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! 

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Last updated: April 4, 2020

FAQ for Oakland Teens


What is COVID-19? What are the symptoms?

      WHO: Is it cold, flu, or coronavirus?

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 CDC, the most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

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.

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 do I protect myself from getting sick? 

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

  • 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? Bay Area health officials are now recommending people who must leave their homes for essential travel cover their nose and mouth. This is more to prevent others from getting sick, in the case that you have the virus but have no symptoms. 

  • We do not need to wear surgical masks or N-95 masks. They are in short supply and needed badly by healthcare workers. 
  • Items such as bandanas, fabric masks and neck gaiters are acceptable.
  • The CDC has instructions for how to properly wear and how to make a mask. 
  • This article has links to ways to make a mask, even if you aren't very crafty, including video and a lot of other good mask-info. 


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 the CDC’s FAQ page and click on “Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?” under “How to Protect Yourself.”

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, and expanded sanitation services for all unsheltered residents. 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? 

Check out the following resources:


Where can we get food? 

During school closures, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) will provide “grab and go” meals FREE for anyone 18-and-under at 12 schools across the city. Check this list or this map to find a school near you. 

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

OUSD has announced that schools will be closed for the rest of the school year.


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

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.

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:


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:

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.

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.


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.


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: 

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