COVID-19 FAQs for Oakland Teens

This webpage is designed to answer questions that teens in Oakland may have about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. If you have a question that we do not answer here, please reach out to and a Teen Services staff person will answer you! 

Here's a cute PDF condensed version of this information.

Here's an online interactive condensed version with pages that turn.

[Plesase Note, May 23: We are no longer able to regularly update this FAQ due to limited capacity while most library staff have been redeployed as Disaster Service Workers and others are redesigning safe library service for the times of social distancing.  We do want to link you to the best, regularly updated information for teens, though. Please email us the websites and news sources you reccomend!]

Last updated: May 9, 2020

FAQ for Oakland Teens


What is COVID-19? What are the symptoms?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.” It’s transmitted from being infected by a virus (the new coronavirus). It is highly contagious and can be spread between people in close contact and through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by touching surfaces those droplets land on. One becomes infected if the virus gets into one’s lungs, mouth, nose, or maybe eyes. The GOOD NEWS is that the virus can be destroyed with common things such as soap and water, rubbing alcohol, and bleach solutions.

(Transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Prevention of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19))

According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Or at least two of these symptoms:
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell

Information about symptoms and other medical facts can also be found on The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Q&A webpage here. WHO states that some people do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell.

If ever in doubt, call a health-care provider for medical advice.If there is no provider to call, call 211.

Find links to other healthcare resources here.



What is “sheltering in place”? What is social distancing? Do I have to stay indoors all the time?


Shelter in Place

People in California have been ordered by the state government to “shelter in place.” Shelter in place means staying in your home and not leaving unless it is necessary. Local orders are a little different see here for what what applies to Oakland.

This means:

  • Stay home
  • Only go out for “essential activities,” to work for an “essential business,” or for “essential travel." Details can be found here.
  • Stay six (6) feet or more away from others
    • Limit time with older adults and others with chronic medical conditions if they are a part of your household
  • Not hold any gatherings

(Alameda County Public Health Department)


You ARE allowed to leave your home to:

  • Obtain food or take-out meals
  • Get medicine
  • Purchase other necessary items
  • Exercise outdoors if it is not in close contact with other people
  • Go on walks, go to the park, and engage in other similar activities while maintaining social distance (i.e., be more than six (6) feet away from others)

Please visit Alameda County's Order to Shelter at Home FAQ's for more on what can and cannot be done under this order.


Social Distancing

Johns Hopkins Medicine describes social distancing as “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.” Sheltering in place is just a more rigorous form of social distancing. This means, while you are outside doing your essential errands, try to keep at least six (6) feet away from others as possible. Not sure how far this is? Use your height as a point of reference.

Now, watch this short video by artist Juan Delcan for a summary of how shelter in place and social distancing disrupt the spread of COVID-19

How else do I protect myself and others from getting sick? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed some recommendations on how to protect yourself and others: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (Here’s a video on how. And this video shows how to wash all parts of your hands [hint: it’s harder than you think].)
    • Especially after you’ve been in public places, or have blown your nose, coughed, or sneezed
    • If no soap and water is available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with tissue or the inside of your elbow
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Practice social distancing. The recommendation is at least six (6) feet from others
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • Stay home if you are sick
    • Use an alternative to shaking hands, like a wave
    • This is especially important around vulnerable individuals who are: 
      • 65+ years, or 
      • those who have health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and weakened immune systems
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. See details here. (Very detailed explanation here.)
  • Monitor your health and follow the instructions of county public health officials. Call your health-care provider if you need medical advice.


Should I wear a mask?

As of April 17 2020, face coverings must be worn most of the time when in public, ordered by Alameda County

Face coverings are required to be worn:

  • While inside or waiting in line to enter essential businesses, like a grocery store or pharmacy
  • When seeking health care
  • When waiting for or riding on public transit, or in a taxi, ride share vehicle or private town car
  • When entering facilities allowed to operate under the Shelter in Place Order

Face coverings are not required to be worn: 

  • At home
  • In your car alone or solely with members of your household
  • Exercising outdoors, like walking, hiking, bicycling, or running. However, people are recommended to have a face covering with them and readily accessible when exercising, even if they’re not wearing it at that moment, in case people encounter others.

More information can be found here


You can quickly and easily make a face covering out of a sock or leggings!

The CDC has instructions for how to properly wear and how to make a mask. 


What about testing? 

Now, anyone who lives or works in Alameda County (which includes Oakland) can be tested for FREE at any of Oakland’s testing sites. Register here.

Getting tested may not be useful. The CDC says 

  • If you test negative for COVID-19 by a viral test, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.
  •  If you test positive or negative for COVID-19, no matter the type of test, you still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.
  • Read more here.



Who is in the most danger from this disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “older adults [65 years and older] and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.” For a list of those most at risk, visit Higher Risk on the CDC’s FAQ page.

People who are LESS at risk, like teenagers, should be very careful not to expose vulnerable people to the virus. Remember, one can be carrying the virus without knowing it, and then expose others to it.


What else is being done to slow or stop this disease? 

The City of Oakland has declared a local emergency, issued an order to cancel all large public events at City-owned facilities, limited city services, expanded sanitation services for all unsheltered residents and is providing free COVID-19 testing. To read more about what this means, click here for the City of Oakland’s response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted their response to COVID-19 here.


Where can I get help if me or my family have lost income that we relied on? 

Many resources are available to those financially affected by the pandemic. The City of Oakland has FAQs for non-city workers, which links to resources for businesses and employees. The Employment Development Department (EDD) and its parent agency have set up resource pages to help you and your family determine what programs you qualify for and provide details on how to navigate the unemployment process.

You can also find a summary of benefits and how to get them here if you or a family member has been laid off or lost hours due to the pandemic.

If you are an undocumented worker, you are still entitled to protections and resources. Check out Legal Aid at Work, which details your employment rights.

To find out more about the federal government stimulus and other benefits including unemployment assistance, healthcare and food programs,visit

The State of California has a website for resources if you lost your job.


Where can we get food? 

Here is a list of places to get free food in Oakland, including at libraries and schools.

OUSD free food distribution includes groceries, dinner, diapers and hygiene products. You do NOT need to be an OUSD student.

For teens 13-18, DreamCatcher’s drop-in Youth Wellness Center serves free lunch at noon 
and dinner at 5pm/7 days a week. 583 5th St, Oakland (800) 379-1114

Alameda County Community Food Bank is open and distributing food. If you are in need of food, please call their Emergency Food Helpline at (510) 635-3663.

The East Oakland Collective, is distributing food and supplies to Oakland’s unhoused and vulnerable populations.

Youth Uprising is giving away free bags of groceries every Thursday, from 12:00-2:00 YU Amphitheater, 8711 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland. (510) 777-9909 ext. 0

CalFresh recipients will be receiving two emergency allotments on their EBT card.


What do we do if we can't pay rent or lost our home?

On March 27th, Oakland's City Council passed a moratorium on evictions and rent increases through May 31st. If you or your family cannot pay rent due to lost wages from this crisis, you may qualify. This article explains it. For more information, check out this helpful guide, which has details on the moratorium and contact info for legal help.You can also contact the City of Oakland Rent Adjustment Program at (510) 238-3721.

Need immediate shelter? 

  • Visit Keep Oakland Housed to see who to call for help.
  • Go to 211 or dial 2-1-1 for information and referrals for housing-related services, 24/7. They update shelter availability throughout Alameda County twice a day.

For unhoused youth, the following places provide a place to sleep, shower, do laundry, and eat a hot meal. Call first to confirm availability.


How can I get on the internet and/or get a device to do my work? 

Please refer to this website for programs that help low-income families gain access to internet services and devices.  

If you need a device to do school work online, contact Tech Exchange at 510-866-2260 and leave a message for call back.


What is happening with school?

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools are closed to students through rhe remainder of the 2019/2020 school year ( OUSD has provided continuity-of-education plans to “ensure that students have the resources they need to continue learning and studying at home.” Click here for the grade and school-specific plans. Online learning resources for families are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Khmer, and Arabic. 

Some schools have transitioned to remote learning plans. Check with your school’s website or contact them directly.

Oakland Public Library offers Live, Online Tutoring through academic tutoring, homework help and test preparation to K-12th grade students, plus early college students and adult learners.

Worried about how school being closed affects college admissions? Both the UC and CSU systems have temporarily changed their admissions requirements:

Both systems  will not require SAT/ACT. (This is not a permanent change). Read more here


This is all scary. What can I do to not stress out and to help others?

Take Care of Your Mental Health

It is important to also be taking care of your mental health at this time. The shelter in place order has been very stress-inducing. Here are some resources with ideas for how to manage that stress:

Dreamcatcher Youth Wellness Support Center has FREE Adolescent Clinic Hours from 12-7PM/7 days/week
 (for youth 13-18) providing medical care, counseling support, and case management. 583 5th St, Oakland. 
Call or text anytime (800) 379-1114

Helping Others 

If you’re healthy and would like to assist someone in need, Oakland At-Risk Match will pair you with an elder or immunocompromised member of the community. Flyer here. The Oakland Mayor also mentioned this other form to match you with someone in need.

Volunteer with or donate food or supplies to The East Oakland Collective, who are distributing food and supplies to Oakland’s unhoused and vulnerable populations.

This is the California government’s list for how to safely help.

Many young people are doing what they can to give back to their communities. Check out this article on teens who are finding ways to combat this pandemic.


What do I do without the library?

OPL understands that this action results in temporary loss of access to the in-person learning and communal spaces the Library provides to so many. However, we will continue to provide the many online services you know and love, like ebooks, audiobooks, streaming movies, TV and music services, access to magazines and newspapers, and more. Our physical buildings will be closed, but patrons can still access various digital services from home. For all of our digital offerings, click here.

Having trouble using your library card? Email us at and a library staff will work with you to get access.

Miss doing crafts at the library? Here are instructions and video demonstrations of some crafts that you can do at home.


Where can I get more reliable information? 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for frequently asked questions.

You can find more about the COVID-19 virus here Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)  




These websites are gathering statistics, but keep in mind that everything is changing very fast, and they might not be keeping up on everything: 

Coronavirus Dashboard, created by a highschooler in Washington State

Worldometer for real time COVID-19 statistics 


Lots More Resources: 

Cover of the PDF version of this guide