Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

Hamilton County Health Department

In an effort to help keep the public informed, the Hamilton County Health Department created a list of frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers. We will continue to update this list as new information is presented to us. (Updated June 3, 2020).


Where can I access reputable information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) for Hamilton County, Tennessee?


Where are the COVID-19 Community Testing Sites in Hamilton County?

Free community testing sites and events are regularly updated on the Hamilton County Health Department's Community Testing webpage here. The Tennessee Department of Health displays commercial and non-commercial testing sites on their website here. Call the Hamilton County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline at (423) 209-8383 for up-to-date information as new locations and testing criteria are updated.


What should I do if I think I am a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case?

A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more with a positive case. If the Health Department determines you are a close contact, you should quarantine and stay home until you are called by an epidemiologist and given further guidance. In this case, you may only leave quarantine to go get tested. The updated list of free testing sites can be found here. Call the COVID-19 Hotline at 423-209-8383 for questions or concerns.

See more here:

Someone at work (my supervisor, coworker, one of my staff, etc.) was tested for COVID-19. Can the Health Department tell me their negative or positive test result?

No. This information is private health information and cannot be shared with anyone other than the patient that was tested. It is up to the person who was tested to disclose this information.

What businesses or activities are allowed to begin reopening, given the guidelines from the Tennessee Pledge?

In Hamilton County, the following businesses or activities have been authorized to begin reopening with restrictions:

All detailed guidance for specific types of businesses can be found on the TN Pledge.

The COVID-19 hotline, (423) 209-8383, remains one of the best day-to-day resources for up-to-date information.

What is the difference between COVID-19 cases that are community spread and cases that are considered epi-linked?

A case is considered epidemiologically linked, or epi-linked, if the transmission of the virus can be linked to a laboratory confirmed positive case. Community spread, however, is when people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are unsure how or where they became infected.


What does my test result or possible exposure of the virus mean for my ability to continue going to work?

If you receive a positive test result, you must stay home from work during the Isolation Period, 10 days from the day you were tested, and must be symptom free for at least the last 3 days.

If you are determined to be a close contact of a positive case and are a non-critical worker, you should stay home for 14 days, beginning the day you last had contact with the positive case.

If you are determined to be a close contact of a positive case and are a Critical Infrastructure Worker* and are NON-Symptomatic, you can return to work under regular monitoring by the employer for fever or other symptoms.

Critical Infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:

• Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.

• Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.

• Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.

• Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.

• Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

* This interim guidance pertains to critical infrastructure workers, including personnel in 16 different sectors of work including: Federal, state, & local law enforcement, 911 call center employees, Fusion Center employees, Hazardous material responders from government and the private sector, Janitorial staff and other custodial staff, Workers – including contracted vendors – in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy and government facilities

Are public swimming pools allowed to open for the summer? 

Swimming pools are now allowed to opened under CDC guidelines: 
Social distancing, strict hygiene, wearing protective equipment and frequent disinfection of surfaces are necessary to maintain a safe swimming pool environment.

What is contact tracing and how does the Health Department investigate positive cases of COVID-19?

When the Health Department is notified of a positive case, contact tracers immediately contact the individual or close family members to learn about recent outings, visits, trips, appointments, etc. The contact tracer creates a list of every individual with whom the person has come in contact. The contact tracer calls or otherwise personally notifies each contact to let them know that they have been exposed to a positive case. Contacts undergoing quarantine are assigned a contact monitor from the Health Department. Contact monitors call people undergoing quarantine multiple times a day to monitor their symptoms. When contacts are symptom free for a determined number days, they may be released from quarantine. Case and contact data are analyzed daily and posted on our website.

How do I make face coverings (masks)? When and where should I wear face coverings?

The CDC has guidance on face coverings that includes washing instructions. For specific guidance on how to put on and take off face coverings and gloves, the CDC guidance puts that under Health Care Professionals Using PPE .

How is a COVID-19 antibody test different than the nasal swab test I received at the health department?

An antibody test involves taking a blood sample to detect cells in the body that have previously been exposed to, and fought off, a virus. A nasal swab test only detects whether a patient currently has a viral infection.

It seems there are many antibody tests already available, doesn’t that mean the tests have been approved and proven to be effective?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved six COVID-19 antibody tests for clinical use, and most of these have not been widely distributed.  There are many antibody tests in the FDA’s pipeline and may ultimately receive approval.  However, most of the antibody tests ready for use have not been validated.

Isn’t it better to know whether or not I’ve had COVID-19 by getting an antibody test?

The primary issue with these unproven antibody tests is they can give patients false-positive results by detecting other types of coronaviruses, usually the kind that cause the common cold. A false-positive result may lead to a conclusion that a patient has immunity to COVID-19, when what the test really shows is, at some point in time, the patient was exposed to another type of coronavirus and its antibodies are present, not the antibodies for COVID-19.

If I have antibodies in my blood, doesn’t it mean I’m immune to COVID-19?

There is not enough data yet on COVID-19 antibody testing to prove having the antibodies will prevent a person from being re-infected with COVID-19. There are some indications most, maybe not all, people who have been infected with COVID-19 will develop antibodies in their blood that can be detected for a period of time. There isn’t enough data to confirm this is true, or if it happens to be true how long the immunity will last. 


Can I get tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Hamilton County Health Department?

No. The Hamilton County Health Department does not offer on-site testing. You may call the Health Department’s hotline at (423) 209-8383 for up-to-date community testing information and guidance or go here


Who should I call if I am experiencing a mental health crisis?

If you are struggling with your mental health, know you are not alone. If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, please reach out to the numbers below. A trained crisis counselor is available 24/7. Call 911 and ask for a CIT Officer (the officer is trained to handle mental health crisis) if emergency medical treatment is needed or life-threatening injury has occurred.

*Adults: (800) 704-2651
*Youth: (866) 791-9225
*Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741 741
*The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK

If you need mental health support at this time and are not in a crisis situation, our area has made many changes to how services are delivered and are able to offer services safely and effectively via telehealth. Please see this guide to find comprehensive services and resources available in our community, as well as online support options.


Who should I call if I would like to talk to a trained counselor and connect to mental health services?

The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee’s toll free Peer Recovery Call Center number is 877-642-3866. When you call, you will talk to a certified peer counselor who will help connect you to mental health resources based around your individual needs. They can also help identify how to best support those you care about that are struggling with their mental health. For example, if you are uninsured, peer counselors with connect you to the Behavioral Health Safety Net of Tennessee, which is a network of community health organizations that are taking new clients each day. You may be able to set up a free appointment with a therapist over the computer from your home. The peer counselor from the call center will continue to follow up with you to ensure that your treatment is working best for you and to encourage you in your path to healing and managing your mental health in the best way possible.