Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Stop the spreadThe University of Wisconsin Department of Emergency Medicine is committed to providing reliable and helpful information to individuals and families during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. For information and questions about symptoms, visitor guidelines, vaccines, and talking to a healthcare provider, please visit the UW Health COVID-19 website

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, please call or send a MyChart message to your physician and wait for a response. Do not go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room.

What is Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

UW Health and the University of Wisconsin are closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 that continues to expand. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization named this disease coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

In order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends the following preventative measures:

Wear a face covering

Science shows that wearing a face covering can prevent the transmission of the respiratory droplets that spread COVID-19. Everyone should pack a mask when leaving their home. If you are unvaccinated, wear one in all indoor spaces that are not your home, as well as enclosed or crowded outdoor spaces, such as outdoor restaurants or bars, festivals, sporting events, and concerts.

If you are fully vaccinated, you may choose to wear a mask around unvaccinated people at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease. You should also wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19, or until you receive a negative test result. Please follow emergency orders or mandates regarding mask-wearing set forth by your local health department.

It is especially important for everyone, even if fully vaccinated, to continue to wear masks in the following settings: 

Health care settings 
K-12 schools, including school buses
• Places where masks are required by local or tribal laws, rules, and regulations, including local businesses and workplaces
• Areas with substantial to high community transmission(link is external)
• Correctional and detention facilities and homeless shelters
• All forms of public transportation  (including planes, buses, and trains) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations

Avoid close contact with others and practice physical distancing

• Stay at home as much as possible. Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates, and nonessential appointments
• Avoid mass gatherings
• Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, when possible
• Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care

Health care settings such as UW Health continue to requirebarrier masks, physical distancing, and limited visitor guidelines at this time.

Public health officials encourage members of the public who are fully vaccinated to visit the CDC's website  for the most up-to-date recommendations.

Practice good hand hygiene

• Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth when in public

Understand the potential risks of going out

As communities and businesses are opening, you may be looking for ways to resume some daily activities as safely as possible. It is important to understand potential risks and how to adopt different types of prevention measures to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions. Keep these items on hand when venturing out: a mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.

To better understand the risks of daily activities and leaving your home, visit the CDC's website.

Visit the Wisconsin DHS COVID-19 website  for the latest health and safety recommendations in your area.

For local residents, Public Health Madison & Dane County issued a new Face Covering Emergency Order (PDF) , which requires that everyone age 2 and older wear a face covering or mask when in any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person’s own household or living unit, could be present. This requirement applies to all of Dane County and will be in effect until Friday, November 5, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. See Public Health’s news release for more information .

Whare are COVID-19 variants, and what do I need to know about the Delta variant?

UW Health breaks down how variants work, what you need to know about Delta, and the best way to protect yourself and your family. Read more here.

Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health's Chief Quality Officer, also shared his perspective on the Lambda variant, along with other nationally recognized health professionals, in the following article: "How worried should we be about the Lambda variant? Experts explain". (Disclaimer: this article reflects data and information available as of Aug. 9, 2021 and is not meant to diagnose or provide medical advice. Please contact your physician if you have questions about anything you have read online.)

Where can I learn more about COVID-19 vaccines?

Wisconsin DHS COVID Vaccine MapDuring these challenging times, one bright spot is the rapid progression of the development and regulatory approval of the COVID-19 vaccines. You can keep up to date with which populations are eligible and find and connect with vaccine providers in your area by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

And because there is so much information in the news, it is not always clear what is happening or what the updates mean. Visit UW Health's COVID-19 vaccines FAQs to learn more. Members of eligible populations with a primary care provider at UW Health can visit for important information related to patient vaccinations.

More Resources

Additional information for patients and families can be found below:

Trusted Health Resources

Donating Convalescent Plasma

Convalescent plasma is plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 which has been authorized to treat people who are currently in the hospital fighting the virus. Donating this plasma once you've recovered from COVID-19 can help treat others battling the virus.

Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and would like to learn more about donating their plasma can e-mail or call (608) 262-8300.

COVID-19 Testing & Vaccines

COVID-19 Testing

If you are experiencing COVID symptoms, even if you are vaccinated, stay home from work, school, and other activities and get tested

COVID-19 Vaccines

If you or someone you know is looking for options to get vaccinated, schedule an appointment at one of our office locations or drop by one of Dane County's community pop-up clinics. Information from UW Health on COVID-19 vaccines and kids including information about the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised patients

Area Businesses

If you are a business owner, ‘masks required’ signs are available on the Public Health Madison & Dane County website

Understanding HIPAA

In this era of COVID-19, misinformation and misunderstanding abounds. A recent example: People citing HIPAA as an excuse for not sharing their vaccination status.

HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — is a federal regulation that protects patients' information from being shared without their consent by health care providers and those with whom they do business.

An article by Wisconsin Public Radio debunks myths about what is covered — and what isn't — under the federal health privacy law. Read, listen, or download the article in print and audio forms here.

Support Emergency Medicine providers


BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine     UW Health