following:

  • Ensure our ability to care for the sick within our hospitals;
  • Prevent infection in people who are at high risk for severe disease;
  • Build the capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public; and
  • Reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions

Health care professionals should be aware that Cal-OSHA believes N95 masks should be the standard for use for COVID-19 patients, based upon their regulatory perception of occupational risk.

In accordance with the current CDC, California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA guidelines, UC Davis Health’s Infection Prevention team also does not recommend the use of two masks for health professionals in the patient care environment. The CDC's direction about wearing two masks was established to protect the general public. In the health care environment, clinical care teams have regulatory requirements, medical-grade PPE, and practices that drive infection prevention for staff and patients.

It's important to remember that N95s are not masks. An N95 is a particulate respirator that needs to be fitted to an individual’s face for 95-percent filtration. A mask is not required to be worn over an N95 because the seal around the face can be disrupted, increasing the risk of exposure to aerosol particles.

At UC Davis Health, all clinical staff are required to follow detailed isolation policy and practices, which include PPE requirements in the patient care environment. Our minimal requirement for PPE is a correctly worn medical-grade mask, with a face shield/eye protection, in all patient contacts. An N95 or higher, in addition to eye protection, is required for any aerosol generating procedures with patients, as well as with COVID-positive or suspected COVID-positive patients.

The key difference for health care workers is that one mask fitted and worn properly, with appropriate eye protection, is the correct answer for PPE. Any mask or respirator worn incorrectly (no matter how many masks) is not effective.

Yes. Evidence shows wearing a face shield along with a mask provides more protection from COVID-19, as virus can be transmitted through eye ducts. Face shields are required for all providers managed by UC Davis Health during patient encounters (inpatient and outpatient), and they're recommended by the CDC. The primary protection from a face shield is in close environments, when droplets can be sprayed (via speaking, sneezing, coughing) from person to person. Secondary protection comes from a reduction in the wearer’s hands touching the eyes or areas around the eye, which can transfer the virus and cause an infection. Face shields should cover the forehead, extend below the chin, and wrap around the side of the face, according to CDC guidelines.

For patients where no aerosol-generating procedures are expected, use contact and droplet precautions. Providers should use a surgical mask, eye protection (e.g. face shield), gown, and gloves.

Health care professionals should be aware that Cal-OSHA believes N95 masks should be the standard for use for COVID-19 patients, based upon their regulatory perception of occupational risk.