COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that had not previously been identified in humans. A coronavirus is a virus that can cause respiratory illness ranging from the common cold to more severe illness such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). In the United States, we have started to see community spread of this virus and have implemented an aggressive public health response.

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The virus is thought to spread through the following methods:

  • Close contact with infected individuals (within about 6 feet)
  • Respiratory droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking
    • Droplets can remain suspended in the air for period of time
    • Droplets settle on surfaces and can remain viable for a significant period of time
    • Infection can occur when droplets are inhaled or introduced to the mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Recent studies suggest that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Protect yourself and others with these tips:

  • Minimize your exposure to others:
    • Stay home as much as possible
    • Avoid contact with people who are visibly sick
    • Maintain at least six (6) feet between yourself and others
    • Remember that people who are not sick can still spread the virus
  • Wash your hands often.
    • Especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • If you are 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
    • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
    • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected
    • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker
    • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others (the cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing)
    • More information about face covering, as well as a do-it-yourself guide to making a face covering can be found on the CDC’s Use of Cloth Coverings web page

Who is at higher risk of illness?

  • Older adults (60+ years old)
  • People who have serious chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease
  • People who have compromised immune systems, like cancer patients

Preparation for at-risk groups:

  • Stay home. Take extra measures to keep distance between yourself and other people.
    • Avoid unecessary travel
    • Stay in touch with friends and family by phone or email
    • Consider alternative ways of getting food and supplies to your house, such as pick-up services, delivery services, or having supplies brought to your house by friends or family
  • Have a plan if you get sick.
    • Talk to your doctor for more information about monitoring your personal health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
    • Determine who can provide you with care and bring supplies if needed
  • Have supplies on hand. If COVID-19 reaches our community, you may need to stay home for a prolonged period of time. Prepare for this possibility by making sure you have things you will need, such as:
    • Extra prescription medications
    • Over-the-counter medications and other medical supplies (such as tissues) to treat fever and other symptoms
    • Other household items and groceries
  • Take everyday precautions.
    • Wash your hands and clean surfaces in your home often
    • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth
    • Avoid touching surfaces in public places: use a tissue or sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something, such as an elevator button. Wash hands after coming into contact with such surfaces
  • Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs.
    • Contact your doctor if you feel like you are developing symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath
    • If you develop any of the severe symptoms below for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include:
      • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
      • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
      • New confusion or inability to arouse
      • Bluish lips or face

For more information, visit the CDC website at the following address: 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should I seek medical care?

If you have traveled to a community that has been impacted by COVID-19 in the past 14 days AND have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention. Contact your healthcare provider before you go to tell them about your symptoms and recent travel history.

How is COVID-19 spread?

There is still much to learn about how this novel coronavirus is spread. It is thought to spread between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected coughs or sneezes.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of COVID-19 have been updated by the CDC to include:

  • 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
Are there any medical interventions?

At this time there are no vaccines, cures, or preventative products for COVID-19.  Treatment for COVID-19 is limited to supportive care, similar to other respiratory viruses that are encountered.

What does isolation mean? What does quarantine mean?

Isolation and quarantine are both used to protect the public by preventing exposure to people who are sick or who may be sick.

  • "Isolation" refers to separating a sick person from others.
  • "Quarantine" refers to separating people who are not sick, but may have been exposed to an illness, from others.

You can read more about the distinction between these terms here.

What about international students?

Nationality is not a risk factor for COVID-19. An individual is only considered at risk for this illness if they or a very close contact have recently traveled to an area impacted by COVID-19, regardless of race.

For more Frequently Asked Questions, click here to visit the CDC’s FAQ page. (Español | 中文)