Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus Basics

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel, or new, coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China, that was first identified in December 2019.

How is the coronavirus spread? Can it be spread through surfaces and objects?

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). It it thought to spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Who is at greatest risk of becoming infected?

Risk of infection with COVID-19 is higher for people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers or household members. Other people at higher risk of infection are those who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Learn about more places with ongoing spread at

The risk is also higher for older adults (60 and older) and people with heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

How serious is the coronavirus?

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications). The fact that this disease has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread is concerning. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.

Reported community spread of COVID-19 in parts of the United States raises the level of concern about the immediate threat for COVID-19 for those communities. The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high, to the United States and globally.


Classes, Events & Athletics

Should I attend class?

Hartnell College announced late Friday, March 13, that nearly all classes are being moved online, beginning March 23 (following Spring Break, March 16-20) and continuing through at least April 4. 

Instructors will contact students with information about how to participate in online instruction, using Canvas and other digital tools. For more information, watch for email from your instructor(s) and visit the More More Information for STUDENTS page on the college's coronavirus webpages. theYes, students should attend their classes. 

You will be notified if one of your classes is among a handful that will not move online because of practical difficulties in doing so. In those cases, instructors will provide specific information on how to proceed.

Are classes being cancelled?

Classes are not being cancelled. As indicated above, nearly all classes are moving to online instruction, at least through April 4, with more information for students in specific classes to be provided directly from instructors.

What guidance is there regarding athletics, performing arts and other campus events?

All athletic competitions have been suspended until further notice under the direction of the California Community College Athletic Association. All other scheduled events will be reviewed in terms of their relative necessity and public health threat. 


Precautionary Measures at Hartnell College

What precautionary measures is the college taking to protect students and employees?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The following are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the used tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently.

Is the college taking extra measures to clean and disinfect classrooms and other facilities?

All college custodial teams are following best-practice guidelines and taking extra steps to deep clean our campuses, particularly "high-touch" points such as door knobs, railings, door handles, bathroom push doors and light switches. Areas where a known student being tested may have visited have received additional cleaning as well.


How to Protect Yourself and Stay Healthy

Do I need to wear a facemask?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should only be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

If someone is showing signs of the flu, what should they do?

Anyone who is displaying flu-like symptoms should stay home and stay away from others as much as possible to avoid the potential spread of infection.

If you are displaying flu-like symptoms and believe that you may have been exposed to someone who is at a high risk* for coronavirus and is displaying flu-like symptoms, then we encourage you to:

  • Contact your primary care physician (remember to call ahead and wear a surgical mask when arriving at the health care facility)
  • Notify the Monterey County Health Department at (831) 755-4500
  • Reach out to your instructor or supervisor to inform them of your absence

* A person is considered high-risk if they have traveled to Asia recently or have been in contact with someone who has traveled to Asia recently.

What about students and employees who have compromised immune systems?

Anyone with a compromised immune system should follow the same protocols they would take to prevent exposure to the flu and follow up with their primary care physician. Those protocols include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze in your sleeve.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If I haven’t been exposed to anyone with coronavirus (COVID-19), then should I make any changes to my regular routine?

The California Department of Health Services recommends the following steps to prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses, including coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding a cough or sneeze.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick are all ways to reduce the risk of infection with a number of different viruses.
  • Staying away from work, school, or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.