Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

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COVID-19 Testing

Can I just show up at any testing site to be tested for COVID-19?

No. You should not just show up at a hospital and request testing. Testing is authorized based on the clinical judgment of a provider, exposure, travel history and symptoms. You must have an in-person or virtual telephone/video visit with a provider who will arrange testing in a military treatment facility (if MTF-enrolled) or in the private sector (if enrolled to the network provider with TRICARE Prime or if you’re using TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life).  If network, the cost of the test is covered in the cost of the visit itself.

How is testing prioritized?

Your health care provider will make that decision based on your exposure risk, symptoms, and guidance from the CDC. There is a screening process to determine who should get tested.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

You can get tested at a local military treatment facility if it has the ability to test for COVID-19. If it doesn’t, the MTF will send the sample to an outside laboratory. Stay informed: www.tricare.mil/coronavirus

What does the test entail?

A simple nasal swab is all that is needed to test for COVID-19.


How long does it take to get results?

The time it takes to get results varies depending on where the test is performed. We’re working to expedite the testing process and more testing sites at military treatment facilities are coming online daily.


What’s the difference between testing and screening for COVID-19? Who gets what?

The screening process begins when you contact your provider or the MHS Nurse Advice Line to discuss your symptoms and it will begin with a series of questions.

The nurse or staff member decides whether your symptoms may be due to COVID-19 or another illness requiring treatment.  You might get advice on self-care since symptoms often can be treated at home.

The nurse/staff member may arrange a telephone visit between you and a health care provider or tell you to call your provider directly. The provider can talk with you about possible exposure, your symptoms, and discusses treatment.  The provider may give you self-care advice to use at home. Or, he or she may tell you to go to your primary care clinic or emergency to be tested.

It’s important to call first so we can protect you, other patients, and medical staff from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.


How much does the test cost?

Testing is provided free of charge at military treatment facilities. If you have a civilian provider, TRICARE will cover the costs of the test if your provider determines it's medically appropriate and the request meets the screening criteria.

At this time, we cannot waive copayments for the office visit due to the law. You will be responsible to pay the applicable copay or cost share based on your TRICARE plan if you visit a TRICARE-authorized, network or non-network provider.

TRICARE Benefit

What, if any, copayments will be waived related to COVID-19 treatment and testing? How does this apply to active duty, reserve component, and retirees?

While the testing is free, beneficiaries are responsible to pay applicable copayments for doctor’s visits with network and non-network providers. At this time, we cannot waive copayments for the office visit due to statutory regulation, which has legislation pending.


Are retirees using TRICARE For Life and Medicare covered for COVID-19 testing and treatment?

Yes. Follow your plan’s rules for getting care.


What is happening with other appointments and elective procedures at military treatment facilities?

MTFs are currently reviewing all scheduled, non-urgent face-to-face appointments, cancelling those appointments and converting them to virtual telephone visits.  Our MTF staff are taking these measures to limit unnecessary exposure for you, other patients and our own medical staff.  If you receive notice that your appointment has been cancelled, please remember that your clinic should be trying to reach you.  Please ensure you are able to answer any of the telephone numbers we have on file.  If you are not contacted within a day of your previously scheduled appointment, please contact your clinic or send your team a secure message. 


Pharmacy

Have procedures for filling prescriptions at military treatment facilities changed? What’s the best number to call to get more information about prescriptions?

Not at this time, but each MTF Commander has the authority to make decision about procedures at each MTF. If you have questions about filling prescriptions at an MTF pharmacy, such as hours of operation, social-distancing guidelines or anything else, please call your pharmacy first.


Will pharmacy refill restrictions be waived so we can get prescriptions filled sooner?

At this time, there is no plan to waive refill restrictions to get prescriptions refilled early.

TRICARE offers beneficiaries the option to get a 90-day supply of their prescriptions at military pharmacies, via TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery, or at retail network pharmacies.

As a first step, beneficiaries should ensure they have refills remaining on their prescription. Each prescription bottle indicates the number of refills remaining. If there are no refills left, they will need to call their healthcare provider. If enough refills remain, beneficiaries can get a 90-day supply at military pharmacies, via TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery, or at retail network pharmacies.

Military pharmacies offer a 90-day supply of medications at no cost to beneficiaries. After military pharmacies, home delivery is the most affordable option. Beneficiaries can switch to home delivery to get a 90-day supply delivered right to their door. At a retail network pharmacy, beneficiaries can get up to three, 30-day supplies (three copays will apply).

Home delivery provides a convenient and affordable way to get medications without leaving the house. There are many convenient ways to switch a prescription to home delivery to include by phone, online, and via the Express Scripts mobile app.

Currently, there are no pharmacy supply chain issues/outages as a result of COVID-19 and the Defense Logistics Agency is engaged with Prime Vendors to ensure Military pharmacies get their fair share if shortages do occur.


Quarantine

What is quarantine? And why is 14 days recommended for COVID-19?

Quarantine, in general, means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease. It is recommended by the CDC to quarantine for 14 days because symptoms usually emerge 2-14 days after exposure.


Where can I go if I am placed in/on quarantine? Is it OK to go to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, or the mall?

No. You need to stay at home and not go anywhere.


If one person in my family is placed in/on quarantine, does that mean everyone else in the house is in/on quarantine? If not, how do we protect our non-quarantined family members?

Yes. All family members should quarantine if one family member is quarantined. Please contact your health care provider if you have questions.


How is quarantine different than isolation?

Isolation is used to separate people who have already been infected with 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 people who aren’t sick 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 you live with someone who may have been exposed, what should you do?

Contact your local military clinic or hospital, your local health department, or the MHS Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1 or online: https://mhsnurseadviceline.com


What will screening measures (as mentioned in the Force Health Protection Supplement #4) entail?

We are instituting risk assessments and if necessary, medical evaluations, for all personnel prior to departure on any military aircraft. Additionally, we are putting preventive monitoring measures in place for those who have recently traveled. Specifically, for those who recently traveled to, though, or from a CDC Travel Health Advisory Level 2 or Level 3 country, we are directing that they stay at home at 14 days, practice social distancing, and self-monitor for potential symptoms of COVID-19 including taking their temperature twice a day. For all other returning travelers, including those traveling within the United States, we are telling them to practice social distancing and be mindful in their daily self-observation for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. For all, we are telling them that if they feel sick, they should immediately self-isolate, notify their leadership, and call the appropriate medical authorities for assistance.


Will the screening measures only be for those landing in Level 2 or 3 locations?

No, this policy applies to all personnel who travel or have recently traveled. However, the actions we expect our leaders and people to take are dependent upon their travel routes and locations. At this time, all countries other than the United States are either Level 2 or Level 3, which requires screening whether it was for travel to, from, or through.


MTF Management

Where are they putting people in hospitals who test positive for COVID-19?

All medical facilities have infectious disease protocols in place, not just for COVID-19 but for any infectious disease. Patients who test positive are isolated from the general population in designated isolation rooms.


Medical Care

Should I make an appointment to get my physical?

It is recommended that you call your doctor to see what they recommend for routine visits. MTFs are currently reviewing all scheduled, non-urgent face-to-face appointments, cancelling those appointments and converting them to virtual telephone visits.   Our MTF staff are taking these measures to limit unnecessary exposure for you, other patients and our own medical staff.  If you receive notice that your appointment has been cancelled, please remember that your clinic should be trying to reach you.  Please ensure you are able to answer any of the telephone numbers we have on file.  If you are not contacted within a day of your previously scheduled appointment, please contact your clinic or send your team a secure message. 


After exposure and recovery, can you get COVID-19 again?

At this time it’s too soon to know as we are still learning about the virus.


Should we call 911 if we get sick

If you have a true medical emergency, call 911. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.


I have asthma, do I need to immediately go to the doctor if I get sick, show symptoms?

If you have asthma, or other underlying conditions, the COVID-19 can cause inflammation. If you feel you’re experiencing symptoms, contact your provider to be evaluated.


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness that can spread from person-to-person. It’s a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in China.


How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus spreads through close contact between people and by droplets from coughs or sneezes.  It also spreads when a person touches a surface with the virus on it, and then touches his or her nose, mouth or eyes.  


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms are: 

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states people may show symptoms of COVID-19 within two to 14 days after exposure.  For more information, see the CDC website at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.


How severe is the COVID-19 illness? 

Reported illnesses range from very mild (with no reported symptoms) to severe, including some deaths.  Adults 65 years and older and anyone with severe underlying health problems, such as compromised immune systems, existing respiratory problems, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. 


How do I know if I could have COVID-19?

You may have COVID-19 if you:

AND

  • You now have a fever, cough and/or have difficulty breathing.

What should I do if I have been exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19?

First, don’t just walk into your military or civilian clinic or hospital.  Speak to a Registered Nurse or office staff member in advance.  That person will assess your symptoms and advise you on what to do.  You may:

  • Call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line (MHS NAL) at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1 or online at https://mhsnurseadviceline.com/
  • Call your military or civilian primary care clinic directly
  • Send your primary care physician a secure online message, if you can do so.

If you’re enrolled to a military hospital or clinic, you may also:

  • Call the appointment line; the appointment line staff can submit a telephone consult to your primary care clinic nurse if you ask for one
  • Send your primary care team a secure message in the TRICARE OnLine or MHS GENESIS Patient Portal

What happens after I speak to a nurse or office staff member?

The nurse or staff member decides whether your symptoms may be due to COVID-19 or another illness requiring treatment.  You might get advice on self-care since symptoms often can be treated at home.

The nurse/staff member may arrange a telephone visit between you and a healthcare provider or tell you to call your provider directly.  The provider can talk with you about possible exposure, your symptoms, and discusses treatment.  The provider may give you self-care advice to use at home.  He or she may tell you to go to your primary care clinic or emergency roomClick to closeThe hospital department that provides emergency services to patients who need immediate medical attention./urgent care. 


Why do I need to call before I see a provider?

This is so we can protect you, other patients, and medical staff from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. 


Should everyone get tested for COVID-19?

No.  You only have to get tested if you show symptoms of COVID-19.  Your healthcare provider will make that decision based on your exposure risk, symptoms, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. There is a screening process to determine who should get tested. 

If you have a civilian provider, TRICARE will cover the costs of the test if your provider determines it's medically appropriate and the request meets the screening criteria.


When do I seek medical care?

You should only go to a clinic or hospital if you are advised to, or are having difficulty breathing or have flu-like symptoms that aren’t getting better with time.  First, call for advice.  The nurse or office staff will assess your symptoms.  They may have you speak to a healthcare provider or tell you to come directly to the office/clinic or hospital. You should:

  • Call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line (MHS NAL) at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1 or online at https://mhsnurseadviceline.com/
  • Call your military or civilian  primary care clinic directly
  • Send your primary care physician a secure online message, if you can do so.

If you’re enrolled to a military hospital or clinic, you may:

  • Call your military clinic/hospital appointment line; the appointment line staff can submit a telephone consult to your primary care clinic nurse if you ask
  • Send your MTF primary care team a secure message in the TRICARE OnLine or MHS GENESIS Patient Portal

What can I do to protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

There are a number of things you can do  (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html?)

  • Practice good personal hygiene.  This includes:
    • Washing your hands (at least 20 seconds with soap and water) or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
    • Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and surfaces where you prepare food
    • Using tissues when you cough or sneeze, throwing the tissues away, and washing your hands
    • Coughing or sneezing into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue.
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Avoiding being close to others who are ill or showing symptoms.  Greet people verbally instead of shaking hands or hugging.
    • Limiting touching frequently touched services in public, e.g. opening doors, pressing elevator buttons, using hand rails, handling menus
  • Get a flu shot if you didn’t get one earlier.  The flu vaccine won’t protect you from COVID-19, but the flu currently poses a greater threat to the public than COVID-19.
  • Avoid public activities or areas visited by a large number of people.
  • Get the pneumonia vaccine if you’re eligible. It’s recommended for adults 65 and older, all children younger than 2 years, persons 2 through 64with certain health conditions, and adults 19-64 who smoke cigarettes (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/index.html)  

It doesn’t protect you from COVID-19, but lowers your risk of bacterial infection.

Note:  Face masks

  • There is no need for you to wear a facemask in public if you aren’t sick.  If you’re not sick with fever, coughs, or sneezes, stay home. If you must leave home for any reason, cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.  A mask helps prevent an ill person from spreading the virus, but won’t protect a healthy person from being exposed to it.
    • If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
    • If you are caring for others: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with the person who is sick should not stay in the same room with them, or they should wear a facemask if they enter a room with the person who is sick.

Will my military or civilian hospital or clinic be able to test for COVID-19?

Yes, if it has the ability to test for COVID-19. If it lacks the ability to test in-house, it will send the sample to an outside laboratory. 


I heard a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 was seen in my primary care office.  Should I be concerned if I have an appointment, surgical procedure, or to have my baby in the same MTF?

No, clinics and hospitals follow federal or state guidelines for keeping sick patients away from others.  They also follow strict guidelines on infection control and cleaning public areas and treatment rooms.  You should feel safe to get treatment, elective procedures, or even deliver your baby.


What about if I’m told I have been exposed?

If you were exposed, you should contact your local military clinic or hospital, the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1 or online at https://mhsnurseadviceline.com/, or your local health department. They can arrange for information to be gathered by the public health team.


I have a vacation coming up.  I plan on going to an area affected by COVID-19.  What should I do?

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid certain countries and delaying travel if you have chronic medical conditions. The country list changes.  For the latest travel guidelines, check the CDC website at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html


How can I prepare for possible quarantine and protect myself?

Develop a household plan based on daily needs and routine. Check your food and supplies; make care arrangements for children, elders and pets; and make sure you have enough critical prescription drugs. 

Public health officials may recommend actions if there is a local community outbreak.  They will likely take actions that limit exposure, such as cancelling large gatherings. Check out the CDC website on how to prevent illness and protect yourself:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/protect/index.html


What is the treatment if I’m diagnosed with COVID-19? 

Most people can recover from COVID-19 at home. Treatment is similar for that of the flu - rest and fluids. There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 for adults or children.  Families should try to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, by covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning hands often with soap and water or 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and staying up to date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.  Follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) instructions on how to take care of yourself at home (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html).

Doctors treat severe cases in the hospital - with intravenous fluids and breathing machines if necessary.

Are children more likely to get the COVID-19 virus than adults?

No, there’s no data that shows children are more likely to get ill.  In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China were in adults.


How can the infection be prevented in children?

Children should clean their hands often using soap and water or 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  They should use tissues if they cough or sneeze, throw the tissues away, and then wash their hands.  Children should stay away from people who are sick.  They should stay up to date on vaccinations, including the flu shot. 


Are children more likely to get the COVID-19 virus versus adults? 

No, there are no data that show children are more likely to get ill.  In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in adults.


Are symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than adults?

They aren’t that different.  Children have the same cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. One child had vomiting and diarrhea.  Severe symptoms are uncommon. For more information, go to FAQS for Children. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html )

Are children at increased risk for severe illness or death with COVID-19 than adults?

No. Reports suggest that infected children have mild symptoms.  Though some have severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock), those appear to be uncommon.  Children with underlying health conditions may be more at risk.

Are there any treatments available for children with COVID-19?

Treatment is similar for that of the flu - rest and fluids.  There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 for children or adults.  Children and their family members should try to prevent the spread of infection by covering coughs, cleaning hands often with soap and water or 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and staying up to date on vaccinations, including influenza.  


Are pregnant women more likely to get infected or at greater risk for severe illness or death?

Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies due to pregnancy.  This may make them more likely to get viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.  Pregnant women should avoid people who are sick. They should avoid infection by washing hands often, cleaning food preparation areas and frequently touched surfaces (tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones). 


Are pregnant women with COVID-19 at greater risk for pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth?

We don’t have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.


Can a pregnant woman with COVID-19 pass the virus to her fetus or newborn during delivery?

We don’t know. The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through droplets from coughing or sneezing. In a recent study of a small number of infants born to mothers with COVID-19, none of the infants tested positive for COVID-19. The virus wasn’t noted in the amniotic fluid or breastmilk.


Is a mother with COVID-19 a risk to a breastfeeding infant?

There is no evidence on the spread of COVID-19 virus through breast milk.  In the recent study, above, no evidence of the COVID-19 virus was found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. The infection is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through droplets from coughing or sneezing. 


Who’s at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID_19?

People at higher risk includes:

  • Older adults (those 65 years of age or older)
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease
    • Immune disorders

What should I do if I’m at higher risk for getting sick from COVD-19?

If you’re at higher risk for serious illness, it’s extra important you take action to reduce your risk of getting sicker.  Most people can recover from COVID-19 at home. Follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instructions on how to take care of yourself at home.

(https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html )

 You should:

  • Have drugs and supplies on hand
    • Call your military or civilian health care team to ask if you need extra prescription drugs in case there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your area and you need to stay home for longer than your prescriptions will last.
    • If you are sick and should stay home, think about using the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy program. (Certain rules may apply that you’ll need to follow.  See tricare.mil/pharmacy for more information.) You may be able to have an authorized person pick up your drugs from the military or retail pharmacy or get them delivered to your home – call your pharmacy for information. . 
    • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and supplies (tissues, fever-reducing drugs, etc.) on hand to treat fever and other symptoms.
    • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you can stay at home for a long period of time – as determined your care provider and local guidance
  • Take everyday safety measures:
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick.  Stay home as much as possible
    • Wash your hands often - with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.  Wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or being in a public place.
    • If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.  Don’t shake hands or hug others.   Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 is higher in crowded, closed-in settings with little air flow if there are people in the crowd who are sick.  Use extra caution if you have to go out in public. 
      • Limit your touching of frequently touched surfaces: elevator buttons, door handles, hand rails.
      • Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
      • Wash or sanitize your hands after touching often-touched public surfaces
    • Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes, much as possible.
    • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones).
    • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, take extra steps to distance yourself from other people.  Think about ways of getting food to your home, for example, have family, or social and commercial services drop them off.

What should I watch for and what are some emergency warning signs?

  • Pay attention for COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call the MHS Nurse Advice Line or your primary care provider for advice.
  • If you start having emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical care quickly. In adults, emergency warning signs may be:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Constant pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

What should I do if I have any of the emergency warning signs of a COVID-19 infection?

  • If you start having emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical care quickly. In adults, emergency warning signs may be:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Constant pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
  • Stay home and call your provider or local military or civilian clinic or hospital.  Let them know about your symptoms.
  • If your breathing or chest pains are severe, call 911.  Tell them you may have COVID-19. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
  • If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. Follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) instructions on how to take care of yourself at home. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html )

Last Updated 3/24/2020