General COVID-19 Information

General COVID-19 Information and FAQs

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel coronavirus. A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. 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. While much has been learned about the virus since its emergence in December of 2019, there is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

While the medical and scientific communities are still learning about this new coronavirus, the general consensus amongst healthcare experts, virologists, and epidemiologists is that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another. Close contact is defined as being within about six feet of an individual outside of one’s household for fifteen or more minutes when at least one of individuals is not wearing a face covering. COVID-19 can be spread by both those who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus and those who are not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious. In general, the more closely a person interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The risk of spread can increase when people are in large groups, especially large groups who are in close contact with each other. Additional factors that increase the risk of spread include not wearing a face covering, yelling or singing, touching the face (specifically the mouth, nose, and eyes), not practicing good hand hygiene, not practicing respiratory etiquette, and spending long periods of time (more than fifteen minutes) in close contact (within about six feet) with an individual outside of one’s household when at least one of you is not wearing a face covering.

Finally, COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus. Some people are more likely than others to become severely ill, which means that they may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die. However, even if an individual does not fall into an at-risk category does not mean that there is no risk if he or she were to contract COVID-19.

Based on hospital data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 4, 2020, 48.4% of pediatric (0-17) hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the United States were of patients who had no known preexisting medical condition. Additionally, 9.1% of adult (18+) hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the United States were of patients who had no known preexisting medical conditions.

In order to protect oneself from the spread of COVID-19, as well as to protect against spreading COVID-19, individuals should take the following steps:

  • Know how COVID-19 spreads:
    • There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
    • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
    • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
      • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet for fifteen or more minutes when neither individual is wearing a face covering).
      • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
    • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person:
      • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
      • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
  • Wash your hands often:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • It’s especially important to wash:
    • Before eating or preparing food
    • Before touching your face
    • After using the restroom
    • After leaving a public place
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • It’s especially important to wash:
    • After handling your cloth face covering
    • After changing a diaper
    • After caring for someone sick
    • After touching animals or pets
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact:
    • Close contact is defined as:
      • You were within about six feet of an infected individual for fifteen minutes or longer when one or both of you were not wearing a face covering
      • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
      • You had direct physical contact with the person (touched, hugged, or kissed them)
      • You shared eating or drinking utensils
      • The infected person sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
    • Inside your home: avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      • If possible, maintain at least a six-foot distance between the person who is sick and other household members.
    • Outside your home: Put at least six feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household
      • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
      • Stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people.
      • Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others:
      • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
      • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
      • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
      • Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes:
    • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
    • Throw used tissues in the trash immediately.
    • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.