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What is COVID-19?

This article was last reviewed on June 21, 2022.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. A coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory tract infections, such as colds and pneumonia. Although coronaviruses usually cause mild symptoms, they can (on rare occasions) cause life-threatening breathing difficulties and death.

Get vaccinated

To find a vaccine near you:

  • Text your zip code to 438829
  • Check
  • Call 1-800-232-0233
  • Contact your state or local health department
  • Contact your local pharmacy or check their website

Know How it Spreads

COVID-19 is mainly spread:

  • When inhaling respiratory droplets produced by an infected person as they cough or sneeze.
  • When droplets or particles that contain the virus land on the mouth, nose or eyes after an infected person coughs or sneezes when standing in close proximity less than 6 feet apart.
  • When someone touches their mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands that have the virus on them.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by contact with people who are not showing symptoms.
  • Note there is no current evidence that you can get COVID-19 infection by consuming food or drinking water.

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after visiting a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not 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 — wiping off your hands before the sanitizer is dry reduces its effectiveness.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19 and are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, you should stay at least 6 feet away from others in indoor public spaces.

Self-isolation: what is it, and why is it important?

Self-isolation is crucial in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to others. Find out more about what it really means, how to self-isolate, and helpful tips on how to cope when you’re stuck indoors.

Should I wear a facemask?

  • Use this tool to determine the COVID-19 Community Level where you live6
    • If you are in a Low Community Level, you can choose to wear a mask based on your personal risk and preference
    • If you are in a Medium Community Level and at high risk for severe illness, speak with your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask
    • If you are in a High Community Level, everyone ages 2 years and older should wear a mask in indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status

  • A mask should fit snugly and around the sides of your face and should cover your nose and mouth completely.
  • If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people.
  • If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, you should speak to your healthcare provider about whether you need take precautions such as wearing a mask.6
  • The CDC also recommends that you wear a mask when around others and in public places for a full 10 days during quarantine or isolation.5

Vaccination Guidelines

  • The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • You are considered fully vaccinated if you have received all the recommended doses in the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • You are considered up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine if you have received all the recommended doses in the primary series as well as booster doses when recommended.
  • According to the CDC, the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. But those who are unable or unwilling to get an mRNA vaccine will still have access to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.4
  • The CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older should get a booster shot. People 5 years and older that are moderately or severely immunocompromised should receive a third vaccine dose 28 days after their second shot.3
  • If you are fully vaccinated and have a weak immune system, you should follow all recommendations for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by your healthcare provider.


  1. When You've Been Fully Vaccinated
  2. Your Guide to Masks
  3. COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots | CDC
  4. CDC Endorses ACIP's Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC
  5. COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation | CDC