COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccines, testing, masks, symptoms, and more

The Four Percent

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve answered hundreds of questions from readers of our Coronavirus Today newsletter. Our reporters have consulted doctors, scientists and public health experts to bring you the most up-to-date information on the virus, the crisis it has created and the global fight against it.

In the newsletter’s regular “Your Questions Answered” section, we’ve addressed queries about vaccines and medical treatments, about whether it’s safe to go shopping or send kids to school, about the science behind the threat of new variants and about when we might expect life to return to normal. Through it all, we’ve aimed to be your trusted guide as we navigate this uncertain world together.

You’ll find answers to all the questions we’ve answered in the newsletter listed below in our archives. Just click the link, and scroll to the bottom of each edition to read them.

Each edition appears as it did at the time it was published, so please keep in mind that some of the guidance in our older editions may be out of date.

Have new questions? Email them to us, and sign up to get the newsletter in your inbox weekday evenings to read the answers.

May 2021

— Will the COVID-19 vaccines affect my period? (May 6)
— How can I persuade my loved ones to get the COVID-19 vaccine? (May 5)
— I’m afraid of needles. What can I do to overcome my fear and get vaccinated? (May 4)
— My 14-year-old child isn’t eligible to get vaccinated yet. Is there anything I can do to get around that? (May 3)

April 2021

— How are the COVID-19 vaccines tested in kids? (April 29)
— What will change when L.A. County moves to the yellow tier? (April 28)
— I am fully vaccinated. What can I do with my unvaccinated friends? (April 27)
— What activities are safe for families when kids still aren’t vaccinated? (April 26)
— With vaccinations rising fast and infections remaining low, do I still need to wear a mask? (April 22)
— For how long will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me? (April 21)
— Can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine? (April 20)
— Will the pause in the administration of the J&J vaccine mean I’ll have to wait longer for a COVID-19 shot? (April 19)
— Why is Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine the only one associated with a rare type of blood clots? (April 15)
— Can the government require proof of vaccination? (April 14)
— I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Should I be worried about a blood clot? (April 13)
— What should I do if I lose my COVID-19 vaccination card? (April 12)
— Can businesses require customers to show proof of vaccination? (April 8)
— How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe? (April 7)
— What is different now that L.A. County has moved to the orange tier? (April 5)
— Are there plans to get vaccines to homebound seniors? (April 1)

March 2021

— I’m at least 50 years old and qualify for a vaccine starting April 1. What do I need to know? (March 31)
— When can temperature checks at workplaces be phased out? (March 30)
— How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine even if I don’t officially qualify for one yet? (March 25)
— If I’ve been fully vaccinated, is it safe for me to take public transportation? (March 24)
— What is a data and safety monitoring board, and how does it ensure that vaccine trial results are accurate? (March 23)
— What does it mean for a vaccine to be 95% effective? (March 22)
— What do we know about the coronavirus spreading among high school athletes? (March 18)
— How are gyms making it safe to work out indoors? (March 17)
— Can I get the vaccine if I have a cold? (March 16)
— How will we know when we have reached herd immunity? (March 15)
— How will the COVID-19 relief package affect me? (March 11)
— When can children and teens be vaccinated? (March 10)
— How close is L.A. County to moving into the red tier? (March 9; update to March 2 edition)
— What will I be allowed to do once I’m fully vaccinated? (March 8)
— Can I improve the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by getting a booster shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine? (March 4)
— If I’ve had a bad reaction to a vaccine before, how do I know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for me? (March 3)
— How close is L.A. County to moving into the red tier? (March 2; see March 9 edition for update)
— Is it OK to mix and match doses from different COVID-19 vaccines? (March 1)

February 2021

— Is it safe to go to the gym yet? (Feb. 25)
— How long should I wait to get vaccinated if I’ve recovered from a coronavirus infection? (Feb. 24)
— When will I get my California stimulus check? (Feb. 23)
— Is it dangerous to get a COVID-19 vaccine while you have an active coronavirus infection? (Feb. 22)
— Why do I still need to wear a mask even after I’ve been vaccinated? (Feb. 18)
— Should we brace for another coronavirus case surge in the spring? (Feb. 17)
— Is it safe for children to go back to school if they haven’t been vaccinated? (Feb. 16)
— Should you expect more side effects after your second dose of vaccine than after your first? (Feb. 11)
— Will wearing two masks protect me better than just one? (Feb. 10)
— I live in Los Angeles. When are we getting more vaccine shipments? (Feb. 9)
— What’s the difference between a variant and a strain? (Feb. 8)
— Is it OK to take painkillers before or after a COVID-19 vaccine? (Feb. 4)
— How will I know when it’s time for my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine? (Feb. 3)
Which company’s vaccine should I get? (Feb. 2)
I’m pregnant. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine? (Feb. 1)

January 2021

— If I got a vaccine from Moderna batch 041L20A, what should I do? (Jan. 28)
— Can I get my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine a few days early? (Jan. 27)
— What happens if my second dose of vaccine is delayed? (Jan. 26)
— I’m eligible for a vaccine. Will I be able to get my shot soon? (Jan. 25)
— When will all the folks who aren’t healthcare workers, nursing home residents or at least 65 years old be eligible to get a vaccine? (Jan. 21)
— I’m an older resident of L.A. County who is eligible for the vaccine. How do I get it? (Jan. 20)
— Can you be infected with the same strain of the coronavirus more than once? (Jan. 19)
— How soon can I get vaccinated? (Jan. 14)

— If I’ve had COVID-19, do I still need to get vaccinated? (Jan. 13)
— Will a COVID-19 vaccine reduce my risk of transmitting the virus? (Jan. 12)
How many U.S. states have the coronavirus strain from the United Kingdom? (Jan. 11)
— How will I know when to get my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine? (Jan. 7)
How safe are the COVID-19 vaccines in the real world? (Jan. 6)
— How worried should we be about the coronavirus variant from the U.K.? (Jan. 5)
— How does L.A. County’s new mandatory quarantine order work? Does it apply to me? (Jan. 4)

December 2020

— When will I get my stimulus check, and how much am I getting? (Dec. 29, 2020)
— Why isn’t more COVID-19 vaccine available? (Dec. 28, 2020)
— Does a negative coronavirus test clear me for holiday gatherings? (Dec. 22, 2020)
— Are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines effective in children and teens? (Dec. 21, 2020)
— If I get the vaccine now, will there be enough available for me to get the required second dose in a few weeks? (Dec. 17, 2020)
— If I get the vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask? (Dec. 16, 2020)
— If I had COVID-19 several months ago but still have symptoms now, am I still likely to be contagious? (Dec. 15, 2020)
— How did the first COVID-19 vaccine get approved so fast? (Dec. 14, 2020)
Do you need to wear a mask after recovering from COVID-19? (Dec. 10, 2020)
— What’s the science behind banning outdoor dining at restaurants? (Dec. 9, 2020)
— If I already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine? (Dec. 8, 2020)
— What’s the difference between vaccination, inoculation and immunization? (Dec. 7, 2020)
Who will be the first to get the vaccine in the U.S.? (Dec. 3, 2020)
— Is it safe to eat prepared foods that can’t be cooked? (Dec. 2, 2020)
— How long does the virus stay in the air outside? (Dec. 1, 2020)

November 2020

— How easy is it to contract the virus through the eyes? (Nov. 30, 2020)
— If your toes turn red but you have no other symptoms, could you have the coronavirus? (Nov. 24, 2020)
— How safe is it to go to indoor movie theaters during the pandemic? (Nov. 23, 2020)
— Should we mask up when we come into contact with people who have recovered from COVID-19? (Nov. 19, 2020)
— What’s the evidence that masks help reduce transmission? (Nov. 18, 2020)
— When will a vaccine be available, and how soon can I get it? (Nov. 17, 2020)
— How many infectious people are missed by screening methods like temperature checks and questionnaires? (Nov. 16, 2020)

— Is it better to wash my hands with warm water than cold? (Nov. 12, 2020)
— How accurate are coronavirus tests when given to asymptomatic people? (Nov. 11, 2020)
— Am I more likely to get COVID-19 if I get the flu? (Nov. 10, 2020)
— How safe is it to stay in motels and hotels, particularly ones with shared hallways? (Nov. 9, 2020)
— What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine? (Nov. 5, 2020)
— How do I tell family I won’t see them without alienating or insulting them? (Nov. 4, 2020)
— How much do people put themselves at risk by voting in person rather than by mail? (Nov. 3, 2020)
— If you were the virus czar, what three things would you do to control the pandemic? (Nov. 2, 2020)

October 2020

— What is the purpose of face shields? Do they replace masks? (Oct. 29, 2020)
— Will it be safe in July 2021 to hold large events, such as weddings? (Oct. 28, 2020)
How does train travel compare with car and air travel in terms of coronavirus risk? (Oct. 27, 2020)
— Will I be exposed to the virus if I eat with someone at a small table in a restaurant? (Oct. 26, 2020)
— What is the risk of exposure when getting medical tests that require close contact? (Oct. 22, 2020)
Is mask acne a thing? (Oct. 21, 2020)
— Surely I don’t need to wear sunscreen under my mask, right? (Oct. 20, 2020)
— How risky is it to use public restrooms? (Oct. 19, 2020; following up answer from Oct. 6, 2020)

— What would Joe Biden and President Trump do for struggling small businesses? (Oct. 15, 2020)
— Wouldn’t at-home rapid tests help us safely see family for the holidays? (Oct. 14, 2020)
When will Los Angeles schools reopen? (Oct. 13, 2020)
— Does The Times’ reporting on the White House outbreak include staff there? (Oct. 12, 2020)
Is pink eye a sign someone has COVID-19? (Oct. 8, 2020)
— After her COVID-19 diagnosis, how is First Lady Melania Trump doing? (Oct. 7, 2020)
— How risky is it to use public restrooms? (Oct. 6, 2020; more details on Oct. 19, 2020)
— What’s the difference between an osteopath and a regular doctor? (Oct. 5, 2020)
— Does COVID-19 hit people with preexisting conditions hard even when those conditions are properly medicated? (Oct. 1, 2020)

September 2020

— What are the COVID-19 symptoms to watch for? (Sept. 30, 2020)
— Why are playgrounds closed? What’s the plan to reopen them? (Sept. 29, 2020; update to answer from Sept. 8, 2020)
— Could the masks we already wear mitigate the effects of air pollution from wildfires? (Sept. 28, 2020)
— How do I fly safely and navigate an airport safely? (Sept. 24, 2020)
— Are there easy ways to screen for COVID-19? (Sept. 23, 2020)
— Will it be safe to travel and visit my family for the holidays? (Sept. 22, 2020)
— Can you get COVID-19 from dogs? (Sept. 21, 2020)
— Can a recovered COVID-19 patient safely go out in public without a mask? How long does immunity last? (Sept. 17, 2020)
— Is it safe and legal to attend a sibling’s backyard wedding? (Sept. 16, 2020)
— Is it sufficient to wear a face shield and not a mask? (Sept. 15, 2020)
— Is it OK for workers to come into your home for repairs? (Sept. 10, 2020)
— How do you differentiate between symptoms of smoke inhalation and COVID-19? (Sept. 9, 2020)
— Why are playgrounds in L.A. County closed, and what are the plans to reopen them? (Sept. 8, 2020; also see update from Sept. 29, 2020)
When will libraries reopen? (Sept. 3, 2020)
— Why can’t we use public broadcast TV stations for school classes? (Sept. 1, 2020)

August 2020

Is it safe to book travel yet? (Aug. 31, 2020)
— Why are child-care centers allowed to stay open while schools are closed? (Aug. 26, 2020)
— What happens if schools reopen and someone gets COVID-19? (Aug. 25, 2020)
— Given the double threat of smoke and COVID-19, what kind of mask should I wear? (Aug. 24, 2020)
— Why was there a sudden drop in daily coronavirus cases in L.A. County? (Aug. 18, 2020)
— How do we persuade our friends and family to wear masks? (Aug. 17, 2020)
— How can I support my child as they begin a new semester of distance learning? (Aug. 13, 2020)
— What tips can you give people looking for new jobs? (Aug. 12, 2020)
— What resources are there for domestic workers who can’t show up to their jobs? (Aug. 10, 2020)
— How do I know if I’m a victim of a coronavirus scam? (Aug. 6, 2020)
What kind of hand sanitizer should I be using? (Aug. 5, 2020)
— How do I report a business ignoring coronavirus safety orders? (Aug. 4, 2020)

July 2020

— Why is it so hard to find local data on the number of people who have recovered? (July 30, 2020)
— What is the status of the eviction moratorium for commercial tenants in L.A. County? (July 29, 2020)
— How might our society change for the better after the pandemic? (July 28, 2020)
— Will the DMV issue an extension for driver’s license renewals? (July 27, 2020)
— If I don’t feel safe meeting friends and family, what should I do? (July 23, 2020)
— Is it true that children are less likely to get infected and spread the virus to others? (July 21, 2020)
— Does wearing a mask lower my oxygen levels? (July 20, 2020)
— What happens when California’s eviction moratorium expires in September? (July 16, 2020)
How does contact tracing work? (July 15, 2020)
— How dangerous is the virus to students if in-person classes resume? (July 14, 2020)
— Can an unborn baby get the coronavirus? (July 13, 2020)
— Is there any link between blood type and COVID-19 outcomes? (July 9, 2020)
When can I renew my passport? (July 8, 2020)
— Why do some tests provide almost immediate results and others take a few days? (July 7, 2020)
How does the coronavirus spread? (July 6, 2020; update to answer from March 12, 2020)
What’s closed outdoors in Southern California for the long holiday weekend? (July 1, 2020)

June 2020

— What’s the status of coronavirus protections on planes? (June 30, 2020)
— How can we plan family gatherings and stay safe? (June 29, 2020)
— How can I ride my bike while staying safe from COVID-19? (June 25, 2020)
— What resources are available for people experiencing domestic violence? (June 24, 2020)
— Our economic stimulus money has not yet arrived. What can we do? (June 23, 2020)
— What happens after the $600 federal unemployment benefit ends? (June 22, 2020)
— Is it safe to go shopping and eat at restaurants yet? (June 18, 2020)
— Is it safe to go camping? (June 17, 2020)
— How important is it to wear a mask, really? (June 16, 2020)
— Is it safe to visit museums? (June 15, 2020)
— Is it safe to drive long distances? (June 11, 2020)
What will gyms do to prevent the spread of the virus? (June 10, 2020)
When will the DMV reopen? (June 9, 2020)
— Is it safe to visit the dentist? (June 8, 2020)
— Is it safe to visit our national parks? (June 4, 2020)
When will cruises resume sailing? (June 3, 2020)
— What are the rules for religious gatherings? (June 2, 2020)
How can I protest while reducing the risk of spreading the virus? (June 1, 2020)

May 2020

— How can I find a new apartment rental during the pandemic? (May 28, 2020)
— What’s happening with our utility bills? (May 27, 2020)
— If I get the coronavirus, should I tell my apartment neighbors? (May 26, 2020)
— Is it safe to have repairs done in my home? (May 21, 2020)
— Is it safe to swim? (May 20, 2020)
— What’s the latest with vaccine research? (May 19, 2020)
— When can we see our friends? (May 18, 2020)
— How long does the coronavirus last on clothing? (May 14, 2020)
— Do people see lasting health impacts from having had COVID-19? (May 13, 2020)
— Why is the rule for social distancing to stay 6 feet apart? (May 12, 2020)
— How can I spot fake coronavirus news on social media? (May 11, 2020)
— Is it safe to go to the doctor for routine appointments? (May 7, 2020)
— Where can I find mental health resources? (May 6, 2020)
— Does your car need to be disinfected? (May 5, 2020)
— If you have mild COVID-19 symptoms, can you take cough syrup? (May 4, 2020)
— Will banks suspend mortgage payments? (May 1, 2020)

April 2020

— I’m worried about getting the virus at work. What can I do? (April 30, 2020)
— How do I decide which charity needs my help the most during the pandemic? (April 29, 2020)
— Does cooking food kill the coronavirus? (April 28, 2020)
— Does cigarette smoke spread the coronavirus? (April 27, 2020)
Should my child wear a mask? (April 24, 2020)
— What are the chances the coronavirus roars back when flu season begins? (April 23, 2020)
— Would herd immunity help people who have not been exposed to the virus? (April 22, 2020)
— What is happening with the outbreaks in nursing homes? (April 21, 2020)
— How do I care for someone who has the coronavirus at home? (April 20, 2020)
— Should I wear a mask every time I leave home? (April 17, 2020)
— How does the virus spread inside you? (April 16, 2020
— Will ultraviolet light kill the coronavirus? (April 15, 2020)
— How are students handling graduation now that schools are closed? (April 14, 2020)
— What will it take for businesses to reopen? (April 13, 2020)
— Can my pet get the coronavirus or give it to me? (April 10, 2020)
— If I’ve been exposed but don’t have symptoms, what should I do? (April 9, 2020)
— Now that officials want everyone to wear masks, where can I buy one? (April 8, 2020)
— If I contract the virus, how sick will I get? (April 7, 2020)
— Is it possible for people who have recovered to have immunity? (April 6, 2020)
— Does the pneumonia vaccine have any effect on the virus? (April 3, 2020)
— Are homemade masks effective in preventing the virus’ spread? (April 2, 2020)
— Is it safe to swim in pools? (April 1, 2020)

March 2020

What should seniors do to mitigate the risk of infection? (March 31, 2020)
— How many days does it take to recover from the virus? (March 30, 2020)
— Special edition coronavirus FAQ: Your top questions answered (March 29, 2020)
— Is the government helping with paid sick leave during the outbreak? (March 27, 2020)
— What does COVID-19 do to the lungs? (March 26, 2020)
— What are the chances of contracting the virus on public transportation? (March 25, 2020)
— What precautions are needed when getting the mail or the paper? (March 24, 2020)
Do drugs like chloroquine help patients with COVID-19? (March 23, 2020)
— What extra precautions should pregnant women take? (March 20, 2020)
— Can ibuprofen worsen the symptoms of COVID-19? (March 19, 2020)
— Will COVID-19 subside when spring arrives? (March 18, 2020)
— What’s the difference between the coronavirus, COVID-19 and other terms? (March 17, 2020)
Do you gain immunity to the virus after exposure? (March 16, 2020)
— Should you self-quarantine? (March 13, 2020)
— How does the coronavirus spread? (March 12, 2020)
— How can you protect yourself while flying? (March 11, 2020)
— Should you cancel your travel plans? (March 10, 2020)
— What can you do if you’ve run out of hand sanitizer? (March 9, 2020)
— Is the coronavirus worse than the flu? (March 6, 2020)
— What are the actual symptoms of the coronavirus? (March 5, 2020)

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