Looking for information of the COVID-19 vaccine?

For information on how to get the vaccine visit Polk County Department of Health, Publix, CVS, Walmart, Winn-Dixie or Florida Department of Health.

If you need assistance finding food, paying a bill or other essential services, call United Way of Central Florida’s 211 line to speak with someone who can help today.

Use the COVID-19 Screening Tool online if you or someone you are caring for is experiencing symptoms.

The COVID-19 situation in our community is evolving rapidly as more becomes known about the virus, how it is spread and how it affects people. For the most accurate and timely information, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website, CDC’s website or monitor CDC social media channels.

For guidance about how to respond as a school administrator, nonprofit or faith-based organization staff member, business owner or event planner, the CDC has provided detailed information for different sectors here.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 immediately.

Coronavirus FAQs

There are many types of human coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2 a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The virus causing COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published this video which helps answer many common questions about the origin and spread of this virus.

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms – from mild symptoms to severe illness. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to awake or stay awake and blush lips or face are emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If you have these symptoms, you should get medical attention immediately. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Use the COVID-19 Screening Tool online if you or someone you are caring for is experiencing symptoms.

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, are over the age of 60 or have an underlying medical condition like heart, lung or kidney disease, and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. If you are young, otherwise healthy and have not been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, contact your medical provider and follow their guidance. Where COVID-19 tests are limited, people who are otherwise healthy may be asked to stay home and monitor their symptoms rather than seek in-person care.

More information from the CDC here.

While people have died from COVID-19 the majority of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 do recover. Early data suggest that a majority of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among adults 60 years of age and older and among persons with serious underlying health conditions. The virus appears to only be severe if it reaches the lungs and remains untreated. Most otherwise healthy individuals can remove from COVID-19 at home.

The Federal Government has announced that all health insurance providers will cover the cost of the test and treatment of the Coronavirus. However, you should contact your provider for details.

If you don’t have health insurance, or you are underinsured, contact the local Health Department for instructions on where to go to get tested.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest) but some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.

It may also 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 eyes.

More information about transmission from the CDC here.

  • Wear a mask or face covering while in public spaces.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use 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, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on travel –

Call your healthcare professional if you develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled from an area in a country with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

Although everyone can be at risk, early information shows that some of the people with higher risk of getting very sick include seniors, and people with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung and kidney disease.

Several dogs and cats (domestic cats and tigers) in contact with infected humans have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, ferrets appear to be susceptible to the infection. In experimental conditions, both cats and ferrets were able to transmit infection to other animals of the same species. However, there is no evidence that these animals can transmit the disease to humans and spread COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

More recommendations are available on the OIE website.


To support the most pressing needs in our community, please consider donating to the United Community Relief Fund.


Financial assistance may be available for qualified individuals in our community. For additional information, please call 211.

Use the COVID-19 Screening Tool online if you or someone you are caring for is experiencing symptoms.

Testing Locations:

Call before visiting any testing location.

  • BayCare Testing Centers: Pre-screening is necessary before accessing any BayCare COVID-19 testing site. 
  • Central Florida Health Care, Inc.: COVID-19 testing for ESTABLISHED CURRENT PATIENTS who are showing COVID-19 symptoms. If you meet the criteria above, please call 866.234.8534 for location information and more.
  • Lakeland Regional Health: Call your LRH provider (863.284.5000) or the hospital and ask to be connected to the Emergency Department (863.687.1100) ahead of time for any virus prevention instructions currently in place.
  • Polk County Health Department: Call before you come in and visit the Florida Department of Health’s suggestions if you think you may have been exposed to coronavirus.
  • Watson Clinic: High-risk patients are prioritized for testing; criteria and more info on their website.
  • Private Practices: We do not currently have information on whether specific private practices are doing COVID-19 testing. Call your provider before going in to see if they are offering COVID-19 testing.


Economic Impact Payments/Stimulus Payments from Federal Government

View information from the IRS on this page.


Health Insurance and medical Expenses 

If you have health insurance, visit the website of your provider or contact their customer support line with any questions about coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Many healthcare insurers are also making telemedicine available to customers for low to no cost.

If you do not have health insurance, you may be eligible for benefits through the state of Florida. Visit this website to explore options based on your household income, children in the home and state.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, fever and shortness of breath) and are concerned that you cannot afford to seek treatment or a test, contact your medical provider or the nearest Urgent Care facility to seek guidance. Free testing for COVID-19 is becoming available in many places, but medical care may still incur a charge. Be sure to ask questions about cost if you seek medical care or treatment.


Home Internet Access

If you do not have internet access at home, or cannot afford to maintain it, but need internet for work or school, there are several options available through providers:

If you have questions or concerns about your internet connection, contact your provider or visit their website for more information.


Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans for Small Businesses

Applications have closed for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans. For additional information, please contact SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 or email


Unemployment Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance for state unemployment insurance programs to extend benefits to individuals whose employment status is impacted by COVID-19. Visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity – Reemployment Assistance to connect with reemployment assistance and employers.


Federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they work for a covered employer and:

  • have worked for their employer for at least 12 months
  • have at least 1,250 hours of service over the previous 12 months
  • and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.

Employers are required to give eligible FMLA workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected (but not necessarily paid) leave if they are sick, including with complications from the flu or a similar illness and/or they need to care for an immediate family member (child, spouse, parents) who are ill. Visit the Department of Labor for more information.


Mortgage, Rent and Utilities Payment Assistance

Temporary assistance is available to qualified individuals. For additional details, please call 211 and follow local news, radio and official social media platforms to learn the latest about additional assistance available in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps

Visit the SNAP Eligibility Page to learn more about eligibility requirements. To apply for benefits or get information about SNAP in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Children and Families website.


Food Assistance 

Contact 211 or check our food distribution schedule for information on food pantries and food distributions in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.


Relief for “Gig Economy” Workers & Self Employed

Self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, people seeking part-time work and those who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state unemployment benefits may qualify for benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Those seeking benefits should check with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.


Mental Health and Crisis

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Visit this CDC page to learn more about things you can do to support yourself and your loved ones. If you need to talk to someone, these resources are confidential and available for free 24/7:


Our 211 hotline remains operational in order to continue to connect individuals with services and resources in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties. including people who are in need of financial or other assistance as a result of lost wages from event cancellations, business closures and quarantines.

Our team of highly trained professionals are working closely with state and local health officials to provide up-to-date information to the general public about the virus and outbreaks.

Remember if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.