COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Appointments and Research
Yes. If you need care, don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office or contact them through My Health Online. Our employees and healthcare teams are ready to serve you and look forward to providing care, either in person or by Video Visit.
If you have a chronic condition like diabetes or have needs related to ongoing treatment, don’t wait to contact your care team for appointments. Delaying care can be dangerous. To avoid unwanted outcomes and complications, call your doctor’s office or send your care team a message through My Health Online.
To reduce the risk of spread, we’re taking extra precautions at our sites, including universal masking, physical distancing, temperature screening of our workforce and visitors, and enhanced cleaning. See our safety steps.
We’re taking extra precautions to help keep you safe. We continue to monitor personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory and testing capability. As we manage surges in COVID-19 patients, we may temporarily suspend certain procedures. If your procedure is delayed, we’ll work with you to reschedule it as soon as possible.
Yes. Sutter patients may enroll in clinical trials testing investigational treatments for COVID-19. View clinical trials.
Vaccinations for COVID-19 are in progress. At Sutter, we're administering vaccines according to government guidance. To learn more about the vaccines, their potential side effects, and how federal and state agencies are prioritizing distribution please visit our COVID-19 vaccine resource page.
We’re committed to the health and safety of our patients, employees and the communities we serve. Our workforce is required to comply with our workforce vaccination policy and the statewide Health Order by being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with some limited, legally required exceptions.
Patient and Visitor Information
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re taking extra precautions to reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus to help protect vulnerable patients, healthcare workers and our communities. Limiting visitors in Sutter care facilities in alignment with requirements from the State of California and other local ordinances is part of our precautions.
Please confirm visitation rules, including specific visiting hours, with your local hospital.
All patients and visitors, including people who are fully vaccinated, must wear masks over their nose and mouth when in a Sutter hospital. For more information, see our Universal Masking section further down the page.
State Health Order for Visitors
A health order from the California Department of Public Health went into effect August 11, 2021. Sutter hospital visitors must verify that they’re fully vaccinated or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test administered within one day of visitation for antigen tests, and within two days for PCR tests. Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated visitors with history of COVID within the prior 90 days may provide documentation of recovery and release from isolation instead of testing. (See CDC guidance for additional clarification on approved test types.) Masks are required in healthcare settings regardless of vaccine status.
- While the order includes ICU and emergency departments, limited exceptions are allowed for visits related to end-of-life, guardians accompanying minors; partners, support persons, doulas accompanying laboring mothers; or those support persons determined to be essential to facilitating care. These visitors must pass symptom screening and follow all masking and other infection control measures.
- Please note that rapid testing for COVID-19 will not be available onsite at our facilities. See acceptable proof of vaccination options and find out where you can get tested.
- Please review the policies below and note that all visitors, including those present for exceptions or special circumstances, must follow health and safety requirements and instructions, including symptom screening, hand hygiene, distancing, and masking and PPE protocols.
Please review the policies below and note that all visitors must follow health and safety requirements and instructions.
Please confirm visitation rules, including specific visiting hours, with your local hospital.
General Visitation for Hospital Patients Without COVID-19
Type of Patient Number of Visitors Allowed Emergency Department Up to 2 support people may be present at the same time, based on local space requirements. Obstetrics and Maternity 2 support people may be present at the same time; a doula is included in this limit. Neonatal ICU (NICU), Pediatric ICU (PICU), Pediatrics 2 support people may be present at the same time. Adult Inpatients 2 support people may be present at the same time, logistics to be determined locally. Surgeries and Procedures Hospitals may allow 1 support person to wait in designated areas. Please ask your local hospital if a support person is allowed before the scheduled surgery or procedure.
General Visitation for Hospital Patients With COVID-19
Type of Patient Number of Visitors Allowed Emergency Department Video visitation only. Obstetrics and Maternity If mom is COVID-19 positive, 1 support person is allowed. Neonatal ICU (NICU), Pediatric ICU (PICU), Pediatrics 2 designated support people, and they must be primary caregivers. May be present at the same time. Adult Inpatients Video visitation only.
Visitor use of dining services is also restricted at this time. Visitors or support persons should remain in patient rooms whenever possible, and exit/re-entry is discouraged. Support persons shouldn’t congregate in waiting rooms, hallways or cafeterias.
In addition to these established visitation policies, there are special circumstances where family, loved ones and/or support persons may be allowed. During these circumstances, the number of visitors and timing of visitors will be determined in consultation with the clinical care team. These circumstances include, but aren't limited to:
- End-of-life conditions.
- Critical care conditions in the emergency department.
- Patients with disruptive behaviors, altered mental status, developmental delay or where a family member is key to the patient’s safety and/or clinical outcome.
- Clergy providing spiritual support for patients, regardless of condition.
- Assistance for patients with disabilities.
- Sign language interpreter where video remote interpreting isn’t appropriate or effective.
- Assistance with language, cultural or communication barriers that may be impeding the provision of essential care and/or consent.
- Patients and family members who would benefit from face-to-face caregiving instructions, either because of the complexity of the material or the needs of the patient or caregivers.
Questions about exceptions for visitors or support persons who don’t have proof of either vaccination or a negative test result should be directed to the administrator on call at that hospital.
Telephone or video conference is available to support patients, family and friends. If you need assistance with setting up a telephone or video conference visit, our staff can help you.
Thank you for your understanding, and we appreciate your help with protecting patients and staff.
We’re taking lots of precautions to keep you safe. Before your appointment, you’ll be screened by phone. When you arrive, you’ll be screened again and given a mask.
Contact-free check in is also available through My Health Online. Activate this feature in your My Health Online app by using the E-Z Arrival option before your appointment. The app will notify our staff that you’ve arrived, so you can limit or skip time in the waiting areas.
We’re also taking measures beyond screening in all our care centers. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is isolated, every exam room is disinfected thoroughly between patients, and we’re using physical distancing protocols everywhere possible. See our safety steps.
Sutter hospitals, outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices are taking the following safety measures to help protect patients, staff and communities:
- We're screening at entrances.
- Visitors are limited to help protect patients, staff and providers.
- Masks are required and provided for everyone entering any Sutter building.
- Lobbies and waiting areas are modified for physical distancing.
- Every exam room undergoes extra cleaning between patients.
- We’re isolating patients with respiratory symptoms from the general population.
- Our workforce is required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30, 2021, with some limited, legally required exceptions.
- Sutter hospital visitors must verify that they’re fully vaccinated or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test or antigen test administered within one day of visitation for antigen tests, and within two days for PCR tests. Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated visitors with history of COVID within the prior 90 days may provide documentation of recovery and release from isolation instead of testing.
- Masks are required in healthcare settings regardless of vaccine status.
- All patients are permitted one support person to accompany them to an appointment or procedure. This includes a support person to assist with ambulation. Please confirm support person rules with your doctor's office prior to your appointment or procedure as these rules may change.
- One primary caregiver per pediatric patient is allowed at appointments or procedures (maximum of two caregivers if multiple pediatric patients or if a patient is a newborn up to 8 weeks old).
- Surgery centers may allow one support person to wait in designated areas.
If you’re admitted to a Sutter hospital, you’ll be screened and tested for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. In addition, COVID-19 testing may be required prior to certain procedures. If testing is required, your provider will contact you with instructions.
Screening and Testing
Sutter is following CDC and local County Public Health guidelines on who should be tested for COVID-19. Generally speaking, it includes patients with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Symptom Evaluation and Testing
If you’re experiencing COVID symptoms and think you should be tested, please call or message your doctor directly or consider scheduling a Video Visit with your doctor or a Sutter Walk-In Care clinician through My Health Online.
A specimen will be collected at a Sutter testing site and sent to a lab for analysis. You will be informed of the results, and if the result is positive, your provider will arrange for any care you may need.
Recommendations on testing may differ by county. Please contact your doctor or check your county’s website for more information.
All patients admitted to a Sutter hospital will be tested for COVID-19.
A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is the most common type of test used to determine whether a person has COVID-19. A healthcare provider administers a PCR test by taking a nose or throat swab from a patient, processing the sample in a machine, and then looking for indications of COVID-19 infection. At Sutter, most specimens will be collected by nasal swab.
Designated respiratory clinics and urgent care centers are available in the Sutter Health network where patients with COVID-19 symptoms can be further evaluated and receive a COVID-19 test.
Once you arrive at a site, you may be asked to wait in your car and call a phone number to alert staff, who will provide guidance and coordinate collecting a test sample. Some sites offer testing right from your car.
You will be informed of the results, and if the result is positive, your provider will arrange for any care you may need.
Additional community resources for testing may be available in your area:
An antibody test may help identify people who have had or been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, including individuals who didn’t show any symptoms. This type of blood test detects the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system in response to COVID-19 infection. Antibody tests may be used to complement PCR tests in certain circumstances.
Molecular tests, including the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, are very sensitive. They can detect small amounts of genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Molecular tests are best for diagnosis but results usually take a lot longer compared to an antigen test. PCR tests can still show positive results for many weeks after a patient is no longer considered contagious. Therefore, they’re less useful in determining whether someone can return to school or work.
Antigen tests detect bits of the protein from a virus but are less sensitive than a molecular test. They’re not as good at picking up infections early in the disease process, resulting in some false negative results. But antigen tests are reliable when a person has symptoms of COVID-19 and a positive test. The best times to use antigen tests are when results are needed quickly and for return to school or work requirements. They’re now widely available over the counter at retail pharmacies. Beginning in early 2022, the federal government began providing free at-home antigen tests in the U.S. Review the CDC’s self-testing guidance.
A COVID-19 (PCR) test shows whether a person is currently infected. An antibody test indicates whether a person has antibodies for COVID-19 because they’ve been exposed to the virus or previously infected.
If you’ve had a positive COVID-19 test or were diagnosed with COVID-19 by a healthcare provider, you may be eligible for an antibody test at a Sutter facility. Contact your doctor’s office for more information.
At Sutter, antibody tests are used to help validate a positive COVID-19 diagnosis determined by PCR testing. Antibody tests are also used to determine whether a patient recovering from a COVID-19 infection is eligible to donate plasma if they’re interested in doing so. “Convalescent plasma” may be used as investigational treatment for people with severe COVID-19. Learn more.
Note that U.S. federal and California state laws require that COVID-19 antibody tests be performed at licensed clinical laboratories.
A positive antibody test shows a person has been exposed to or previously infected with COVID-19.
There’s no evidence yet that people with detectable COVID-19 antibodies are immune to re-infection. Until more research is available, a positive antibody test should not be used to make decisions related to easing physical distancing or the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Sutter will not collect patient cost shares (e.g., a copay, deductible and co-insurance) in advance of providing services for medically necessary COVID-19 screening and test collection administered at Sutter care centers.
Your final out-of-pocket cost or responsibility for this test and visit to your provider may be affected by factors such as the mix of services, your deductible, past performed services and the claims already processed related to your care or your family's care. Please check with your insurance company if you need help understanding your benefits for this service.
The cost to you for this test without insurance depends on the test performed.
Test Patient Responsibility COVID-19 Antibody $52 COVID-19 Detection by High Throughput Technology $80 COVID-19 Detection by Nucleic Acid (DNA or RNA) $55
Sign in to My Health Online and click Your Menu. When the menu appears, click COVID-19 under My Record and you’ll find results of past COVID-19 tests as well as your COVID-19 vaccine information. If you need to share your test results or vaccination status, you can take a screenshot, download or print a copy, or generate a scannable QR code.
Did you get vaccinated outside of Sutter Health? You can add your vaccination information in your My Health Online record.
Find out more or watch our instructional videos:
Yes, all patients and visitors, including people who are fully vaccinated, must wear masks over their nose and mouth when they're in a public or common area of a Sutter facility and whenever they're within six feet of another person, with limited exceptions.
Procedure masks are preferred and are available at Sutter facilities. Valved masks are not allowed.
Masks are required in healthcare settings regardless of vaccine status. In alignment with recommendations from our infectious disease experts and current CDC guidance, everyone—patients, staff and visitors—must continue to wear face coverings in healthcare settings, even if fully vaccinated. We appreciate your help in maintaining safe patient care.
Yes, certain individuals are not required to wear a mask:
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or has been advised not to wear a mask.
- Anyone who is incapacitated or can’t remove a mask without assistance.
- Children under the age of 2 (masks are optional for children ages 3 – 12).
Masks are optional for children ages 3 –12. If you choose to have your child wear a mask, you can use a personal cloth mask or use one we provide. Children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask.
Due to COVID-19, we have additional safety efforts in place to protect you, your loved ones and our healthcare providers. You and your support persons will need to wear a mask upon arrival, when healthcare providers are in the room and when outside your room—this includes people who are fully vaccinated. You won't need to wear a mask if you and your support person are alone in a private room. We appreciate your help in maintaining safe patient care.
Be sure to review the latest hospital visitation order from the California Department of Health and our COVID-19 Pregnancy and Childbirth FAQs. CDPH’s order requires partners and support persons for laboring patients to verify that they’re fully vaccinated or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours before their visit. See acceptable proof of vaccination options and find out where visitors can get tested.