Frequently Asked Questions
Obtain scientific expert advice on your COVID-19 questions to help dispel misinformation and myths about the disease.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 that has caused more than 35 million infections and over 611,000 deaths in the United States and almost 200 million infections and over 4.2 million deaths around the world. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people can become severely ill. Although the majority of people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions. Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience more than four weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Older people and those who have certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. Vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and very effective in preventing illness, hospitalizations and deaths. This new virus and disease were reportedly unknown before the outbreak began in China in December 2019. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an official name for the disease, abbreviated as COVID-19. ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. 19 is the year (2019) that cases of the virus were first reported. On March 11, 2020, WHO declared the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. The disease is now present in over 220 countries. Additionally, since it was first reported, several viral variants have emerged that are extremely contagious.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be inhaled by other people or land on their eyes, nose, or mouth. In some circumstances, these droplets may contaminate surfaces. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected. COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
- Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
- Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
- Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.
People who are asymptomatic (when the virus is detected but symptoms never develop) and people who are pre-symptomatic, (when the virus is detected before symptom onset), can both transmit the disease. Research suggests that as many as 40%-59% of cases in the United States may be asymptomatic. That means people can spread the disease without even knowing it.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19. Even after you are fully vaccinated, remember that you will be eligible for a COVID-19 booster.
If you are not vaccinated, the most effective public health measures to protect against the disease include:
- Learning about COVID-19 and making a decision to get vaccinated
- Wearing masks
- Social distancing at least 6 feet apart from others
- Avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces
- Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds
- Disinfecting surfaces
- Covering your coughs and sneezes
- Monitoring your health daily
- Staying at home if you have been exposed to the virus and are not vaccinated
- Following local and state guidelines
Refer to the CDC Website for more information.
Who is most at risk for experiencing severe illness?
There is currently a surge in U.S. coronavirus infections fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and the large number of unvaccinated Americans (100 million). Outbreaks are occurring in regions of the country that have low vaccination rates. The disease is also affecting younger populations.
Some people are more likely than others to become severely ill including seniors and people with underlying medical conditions. Severe illness means that a person with COVID-19 may need: hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator to help them breathe, or that they may even die. People of any age with the following health conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung diseases including COPD, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
- Dementia or other neurological conditions
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Overweight and Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension
- HIV infection
- Liver Disease
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Smoking, current and former
- Solid or blood stem transplant
- Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
- Having a substance use disorder
Racial and Ethnic Disparities – People of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. As compared to non-Hispanic Whites, Black and Hispanics are estimated to be one to two times as likely to be infected with COVID-19, and more than twice as likely to die from the disease. Click here to view racial/ethnic data here.
Pregnancy – pregnant people, and those who have recently given birth, are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people. They can receive a COVID-19 vaccine to prevent the disease. Physiological changes that occur in the body during pregnancy that increase risk for severe illness from respiratory viral infections like COVID-19 can persist after pregnancy. For example, increased risk for developing blood clots during pregnancy can continue after pregnancy and increase the risk for severe illness. Studies have shown that pregnant people with COVID-19 are also at increased risk for preterm birth (delivering the baby earlier than 37 weeks) and other poor pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage. If you have COVID-19 and have just given birth, learn more about caring for your baby and breast feeding here.
If you are pregnant and have questions about COVID-19 vaccines
Pregnant and recently pregnant and breastfeeding people can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If you would like to speak to someone about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, please contact MotherToBaby. MotherToBaby experts are available to answer questions in English or Spanish by phone or chat. This free and confidential service is available Monday–Friday from 8am–5pm (local time). To reach MotherToBaby:
What is known about the new SARS-CoV2 variants that have emerged?
Several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during the pandemic. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in America and worldwide. More than 83% of current infections in the U.S. are linked to the Delta variant. Some experts believe it is even a greater proportion of cases. According to the CDC, cases due to the Delta variant are expected to significantly increase in the weeks ahead as the overall national vaccination rate has plateaued. There are more than 100 million Americans who are unvaccinated. Alarmingly, the Delta variant is highly transmissible and has sparked concerns that currently available vaccines may be less effective against them with breakthrough cases being reported. Experts are now investigating whether booster shots will be needed in the future.
Learn more about the COVID-19 variants here and below:
- The Delta Variant (B.1.617) contains more than a dozen mutations and is significantly more contagious than other variants of COVID-19, with unpublished data from the CDC suggesting it might be as contagious as chickenpox. This variant was first reported in October 2020 in India and is now the most common variant in that country as well as worldwide. The Delta variant is also now the dominant strain in the United States. Currently, according to the CDC, the Delta variant is linked to over 83% of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. In America, cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed recently, up 64% in the last l week of July, 2021. Additionally, hospitalizations increased by 46% that week, and deaths were up 33.3% in areas of the country with low vaccination rates. Unpublished data from the CDC suggests that vaccinated individuals infected with the Delta variant may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. The Delta variant has also been linked to large outbreaks across the globe, from Japan and Australia to Indonesia and South Africa, forcing many countries to reimpose stringent restrictions on social activity and resume masking The high transmissibility of the Delta variant and the large number of unvaccinated people in the United States and globally has put the goal of herd immunity further out of reach for now, postponing an end to the pandemic.
- The Lambda Variant (C.37): First detected in Peru in August 2020, now at least 29 other countries have reported Lambda variant COVID-19 infections in recent months. Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador have seen the most significant increases outside of Peru, and the WHO designated it a “variant of interest” on June 14, 2021. Its spread in the US has been slow, with more than 1000 cases identified since it was first reported in America. Preliminary data suggests the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against this variant, although these findings have not yet been peer reviewed. Researchers in Japan have found that the lambda variant may be more resistant to vaccines. While their study has yet to be peer reviewed, it suggests that three mutations in the lambda variant’s spike proteins make it more resistant to antibodies induced by vaccination and two additional mutations make it more infectious. To date, the Lambda variant is not as concerning to experts as the highly transmissible Delta variant but its spread needs to be monitored closely.
- The Beta Variant (B.1.351): Since being identified in South Africa in early October 2020, this variant has been reported in more than eighty countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and Israel. On January 28, 2021, South Carolina officials reported that two people with this variant had no travel history, indicating the first instances of this strain identified in America. The Beta mutation resembles the variant first identified in the U.K.
- The Gamma Variant (P.1): Sequencing studies revealed this variant circulating in Brazil in July 2021. Since then, it has also been reported in Peru, Germany, South Korea and Japan, among other nations. On January 25, 2021, Minnesota health officials confirmed the first U.S. case of Gamma variant in a resident with a recent travel history to Brazil. Researchers believe this variant is more transmissible than the original strain, and there is also some early evidence that antibodies might not recognize the P. 1 variant, which could lead to possible reinfection. There’s no strong evidence that suggests today’s vaccines won’t work against this variant first identified in Brazil.
- The Alpha Variant (B.1.1.7): First reported in the United Kingdom, hundreds of countries, including the United States, have seen many cases of COVID-19 linked to this variant of the virus. The variant first identified in the U.K. is more transmissible than the original strain. The alpha variant, which once comprised more than two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, now accounts for less than one-third of cases in America. Scientists agree that the vaccines are effective against this particular mutation.
- Mu (B.1.621) – First identified in Colombia in January 2021, the WHO has classified this strain as a variant of interest and is monitoring its spread. After being detected in Colombia, Mu has since been reported in other South American countries and in Europe. Among sequenced global cases, it accounts for below 0.1 percent. However, in Colombia, it comprises 39 percent of cases. The Mu variant is of particular concern because experts believe its mutations indicate potential resistance to vaccines. Further studies are needed to better understand how people who are immunized will respond to infections with this strain of the virus.
- C.1.2 variant –While first detected in South Africa in May 2021, this variant has since been found in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland. There is concern that it could be more infectious and evasive of vaccines, given the results from a new preprint study. The study, however, is awaiting peer review. The researchers believe that the number of available sequences of C.1.2 may be an underrepresentation of the spread and frequency of the variant in South Africa and around the world. They also found that the C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, which is nearly twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants. The combination of these mutations, as well as changes in other parts of the virus, could help the virus evade antibodies and immune responses. The WHO has yet to give this variant a name, and health experts say that it poses no real threat right now – especially compared to the highly contagious delta variant but must be monitored closely.
The CDC in collaboration with other public health agencies and private sector labs is working to detect and characterize emerging viral variants. While the US ranked 43rd in the world for genomic testing to identify variants early in the pandemic, efforts are now underway to rapidly boost America’s capacity to genomically test, detect and track new COVID-19 variants as well as determine how effective currently available vaccines are against them and whether boosters will be needed in the future.
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How do the recently detected variants affect the course of the disease?
Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating in the United States with dominant ones being from India, United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. These variants, especially Delta, appear to spread more easily and rapidly than other variants, leading to increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. In the second week of July, 2021 there was a 70% increase in COVID cases, 36% rise in hospitalizations, and a 26% increase in deaths, with 83% of cases linked to the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in America and worldwide. This rise in infections puts a strain on health care resources, leads to more hospitalizations, and deaths. There has also been a rise in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths among young people.
Scientists are studying COVID-19 variants to learn more about how to control their spread. They want to understand whether the variants:
- Spread more easily from person-to-person
- Cause more severe disease in people
- Are detected by currently available viral tests
- Respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19
- Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines
To date, studies suggest that currently available vaccines in the United States protect against these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway. However, recent breakthrough infections and studies conducted by Pfizer and the government of Israel suggest some decrease in vaccine effectiveness although protection is still high to prevent hospitalizations and death. Israel has begun giving a booster Pfizer vaccine to people over the age of 60 living in that country. More studies are needed including genomic sequencing of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people to better understand who is most at risk and whether booster vaccines will be needed in the future in the United States. With recent media attention on breakthrough infections, the CDC has underscored that 99.9% of fully vaccinated Americans against COVID-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death. These statistics reinforce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19 and are our country’s best shot at slowing down the pandemic. However, more information is needed on all breakthrough infections to get a clear picture of vaccine effectiveness over the long term.
Rigorous compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks as required, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine of infected individuals, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect the health of the public.
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How effective are vaccines against the COVID-19 Delta variant?
According to the CDC, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines offer significant protection against the Delta variant. Almost all of the cases in the United States linked to the Delta variant are occurring in unvaccinated people, though recent studies suggest that breakthrough infections are occurring in vaccinated individuals as well more frequently in recent weeks. Studies are underway to determine the ongoing effectiveness of currently available vaccines against emerging variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.
A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only 36% effective against the Delta variant after one dose, but 88% effective after two doses. New data from Israel suggests reduced efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine. After two immunizations, the vaccine was 39% effective at reducing the risk of infection, 40% effective at reducing the risk of symptomatic disease, but importantly was still 91% effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death during a period when the Delta variant was the dominant strain in Israel. A recent study in Canada found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 87% effective in protecting against symptomatic infection. The data suggests that mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna offer a high degree of protection against COVID-19 infection especially preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Studies of Johnson & Johnson’s single shot COVID-19 vaccine had suggested it provides durable protection.A recent study from South Africa found the Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine helps prevent severe disease among those infected with the Delta variant, with the evidence showing that single-dose shot was 71% effective against hospitalization and as much as 96% effective against death. It also demonstrated durability of eight months.
However, other research which has not yet been peer reviewed found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be as effective at preventing illness caused by the Delta and Lambda variants suggesting that those who have received it may require a booster shot with one of the mRNA vaccines in the future.
With recent media attention focused on breakthrough infections, the CDC has underscored that 99.9% of fully vaccinated Americans against COVID-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death. These statistics reinforce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19 and are our country’s best shot at slowing down the pandemic. As COVID-19 infections continue to spread, it is important to keep practicing the 3 W’s (wear a mask if you are unvaccinated and in some settings if you are vaccinated; wash your hands; and watch your distance if unvaccinated) to prevent the spread of the virus.
Are booster shots available and recommended?
The U.S. government plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available to anyone in America starting on September 20, 2021 as infections rise from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The White House is prepared to offer a third booster shot starting on that date to anyone in America who completed their initial inoculation at least eight months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said in a statement. The booster shots initially will be given primarily to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, all of whom were among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, according to HHS. They will deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them. This decision was based on studies that show the protectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 shots currently authorized in the United States begins to diminish in the months after the shots are given. Recommendations about boosters for those people who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine must await the results from additional studies. They expect to have more data on its effectiveness in the next few weeks. Many experts believe we can provide boosters to fully vaccinated individuals in America while also strengthening our commitments to providing vaccines for people in the developing world.
For moderately or severely immunocompromised people, the CDC has recommended an additional dose now of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial two doses and it should be administered at least 28 days after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Moderately or severely immunocompromised people who should receive a booster RNA vaccine includes individuals who have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
People should talk to their healthcare providers about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.
Around the world, Israel has recently announced that it will provide booster shots to people over the age of 50 who were vaccinated more than five months ago, citing early data that suggests vaccine protection against severe illness is waning in that country. Germany, following Israel’s example, said this week that it would start offering booster shots to some higher-risk citizens. France, Russia and Hungary have plans to provide booster doses as well. The WHO called for a moratorium on booster shots of coronavirus vaccines through at least September as poorer countries struggle to access the shots, even for high-risk populations such as health-care workers and the elderly. Many experts believe we can provide boosters to fully vaccinated individuals in America while also strengthening our commitments to providing vaccines for people in the developing world.
Can I get COVID-19 after being vaccinated?
A small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated may still get infected with COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus. These are called “vaccine breakthrough cases.” When these infections do occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild although some hospitalizations and deaths have been reported. We do not know for certain how often these breakthrough cases are occurring: since May 2021, the CDC has focused on investigating only hospitalized or fatal Covid-19 cases among people who have been fully vaccinated and have not required states to report all other breakthrough infections. As of July 26th, the CDC reported 6,587 Covid-19 breakthrough cases resulting in hospitalization or death, including 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths. However, since all breakthrough infections are not being reported to the CDC unless they resulted in hospitalization or death, the number of actual cases is unclear. A recent report compiled information from 38 states that collect this data found the number of breakthrough cases to be more than 126,000 but that this was likely an undercount since 12 states did not submit complete data.
What treatment options are currently available?
Most people who become infected with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and can recover safely at home. Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can treat many people’s symptoms. Consult your healthcare provider if you feel sick.
Currently there is no cure for COVID-19, and only one treatment, a medication called remdesivir, has been FDA approved on May 1, 2021. The FDA has granted emergency use authorization to other medications to treat the disease (see below). Scientists are also studying a wide range of other potential therapeutic interventions.
Antiviral Drugs. Remdesivir is the only FDA approved drug for treatment of COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients, 12 years of age and older. Remdesivir should be administered in a hospital or a health care setting. The NIH recommends against the continuation of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 who are stable enough for discharge and who do not require supplemental oxygen.
Dexamethasone. Research studies have found that dexamethasone, an inexpensive and widely used steroid, can reduce COVID-19 deaths in the severely ill by up to one third. The NIH recommends that this medication be used in hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen. The NIH recommends against the use of dexamethasone or other systemic glucocorticoids to treat outpatients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization or supplemental oxygen.
SARS-CoV-2 Antibody therapies. The NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel recommends the use of Regeneron (Casirivimab plus imdevimab) or Sotrovimab as anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies to treat outpatients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of clinical progression. A recent study also found that the combination of two monoclonal antibodies, Regeneron (casirvimab and imdevimab), given as a subcutaneous injection prevented COVID-19 in patients at a high risk of infection due to household exposure. In the study, the cocktail of the monoclonal antibodies reduced participants’ relative risk of infection by 72% compared to those who did not receive it within the first week. After the first week, risk reduction increased to 93%. On July 30th, The FDA revised its emergency use authorization (EUA) for Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment of casirivimab and imdevimab as post-exposure prophylaxis (prevention) for COVID-19 in adults and youth, 12 years of age and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
Do NOT take non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate or ingest or inject any disinfectants. Do NOT take medication to treat coronavirus that has not been prescribed by your healthcare provider for this explicit purpose.
Refer to the NIH’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines to stay up-to-date on information regarding the treatment of COVID-19.
Visit the New York Times’ treatment tracker here for helpful information.
Is it safe to travel?
The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine or a vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization can travel safely within the United States.
During travel, wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Follow all state and local recommendations and requirements, including mask wearing and social distancing, as you are en route.
After travel, be sure to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms. Otherwise, if you are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months, you do NOT need to get tested or self-quarantine.
If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, take the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. While you are traveling, keep practicing the 3 W’s (wear a mask if you are unvaccinated and in some settings if you are vaccinated; wash your hands; and watch your distance, After you travel, get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms. Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.
Additionally, the US government has set international travel restrictions. Before entering America from overseas, fully vaccinated people must test negative no more than three days before travel or provide medical documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months. After traveling, get tested 3-5 days, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms, and follow all state and local guidance after returning to the United States.
Unvaccinated people must get tested 1-3 days before traveling, as well as get tested again 3-5 days after completing travel. They must also self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if after a negative test.
When travelling internationally, each country has its own guidance and requirements for testing, vaccination and self-quarantine. Therefore, it is very important to be knowledgeable about the requirements BEFORE you travel, To learn more about the steps to take to travel safely, follow this link.
How does the pandemic end?
The end of the coronavirus pandemic could be on the horizon if at least 80% of people in our country were fully vaccinated, but the timeline for actually getting there feels like it shifts daily given the recent surge in infections in the United States and worldwide with the highly contagious Delta variant. On August 2nd, 2021, 70% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, meeting a national goal for immunizations. But with 100 million unvaccinated Americans and only 49.7% of the total population in the United States have been immunized, many infections are still occurring, fueling the pandemic. Additionally, only 14.7% has been fully immunized, leaving many people vulnerable to infection and transmitting the virus across national borders.
Looking forward, there are several possible ways for the COVID-19 pandemic to end:
1. Vaccines. Vaccinating 70-90% of the population is a critical component of ending the pandemic. Efforts to develop and deploy safe and effective vaccines in record time are underway around the world but currently face a number of hurdles, such as mass production and distribution as well as vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, scientists are still investigating whether someone who has been sick with COVID-19 and has developed antibodies has enduring protection or can become reinfected. If reinfection is possible, it could present complications for a successful vaccine as do the many variant strains that are circulating around the world. The U.S. government plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available to anyone in America starting on September 20, 2021 as infections rise from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Stay aware of when you should get your booster shot!
- Treatments. A variety of treatments have become available, and others are being explored to alleviate severe illness and reduce mortality rates. Some of these options include antivirals treatments, steroids, monoclonal antibodies, and immune modulators. If a range of effective treatments become widely available, this could help curtail the devastating toll of COVID-19.
- Herd Immunity. When approximately 70-90% of the population has been infected or immunized, ‘herd immunity’ will hinder viral spread to help end the pandemic. However, this could take years, and with reinfection of COVID-19 still a possibility and viral variants potentially reducing vaccine effectiveness as well as with many unvaccinated people in America and around the world, herd immunity may not be readily achieved.
- We learn to live with it. In this scenario, instead of “beating the virus,” people adjust their lifestyles to learn to live with the disease. It may become endemic like the flu. Additionally, if mutant strains continue emerging, spreading, and become resistant to current vaccines, then booster vaccines will be needed as is the case for immunizing against influenza.
What is COVID-19 "long-hauler" syndrome?
In the United States, 10% to 30% of people who had mild COVID-19 reported at least one moderate to severe symptom that lasted more than two months are referred to as post-COVID “long haulers.” Recent studies (see here and here), as well as surveys conducted by patient groups, suggest that 50% to 80% of patients continue to have bothersome symptoms even after tests can no longer detect virus in their body for up to three months after the initial onset of COVID-19. More than 200 symptoms have been reported with the most common ones including fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache, and difficulty sleeping. There can also be dermatological manifestations such as the emergence of red or purple tender bumps on the toes or hands (“COVID toes”), along with a painful burning sensation in the skin. Since COVID-19 is a new disease emerging for the first time in December 2019, long-term recovery rates are not yet available.
Most people who get COVID-19 recover within weeks or a few months. However, some may suffer chronic damage from the illness to their lungs, heart, kidneys or brain and experience persistent symptoms. In light of the rise of long COVID as a persistent and significant health issue, in July, 2021, the Office for Civil Rights in the U,S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice determined that long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act , paving the way for some people suffering from the chronic effects of COVID-19 to receive accommodations from businesses, schools and employers.
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I have been fully vaccinated. What can I now do safely?
If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume many of the activities you had stopped doing because of pandemic. Be sure to follow Federal, State and local public health guidance. Recent research has revealed that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to other people so they should wear masks indoors in areas of the country where the coronavirus is spreading and in certain other settings including while on public transportation. Schools, workplaces and businesses may require mask wearing as well regardless of vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated. How long vaccine protection lasts and how much vaccines protect against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants are still under investigation.
Because it takes time for your body to build protection after vaccination, you’re considered fully vaccinated two weeks following immunization. For COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots, you should wait to resume activities until about two weeks after your second vaccination. For COVID-19 vaccines that require one shot, you should wait about 2 weeks after vaccination for your body to build protection and to resume usual activities.
See CDC guidance below for fully vaccinated individuals:
- You can resume activities, without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except indoors where COVID-19 infections are spreading and where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business, workplace, and school guidance.
- You can travel within the United States without getting tested before or after travel and without self-quarantining after travel in most states and cities.
- You will not need to get tested before leaving the United States for international travel unless it is required by the destination. You will not have to self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States if you are fully vaccinated.f you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.
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Mythbusters for COVID-19
To help dispel some common misconceptions about COVID-19, the World Health Organization established a website to combat the most common myths about the disease.
Have a COVID-19 question?
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU) has launched a free interactive tool to help answer the public’s questions on the COVID-19 virus. To use this service, type in a question. If you don’t find the answer, you can email PublicHealthQuestion@jhu.edu and receive a response from researchers at the JHU School of Public Health. Visit the site here.
Find answers to your questions about COVID-19 and vaccines from the CDC here.
How can we protect kids from COVID-19?
The risk of children becoming infected with COVID-19 is on the rise: at the end of the first week of August, more than 93,000 children tested positive, a nearly 400 percent increase from just three weeks earlier. Although most will experience mild symptoms, there are reports of kids becoming critically ill. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for immunization but experts hope vaccines will be available for them sometime early next year. Until then to protect your children and their peers, take the following precautions to reduce the risk of them getting infected with COVID-19:
- All eligible people in a child’s household should get immunized. The best way to protect children from COVID-19 is to have all of their close contacts vaccinated. All adults and siblings over the age of 12 should get immunized. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19 and can also reduce the risk of spreading it to others including children.
- Socialize and play outdoors. Risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 remains relatively low. CDC guidelines state that unvaccinated individuals can participate in outdoor activities without masking. Therefore, it is important during this surge to convene social gatherings outside as a precaution. If you are indoors, choose a location that is well ventilated, e.g. a room with open windows and use masks whenever possible. Avoid activities that make it hard to stay 6 feet away from others.
- Mask indoors when around other unvaccinated people or in public. Have everyone in your family, even those who are vaccinated, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area where the virus is spreading. Most counties in the United States are now experiencing a rise in infections. Provide a well-fitted, high-quality mask for your child and have them wear it. If necessary, discuss with other parents about the need to mask up inside in order to protect young people.
- Create pandemic pods to reduce the risk of exposure. Form a small group that you coordinate with your child’s after-school activities or carpools to minimize the number of individuals kids come into contact with. Adopt the same preventative strategies in your group, e.g. masking indoors and social distancing where needed.
- Stay vigilant even during informal events. It’s easy to let your guard down when you’re trying to enjoy milestones or moments with you kids. Stay consistent with putting into practice public health guidance to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as to make this a routine for children. Avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be hard to stay at least 6 feet away from others who don’t live with you.
Additional Information Resources
Can I get COVID from swimming in a pool?
The CDC is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues. Check with your local municipality to see guidelines for pool access. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most commonly spreads from person-to-person by respiratory droplets during close physical contact (within 6 feet or a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle, both in and out of the water). The virus can sometimes spread from person-to-person by small droplets or virus particles that linger in the air for minutes to hours. This can happen most easily in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation. In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to infectious respiratory droplets. Remember that children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination so may get sick or carry the virus.
Ways to promote behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:
- Those who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks consistently and correctly, but they should not wear them in the water. They should also avoid sharing items that are meant to come in contact with the face (such as goggles, nose clips, and snorkels) which are not substitutes for masks.
- Unvaccinated individuals should also practice social distancing staying 6-feet away from people they don’t live with. This includes not gathering at the ends of swim lanes, behind starting blocks, or on stairs into the water or up to the diving board.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available. Do not to spit and to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of their elbows, throw used tissues in the trash, and wash their hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not readily available.