COVID-19 Basics

We've compiled a list of important information about COVID-19 that we hope you'll find helpful. These are facts, based on actual data from reliable sources. 

What is the difference between "coronavirus" and "COVID-19"?

Many media reports and people have used “coronavirus” and “COVID-19″ interchangeably; one is a subset of the other. "Coronavirus" refers to a handful of diseases that are known to cause respiratory issues. Experts refer to this current coronavirus as the “novel coronavirus,” meaning it’s a new type of coronavirus that was not previously known or understood by health  experts. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19? 


Who is at higher risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19?

  • Those 60 years of age and older
  • Those with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure, or chronic lung disease
  • Those with a weak immune system, including cancer treatment, treatment for autoimmune diseases, HIV, or having an organ or bone-marrow transplant

How is COVID-19 contracted? 

Based on what experts know about coronaviruses in general, COVID-19 is spread:

  • mostly person-to-person through droplets which are often generated when a person coughs or sneezes, or
  • through  exposure by being in close contact (within 6 feet) to someone who is  infected. People with COVID-19 can be contagious without showing any  symptoms.

I've heard COVID-19 is like the flu and I'll be fine if I get it. Is this true? 

No. COVID-19 is not like the flu. There is no vaccine or immunity from prior exposure since it's a novel (new) virus. Here is the reason for the misinformation: If a young, healthy individual contracts COVID-19, they will likely experience flu-like symptoms and recover. However, based on data from other countries preceding the U.S., high-risk individuals who contract COVID-19 (see "Who is at higher risk" above) are showing a much higher rate of hospitalization, ICU care, and fatalit—far surpassing typical flu strains.

What is the incubation time of COVID-19? 

COVID-19 has an incubation time of 5-14 days, so many individuals do not realize they are infected, carrying and spreading the virus. Some very healthy individuals (particularly in the 20-29 year old range) will never experience any symptoms of COVID-19. 

What does "flattening the curve" mean? 

Flattening the curve refers to community isolation measures that keep the daily number of cases at a manageable level for medical providers. At the rapid rate this virus is spreading, soon there may not be enough hospital beds or respirators available for patients. This is currently happening in other countries. Learn more about "flattening the curve."

According  to several epidemiological studies, the U.S. can expect a doubling of cases every 6 days. This means about 1 million U.S. cases by the end of  April, 2 million by May 7, and so on. The majority of cases will be able to be managed at home. But among the 44,000 cases in China, 15% required hospitalization and 5% ended up in critical care. The drastic  measures of closing schools, gyms, etc. will help reduce these numbers.

By isolating ourselves, canceling church services, staying at home and practicing "social distancing", we're giving our hospitals a fighting chance to take care of the more high-risk and vulnerable in our communities. Let's all do our part.

Should I be staying at home to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19?

Yes! Everyone who is able to do so should be practicing “social distancing” to limit the spread of COVID-19 and "flatten the curve." Ideally, you should stay at least 6 feet away from all other people. Maintaining contact with your family members is okay within your household. Even if you don’t have symptoms at all, spending as much time as possible in isolation means you’re lowering the risk that you will  spread COVID-19 to the more vulnerable.

Do not spend time at social gatherings or go out to restaurants. Ordering takeout (or, even better, delivery left at your front door) is the best way to get food from and support your favorite local business.

Implementing  preventative, social-distancing measures will reduce the number of people who are sick at one time. Without measures, many people get sick all at once, leading to a tall, narrow curve. With these social-distancing measures, you can flatten the curve—just as many people may get sick overall, but they’ll be spread out over time. For a  healthcare system, especially an overwhelmed one, it’s far better to have a million people sick over the course of a year than that same million sick in three months.

What can I do to protect MYSELF?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at  least  20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • 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 with people who are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are not in your household. 
  • Put at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

What can I do to protect OTHERS?

  • Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • 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.


  • If you are sick: You should wear a face mask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a face mask if they enter your room.
  • If you are NOT sick: While a face mask would be helpful to protect from strangers should you have to leave your house, you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick and they are not able to wear a face mask. Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.


  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

What can I do to help high-risk friends and neighbors?

While the best thing to do is respect high-risk friends' and neighbors' need for social distancing to keep them well, make it a point to check in on them. Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated.

Social distancing does not mean social isolation, and even a  potentially deadly virus should not force us to be alone. Now, more than  ever, people need to find smart ways to stay connected.

  • Pick up the phone and call. Ask if they need groceries or pet supplies. If you are a low-risk individual, you can pick up supplies and drop them off. 
  • There are a variety of online options to talk with family and friends. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook or email... Pick one and stay connected!
  • If there's a safe, proper-distanced way of visiting in person, make the effort. Avoid entering their home, but if weather permits, you can enjoy a conversation outside as long as it's 6 feet or more apart.
  • Order a meal from their favorite restaurant and have it delivered. Even better, deliver it yourself and leave it on their doorstep.

There are many ways to care for ourselves and each other. Let's all do our part!