What is COVID-19?

This article was last reviewed on May 13, 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.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19

Get vaccinated

To find a vaccine near you:

  • Text your zip code to 438829
  • Check https://www.vaccines.gov/
  • 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 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html 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

  • 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 12 years and older should get a booster shot. The CDC is also recommending that 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.