Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

COVID-19 in our Community

How can we slow or stop COVID-19 (C19) in Truckee/Lake Tahoe?
Local residents should know that 95% of our success going forward will solely depend on how fully and carefully we follow a quality shelter-in-place set of personal guidelines. If local residents don’t follow this advice, it is unknown how high the percentage of infection rate could elevate to in our community. In our view, 95% of the success in slowing down growth of the C19 virus depends on every resident in our area being diligent with State of California and CDC guidance for properly sheltering-in-place.

What does "properly sheltering in place" mean?
Local officials are asking people to stay home except for “essential” activities.  Properly sheltering-in-place includes a robust strategy for creating mental and physical wellness for every person in our community. It’s critical to make good lifestyle choices, such as healthy eating, exercise, and reaching out to friends, neighbors, and family by phone. Please be mindful of how avoidable behaviors, such as excessive drinking of alcohol or sports activities that can require medical treatment including hospital care, can strain and impact the local healthcare system.

What are the best prevention practices for COVID-19? 
Sheltering-in-place, hand-washing, and social distancing of at least six feet if you must obtain essential services is critical. Additionally, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings or masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). Using good health practices, including mental and physical wellness, following a healthy diet, and drinking healthy fluids are important prevention techniques. If our community is successful with these safety practices, it can significantly slow the spread of the C19 virus.

Are there COVID-19 (C19) test shortages? Why? 
Yes, nationally there is a shortage of laboratory collection kits for C19, and this is also true in Truckee/North Lake Tahoe. This negatively impacts turnaround times for test results from about 4 days to more than a week. TFHS has made several pleas to get the chemical agents needed to perform these tests in-house, but at this time, we are still sending out specimens for testing. If you are concerned about symptoms or possible exposure, call our COVID hotline (530) 582-3450 to determine the next best steps for your situation. 

What is the Truckee/North Lake Tahoe infection rate?  
The number of positive test cases is increasing daily in our region. The current infection rate locally is estimated to be approximately 0.2% of the population that are infected with C19, which is roughly six times higher than the rest of the State of California. We believe there will be a tremendous surge in hospital activity if we go from where we are now (0.2%) to a 1% infection rate. We are, again, stressing the importance of following a disciplined, healthy shelter-in-place practice, social distancing of at least 6 feet only for essential services, and eliminating all non-essential travel.  

Should I wear a mask?
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings or masks in public settings, especially in areas like ours with community-based transmission. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. Learn more about the CDC's recommendations, as well as find simple instructions for sewn and no-sew face coverings.

What is happening on the front lines at Tahoe Forest Hospital?
Local healthcare workers are putting in strenuous hours and taking personal risks of infection in order to help our local community. A handful of the 1,000+ employees of Tahoe Forest Health System (TFHS) have tested positive for C19. While the TFHS team is putting everything on the line, it's also very common for healthcare workers to become ill. Those who have tested positive for C19 are self-quarantined at home, and every employee is screened daily for symptoms at the beginning of each shift.  

How long will the COVID-19 crisis last?
The surge of infections will continue to last at least four weeks, especially if people do not take the shelter-in-place guidelines in a disciplined way.  

What should I do if I get sick or hurt with something other than COVID-19? 
TFHS has restrictions on patients coming to any of its physician offices unless there is an urgent medical condition. If there is a medical issue that can’t wait and is not COVID-19 related, call to schedule an urgent provider office visit at (530) 582-6205. If you are experiencing fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call the Tahoe Forest Health System COVID-19 Hotline at (530) 582-3450. 

How is Tahoe Forest preparing for a surge of patients, and how many ventilators do you have?  
TFHS currently has nine ventilators with several more on the way. Tahoe Forest Hospital and Incline Village Community Hospital are both prepared  to care for patients who are positive, or who are being ruled-out for a positive case of COVID-19.

What is the overflow plan if the hospital runs out of beds?  
TFHS is working with county and state officials and other sources to establish alternate care sites with equipment and staffing support in case there is a surge of patients.

How can I show appreciation or donate food, masks, or dollars to Tahoe Forest Health System?  
TFHS is very grateful for the many generous and thoughtful donations we’ve received, including food, masks, and monetary contributions to our Emergency Response Fund. The financial contributions will assist with the purchase of equipment and supplies, such as the COVID-19 Clinic and hospital units, and will help cover the cost of emergency staffing and other targeted areas of need that are unfunded mandates to respond to the COVID crisis. For information on how to donate money or other items, please visit our How to Help page or contact the TFHS Foundation office at

Who does the hospital serve?  
TFHS serves residents and visitors in four counties (Nevada, Placer, Washoe, El Dorado) and two states, California and Nevada.  

What is the hospital doing to ensure patient safety?  
TFHS is being proactive on every level to help slow the spread of C19 in our community, by restricting all hospital visitors and patients coming to any clinic unless there is an urgent medical condition (note, the Emergency Department is open 24/7). 

We have implemented telemedicine services with many of our clinical providers, and this access is growing daily. There is curbside pick-up for prescriptions at our Pharmacy in Truckee and a temporary Laboratory draw station located inside the Medical Office Building at 10956 Donner Pass Road. We are screening every patient we see, anywhere, for any illness symptoms, and all patients must wear a mask. We have restricted elective surgery and radiology visits, as well. This is not a complete list of our many precautions; there are many more.   

What is the hospital doing to protect its employees?  
Protecting our valued employees is a top priority for TFHS. We are screening every employee, every day before each shift, for C19. All employees are required to wear a protective mask and practice social distancing in their work areas. We have established a special employee-only hotline for symptom questions or concerns, as well as emotional support services for employees to engage in. We are delivering food to employees who are working, and employees not directly involved in patient care are working remotely. There are many other activities in place to address employee and patient safety, and this is partial list.  

Where can I follow Tahoe Forest Health System news about COVID-19?  
We have established a COVID-19 section on our website that includes the latest COVID-19 infection statistics and many other resources, including county and state website addresses, safety and prevention information, visitor and donation information and more.  

General Information About COVID-19

What is a coronavirus? 
Coronaviruses are members of the coronavirus family of viruses — one of the many families that include viruses able to infect people and animals. Seven members of the coronavirus family can make people ill, one of which is the new coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. 

What is COVID-19? 
COVID-19 refers to the human infection caused by the new coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2. While symptoms of many human coronavirus infections are mild, COVID-19 infection symptoms can be serious, leading to pneumonia and in some cases death. COVID-19 is caused by a new virus strain that is believed to have originated around the city of Wuhan, China, and began spreading among people in late 2019.

How does the virus spread? 
Officials are still learning about how COVID-19 spreads, but the CDC believes it spreads between people in three ways:

  • From close contact with people who have it.
  • From respiratory droplets that become airborne when someone, who is infected, sneezes or coughs nearby.
  • From touching our mouth, nose, or eyes after touching a surface with the virus on it.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, sore throat, cough, diarrhea, and shortness of breath.

What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you are experiencing fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call the Tahoe Forest Health System COVID-19 Hotline at (530) 582-3450.

How is COVID-19 treated?
There is currently no FDA approved medication for COVID-19. People infected with this virus should receive supportive care such as rest, fluids and fever control, to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

Is there a vaccine?
Currently, there is no vaccine available.

How can I protect myself and my family?
Practice the following to protect yourself and your family:

  • Follow the California Stay at Home order. For more information, visit
  • Avoid people outside your household.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds. 
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wear a cloth face covering or non-surgical mask in public. Learn more about the CDC's recommendations, as well as find simple instructions for sewn and no-sew face coverings. Or if you are a more skilled seamstress, download a pattern courtesy of That's Sew Tahoe.
  • If you use a homemade mask, be sure to wash it properly
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Launder items, including clothes and toys, as appropriate and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?
Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are: 

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including: 
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised 
      • Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
    • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥40)
    • People with diabetes
    • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
    • People with liver disease
    • People with moderate or severe asthma
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets or other animals?
There is no reason at this time to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?
The most accurate and reliable local information about COVID-19 can be found on our website.

Additional comprehensive information about the virus can be found at the following national and county government websites: