COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus

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As the coronavirus continues to spread, more and more people are becoming concerned and asking questions. This page will give you some of the basic information regarding COVID-19, as well as useful links for learning more.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a novel coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization officially named this coronavirus COVID-19, in which ‘Co’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease and 19 for the year 2019. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet.

How does coronavirus spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, by being in close contact with someone who is sick or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when exhibiting symptoms, but there have been some reports of the virus spreading before infected individuals show symptoms. It may also be possible to contract COVID-19 by touching surfaces or items with the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

What are the symptoms?
Some people infected with COVID-19 experience no symptoms, while others have symptoms ranging from mild to severe, resulting in death in some cases. The most common symptoms are:


  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms typically develop within 2-14 days after exposure. More severe symptoms, such as high fever, severe cough or difficulty breathing can often indicate pneumonia. Other emergency warning signs include

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

These, and any other severe symptoms, should be taken seriously. If you are experiencing them, you should seek immediate medical attention.

How do I protect myself and others from the virus?


  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially with unwashed hands

  • Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Immediately dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Practice social distancing by staying six feet away from others. Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.

  • Wear a face mask around others if you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick. You do not need to wear a face mask if you are not sick. Face masks are in short supply and are needed for health workers.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, counters and desks, doorknobs and handles, light switches, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. You can find cleaning and disinfecting guidelines here.

What should I do if I think I’m sick or have been exposed?

  • Stay home except to get medical care. Call ahead of visiting a doctor’s office or hospital to explain your symptoms. Avoid using public transportation.

  • Self-isolate: Stay away from others in your home, including animals. You should stay in a specific room an use a separate bathroom, if possible.

  • Wear a face mask around others if you are sick.

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often.

  • Do not share personal items, such as dishes and other food ware, towels or bedding. After using these items, wash them thoroughly.

  • Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces daily.

  • Monitor your symptoms. Follow instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. Seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen, but always call first.

  • Get rest and stay hydrated.

  • If you believe you have come into contact with someone who has the virus, you should self-quarantine. This helps reduce the possible spread of the virus.

Who is at higher risk of serious illness with coronavirus?

  • Older adults

  • People who have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease

What can I do to prepare?

  • Take everyday precautions, such as washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, cleaning and disinfecting, etc.

  • Avoid crowds and all non-essential travel.

  • Avoid touching “high-touch” surfaces in public places

  • Stock up on supplies, such as medications and other medical supplies, as well as household items and groceries, in case you have to stay at home for a period of time.

  • If the virus is spreading in your area, stay home as much as possible and consider having food delivered.

  • Have a plan for if you get sick

How many cases are there in the United States? In Virginia?
The number of cases in the U.S. changes daily. The CDC updates their numbers regularly at noon Monday through Friday. You can view those here.
The Virginia Department of Health also records the number of cases in Virginia, which you can view here.

This map is best viewed on a desktop. Tap/click for a bigger view from Johns Hopkins University. Click here for a mobile-friendly version.


Useful Links:

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