Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

Updated Jan. 19, 2021

Following are some answers to some common questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll continue to update this list, as new information becomes available. 

General

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in people. The name of this new respiratory disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may also include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or sense of smell. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider about any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

How dangerous is this virus?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* (CDC), COVID-19 can affect anyone and can cause symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. People with risk factors and underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, may be more likely to need hospitalization if they have COVID-19.

How is the virus passed from one person to another?

Someone who is actively infected with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, even if he or she has no symptoms.

The virus spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets. These droplets are produced when someone with the illness coughs, sneezes or talks. The droplets can be inhaled, land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, and persist for up to a couple of days on some surfaces. It generally takes close contact (less than 6 feet away) to become infected.

How can I prevent the spread of the coronavirus or other respiratory viruses?

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. To limit virus exposure, the CDC recommends you:

  • Maintain good social distance (at least 6 feet) from others and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place; after going to the bathroom; before eating or preparing food; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. 
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
    • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

What should I do if I may have been exposed to or think I am sick with COVID-19?

If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, or if you have been in close contact with a person sick with COVID-19, contact your doctor before you attempt to see anyone in person. You can tell your health care provider your symptoms, and he or she can give you instructions on how to get your medical needs addressed while minimizing the risk of exposure to yourself and others.

There currently is no cure for this virus, so managing mild symptoms at home may be your best option to prevent further spread of the disease. Of course, should you have life-threatening symptoms, such as trouble breathing, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If possible, put on a face mask before seeking emergency medical care.

What kind of support does BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina offer?

If you have questions about getting care during the pandemic, using your benefits or managing your health, we are here to help you. You may be contacted by BlueCross to introduce programs that are right for you. To reach us, simply call the customer service number on the back of your member ID card.

COVID-19 vaccines

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The CDC recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

Who should get vaccinated?

Everyone 5 years of age and older is eligible to get free COVID-19 vaccinations.

Where can I get the vaccine?

To find vaccine locations near you, go to https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov/ or http://www.vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 800-232-0233. You can also check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination appointments are available.

These links lead to third-party sites. Those sites are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies on their sites.

What should I expect when getting the vaccine?

The process will depend on the location you choose. See if the location requires an appointment or accepts walk-ins. Parental consent is required for those ages 5 – 15.

Is there a cost to get the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone ages 5 and up. Vaccines are available to all people living in the United States regardless of health insurance or immigration status.

Should I get a booster shot?

Booster shots are available and free for anyone who has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

When can I get a booster shot?

You can get a booster six months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

Testing and treatment

Are the coronavirus test and treatment covered under my insurance?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, your doctor can order a medically necessary test at no cost to you.

Beginning Jan. 15, 2022, your plan will reimburse members for the purchase of over-the-counter, self-administered COVID-19 diagnostic tests authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Members can purchase tests at local retailers or online.

Public health and employment return-to-work testing are not considered medically necessary and will not be covered.

COVID-19 treatment will be covered according to your plan benefits. Please contact Customer Service to confirm coverage for your plan.

Are at-home diagnostic tests covered?

We will reimburse members for the purchase of self-administered and self-read, over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests that have been authorized, cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that must be sent to a lab for analysis will not be reimbursed. See the list of qualifying tests.

Are there any other ways to access free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests?

Yes. Every household in the United States is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests online through www.COVIDtests.gov. You can also place your order through the United States Postal Service at www.USPS.com/COVIDtest.

Are there any prior authorizations required for COVID-19 treatment?

Prior authorization is required for any related services for the treatment of COVID-19 if those related services would normally require a prior authorization. For example, inpatient admission to treat COVID-19 requires prior authorization.

Health care during the pandemic

Is it safe to go to a doctor's office right now?

Generally speaking, yes. Most providers’ offices have implemented additional safety measures such as mask requirements, temperature checks, pre-appointment screening questionnaires and social distancing in waiting rooms.

Many providers are also offering virtual visits via video or telephone to accommodate non-urgent medical needs and behavioral health consultations. You would pay the same amount for a virtual visit as you would for an in-person visit.

If I have an upcoming preventive care visit or screening, should I go?

Yes. It is still important to attend annual wellness checkups, immunization appointments and well-child visits. If there is not a pressing need, you can talk to your doctor about rescheduling. However, delaying preventive care such as mammograms or colonoscopies is not recommended, as it may also delay a potentially serious diagnosis.

Is there a chance the hospital or provider will cancel my procedure? If so, what are my options?

If your procedure is canceled, it is likely for good reason. Elective surgeries or procedures may be postponed or rescheduled to free up space or ensure adequate staff. Your doctor can help you determine whether it is safe to delay a procedure and may present other options.

Could my prescriptions be impacted? Can I buy more than my usual refill limit or get them filled early?

BlueCross is closely monitoring any potential medication access issues to make sure our members get the medications they need in a timely manner.

BlueCross members who have mail-order pharmacy benefits are encouraged to use them. For members who have concerns about running out of medications, we recommend they first contact their doctor or pharmacist. Members can call the customer service number on the back of their ID cards for benefit-related questions.

*The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an independent organization that provides health information you may find helpful.

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