What is COVID-19?
What is COVID-19 and who is at risk?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus that had not previously been seen in humans. Because it is a new virus, we are learning more about it each day and making modifications as we go.
What we do know so far is that most people that are infected by this virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without special treatment. Additionally, although older individuals and those with underlying medical problems like hypertension, diabetes, cancer or chronic respiratory disease are more likely to develop serious illness, studies and reports to date show that anyone can be seriously ill from contracting this disease and individuals ranging from 2 months of age to 113 years old, have been reported to have died from COVID-19. What this means is that we are all collectively responsible for slowing the spread of this disease.
How does COVID-19 spread?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, and especially between people who are physically within 6 feet of each other. The virus can also spread by airborne transmission such as when an individual is exposed to the virus in small droplets and particles that linger in the air for minutes to hours. This method can infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the infected individual or after the infected person has left a space. This is why scientists recommend that we wear face masks everywhere and especially when we are in-doors.
A third and less common way that COVID-19 is believed to spread is through contact with contaminated surfaces. Air droplets, say from a sneeze, can land on surfaces and objects. Because of this, it is possible that a person could get the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own nose, eyes or mouth. Although this mode of spreading is less common, scientists still recommend that you wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds at a time or use hand sanitizers.
Symptoms to Watch For:
COVID-19 can present with a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear between 2-14 days initial exposure to the virus and may include:
- Shortness of breath of difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
You should consider seeking emergency medical attention when you or anyone around you is showing of these signs:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- NOTE: this is not all the possible symptoms, so please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or cause you concern
Before going to the hospital for a suspected case of COVID-19, call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility and notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
For help deciding when to seek appropriate medical care for a suspected case of COVID-19, use the following CDC self-checker tool: CDC COVID Self-checker
What can you do to protect yourself and others?
As we continue to learn that anyone of any age can die from COVID-19, the best way to prevent the illness is to first avoid being exposed to the virus. Scientists recommend the following steps to slow the spread and reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19:
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask whenever you leave your home or are around others that you do not live with
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time. If soap and water are not immediately available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces and if you have to be indoors, ensure that these spaces are properly ventilated by bringing in outdoor air as much as possible (i.e., by leaving the door open or opening a window)
- Stay home and isolate from others when you notice symptoms or think that you may have been exposed
- Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (i.e., door knobs, countertops…etc.)
What to do if you get sick or if someone in your house gets sick with COVID-19?
Most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover at home and the CDC has provided the following guidelines for what to do in this situation. These include:
- Stay home except to get medical care:
- Since most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care, it is recommended that while experiencing symptoms, you should not leave your home and you should not visit public areas.
- Take care of yourself by getting rest and staying hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (I.e., Tylenol)
- Stay in touch with your doctor and call before you get medical care. Make sure to watch out for any emergency warning signs of worsening COVID-19 symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
- Separate yourself from other people
- If you are living with other people and if it is possible to do so, try and stay in a specific room, use a separate bathroom and away from other people and pets in your home.
- If you are unable to stay away from others in your home, wear a mask indoors
- After confirming your symptoms, be sure to tell your close contacts/people you have had recent physical contact with, that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours before they show any symptoms or test positive, so by letting close contacts know that they may have been exposed, they can also start taking extra precaution to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others.
For people living in close quarters that make it difficult to fully separate from others (I.e., those sharing a small apartment or for people living with large or extended families), the CDC provides the following recommendations:
- Everyone should limit risks: if your home includes one or more vulnerable individuals, then all family members should act as if they are at higher risk and take extra precautions
- Limit errands: family members should leave only when absolutely necessary (I.e., for essential errands such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy or medical appointments that cannot be delayed). If you must leave the house, make sure to do the following:
- Choose one or two family members who are not at higher risk for COVID-19 to run the essential errands
- Wear a mask, avoid crowds, practice social distancing (I.e., staying 6-foot away from others). Additional tips for safely running errands can be found here
- When possible, use forms of transportation that minimize contact with others (I.e., biking, walking, driving or riding by car alone or with only other household members)
If you must use public transportation:
- Maintain a 6-foot distance from other passengers
- Avoid touching high-touch surfaces (I.e., handrails) and use hand sanitizers as soon as possible after leaving the transport
- Try to commute during less busy times; this way you’re likely to have more space to distance from others
- Clean your hands with soap and water as soon as you return home from your trip
If you must use rideshare with others not from your household:
- Limit close contact and create space between you and others in the vehicle as much as possible
- Open the window or ask to place the AC on non-recirculation mode so as to improve the air flow in the care
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after your return home
- After your return, maintain as much physical distance as possible with those at higher risk from COVID-19 in the home by avoiding hugs, kisses or sharing food or drinks.
Avoid caring for children and those who are sick:
- vulnerable household members who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid caring for the children in the household. If this is unavoidable, the children in their care should not have contact with anyone outside of the household.
- Additionally, those family members that are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 should avoid taking care of any sick person of any age in the house.
Separate a household member who is sick:
- if it is possible to do so, provide a separate bedroom and bathroom for the person who is sick.
- If this is not possible, try to separate the sick person from other household members as much as possible, especially from those that are at higher risk of COVID-19.
- If possible, have only one person in the household take care of the person who is sick. This caregiver should be someone who is not at higher risk for COVID-19 and who can minimize contact with other household members
- If possible, maintain 6-feet between the person who is sick, their caregiver and other household members
- If limited space, means that you have to share a bedroom with the sick person, make sure that the room has good air flow
- Open a window and turn on a fan to bring in and circulate fresh air
- Maintain at least 6-feet between beds or sleeping positions if possible
- Sleep head to toe if sharing a bed
- Put a curtain around or other physical divider to create separation between the sick person’s bed and yours
- Similarly, if you have to share a bathroom with the sick person, the person who is sick should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the bathroom after each use. If this is not possible, the person who does the cleaning should:
- Open outside doors and windows before entering the bathroom and should use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the bathroom
- Wait as long as possible before entering the bathroom to clean and disinfect or to use the bathroom
- If a household member is sick with COVID-19, they should not be in-charge of preparing food for other household members and should also consider eating separately from others in the home.
- Monitor your symptoms
- COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion and others
Seek medical attention when the following warning signs appear:
- Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Wear a mask over your mouth and nose
- If you must be around other people or animals including pets at home, you should wear a mask over your nose AND mouth
- You don’t need to wear a mask if you are alone
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth AND nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Throw away used tissues in a lined trash can
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not immediately available, you can clean your hands with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid sharing personal household items
- Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding with other people in your home if you are sick
- Wash these items thoroughly with soap and water or put them in the dishwater after you’ve finished using them
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your “sick-room” and bathroom. Let someone else in the household clean and disinfect common areas
- If the sick individual is unable to clean their bedroom or bathroom themselves, another person can do so on an as-needed basis. When they do so, they should wear a mask and disposable gloves prior to entering the room and cleaning. They should wait as long as possible after the sick individual has used the bathroom before going in to clean or use that bathroom
- Note: high-touch surfaces include: phones, remote controls, countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.
- Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood stool or other body fluids on them
- Use both household cleaners and disinfectants
- Clean the area/surface with soap and water if dirty, then use a household disinfectant (making sure to follow use instructions to ensure safe and effective use of the product).
For a complete guide on how to effectively disinfect your home and surfaces, click here
Differences between Influenza (flu) and COVID-19
Early in the pandemic, there was some confusion as to whether people should worry about COVID-19 as it was being compared to the flu. We now know that while the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by two different viruses.
COVID-19 is caused by infection from a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) whereas the flu is caused by infection from the influenza viruses. Furthermore, according to the CDC, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer for people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms and they can be contagious for longer.
However, because the flu and COVID-19 share some symptoms, it may be difficult to tell the difference between the two based on symptoms alone. To confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19, it is recommended that you get tested. Additional similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu are discussed below:
Similarities between COVID-19 and flu symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea (these are more common in children than adults)
Differences between COVID-19 and flu symptoms:
- Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including sinus and ear infections as moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication. Other serious complications of the flu are inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues and multi-organ failure.
- COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people, and other signs not seen with the flu may include a change in or loss of taste or smell.
Length of symptoms following exposure and infection:
- Similarities: for both COVID-19 and flu: 1 or more days can pass between a person becoming infected and when he or she starts to experience illness symptoms
- Differences: if a person has COVID-19, it can take longer to develop symptoms than if they have the flu
Typically, if a person has the flu, they can develop symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection
In the case of COVID-19, the norm is to develop symptoms 5 days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection. This is why it is recommended that if you know or think that you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should quarantine for 14 days and monitor yourself.
Length of time that you’re contagious:
- Similarities: for both COVID-19 and flu, it is possible to spread the virus for at least 1 day before experiencing any symptoms
- Differences: if someone has covid-19, they may be contagious for a longer period than if they had the flu
Most people with the flu are contagious for about 1 day before they show symptoms. Older children and adults with the flu can be contagious during the initial 3-4 days of their illness but many remain contagious for about 7 days.
In the case of COVID-19, how long someone can spread the virus to others is still under investigation. It is possible for people to spread the virus for about 2 days before they show symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after the first symptoms appeared. If someone is not showing symptoms or their symptoms go away, it is possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for the virus.
How they spread:
- Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person to person, especially those that are less than 6 feet from one other.
- Both spread mainly by droplets made when people infected with them cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can then land in the mouths, noses or be inhaled into the lungs of those nearby.
- Although less common, it is also possible to get infected by physical human contact (I.e., shaking hands) or by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose of eyes
- Both the flu virus and COVID-19 may spread to others before the infected person starts showing symptoms, by people with very mild symptoms or by people who are asymptomatic and never developed any symptoms
- Although both COVID-19 and the flu viruses are believed to spread in similar ways, COVID-19 has proven to be more contagious among certain populations and age groups than the flu.
- COVID-19 has also been observed to have more superspreading events than the flu. What this means is that the COVID-19 virus can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.
People at high-risk for COVID-19 and/or the flu:
- Both COVID-19 and the flu can result in severe illness and complications. For both illnesses, those at the highest risk include:
- People with certain underlying medical conditions
- Pregnant people
- The risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19. However, infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19
- For the flu: young children are at higher risk of severe illness from flu
- For COVID-19: school-aged children infected with COVID-19 are at higher risk of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare but severe complication of COVID-19.
Complications of the flu and/or COVID-19:
- Both COVID-19 and the flu can result in the following complications:
- Respiratory failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs)
- Cardiac injury (I.e., heart attacks)
- Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
- Secondary bacterial infections (infections that occur in people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 or the flu)
- Flu: most people who get the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks while some others may develop complications.
- COVID-19: additional complications associated with COVID-19 are:
- Blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain
- Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
- people at high-risk of complications or who have been hospitalized for either COVID-19 or the flu should receive medical care to help relieve symptoms and reduce the likelihood of complications
- Flu: the FDA has approved four antiviral drugs to treat those hospitalized with the flu. These treatments should be given as soon as possible.
- COVID-19: because this is a new virus in humans, possible treatments for COVID-19 are still being explored and regularly updated as new evidence emerges. Currently, only Remdesivir has been given an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as an exploratory treatment for COVID-19.
- vaccines for both COVID-19 and the flu must be approved or authorized for emergency use (EUA) by the FDA before they can be given to the public
- Flu: there are multiple FDA-licensed flu vaccines produced annually to protect against the 3-4 flu viruses that scientists believe circulate each year. This is why it is recommended that you get your flu vaccine every year.
- COVID-19: Currently two vaccines have been approved for use by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). These are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have been distributed to many frontline healthcare workers and is now being distributed to elderly Americans. Other vaccines are still under development like the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine which has recently applied for an EUA.
COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Should Know
There is much conversation going around lately about the COVID-19 vaccines. In this section, we provide information on what you should know about the vaccines as well as CDC answers to frequently asked questions about vaccinations.
As of today, more than 500,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 20 million cases have been reported. To slow down and hopefully end this pandemic and save more lives from being lost, scientists all over the world believe that vaccines to prevent COVID-19 are perhaps our best hope. To that end, three vaccines have now been given emergency use authorization for use against COVID-19, and many more still undergoing clinical trials.
The three vaccines currently being distributed are the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy (effectiveness) rate of 95%, meaning that about 95% of people who get the vaccine will be protected from getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. This vaccine is for people aged 16 and older and requires two injections to be given 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94.1% and is for people aged 18 and older. Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, the Modern vaccine requires two injections, given 28 days apart. Lastly, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has an efficacy rate of 66.3%. In clinical trials, this vaccine was shown to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death in people who did get sick with COVID-19. This vaccine is recommended for people 18 years and older and requires only one injection.
Unlike the flu vaccines which are made from inactivated influenza viruses, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA instructs cells on how to make a harmless version of the S protein which coronaviruses have on their surface. After an individual is vaccinated with either of the two mRNA vaccines, your own cells will begin to make the S protein pieces and display them on their cell surfaces. This display will then allow your immune system to recognize that the S protein doesn’t belong there and so it will begin to build an immune response to the S protein and will make antibodies. For more information on how the COVID-19 vaccines work, visit the following CDC website.
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, unlike the first two vaccines, is a viral vector vaccine. What this means is that this vaccine was created using a modified version of a different virus, in this case an adenovirus which usually causes colds. This modified adenovirus serves as the vector to deliver important instructions to your cells. The vector is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 and instead is a harmless virus that has been modified to have the novel coronavirus’ spike protein. When injected with this vaccine, the modified adenovirus will use your body’s machinery to produce the spike protein so that your body’s cells may display the protein on their surfaces and teach your immune system to recognize the protein, begin to produce antibodies against it and also activate other immune cells to fight it. For more information about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, visit this website.
Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines:
- Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
- All three vaccines currently being used have gone through rigorous studies to confirm that they are as safe as possible. Additionally, systems like the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting Systems (VAERS) allow the CDC to maintain watch for safety issues are in place across the entire country.
- All three vaccines are being distributed now because they received emergency use authorizations from the FDA after showing that they meet rigorous safety criteria and are effective at protecting against COVID-19 following large clinical trials.
- To learn more about emergency use authorizations, watch the video attached here
- Do the Covid-19 vaccines protect against the COVID-19 variants?
- Early research thus far suggests that both all three vaccines can provide protection against the COVID-19 variants that have been identified in the UK and South Africa. Vaccine manufacturers are also now looking into creating booster shots to improve the vaccines’ protection against future variants.
- Can a COVID-19 Vaccine give you COVID-19?
- No. The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being developed and distributed in the U.S. do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, these vaccines use mRNA technology or viral vector technology to instruct your cells on how to make antibodies against COVID-19.
- What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines?
- Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Vaccine doses that have been purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American public at no cost
- Vaccination providers may charge an administration fee for giving someone the shot, but they can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company
- Uninsured patients can have their vaccine administration charge paid for by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund
- Ultimately: NO ONE can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee
- How are the COVID-19 vaccines being distributed?
- In the U.S., the CDC along with the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) has recommended that the COVID-19 vaccines be distributed in the following order:
- Healthcare personnel
- Adult residents of long-term care facilities
- Frontline essential workers such as first responders and teachers
- People aged 75 and older
- People aged 65 – 74
- People aged 16 – 64 with underlying medical conditions
- Other essential workers, such as people who work in food service and construction
- Although these are the recommendations provided by the CDC, guidelines on who will be vaccinated first may also vary by state in the U.S. so be sure to consult your state and local health departments for the latest information on how and when you can receive a vaccine.
- What are the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?
- A COVID-19 vaccine can cause mild side effects after the first or second dose. Some of these side effects include:
- Pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling unwell
- Swollen lymph nodes
- After you receive your vaccine shot, you will be monitored for about 15 minutes to see if you have an immediate reaction.
- Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and are reported to last between one to two days.
- It is important to note that having some mild side effects to the vaccine is not a bad sign. Instead, it just means that your body is reacting how it should (I.e., your body is having an immune response and developing protections against the COVID-19 virus).
- What are long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Because all three COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials only recently started in the summer of 2020, it is currently still not clear if these vaccines will have long-term side effects. Still, from past experiences, scientists know that vaccines rarely cause long-term side effects.
- Is there a risk of a severe allergic reaction if I receive the vaccine?
- Serious problems from vaccination can happen, but they are rare
- The CDC is aware of reports that some people have experienced severe allergic reactions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
- If after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, you think that you may be having a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or going to the ER.
- Additionally, you can report side effects and reactions using either v-safe of the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting Systems linked below:
- This is a new smartphone based, after vaccination health checker for people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. It uses text-messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients and also provides second vaccine reminders if needed as well as telephone follow up for anyone who reports that they had a serious side effect to the vaccine.
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
- This is the national system that collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers and the public of terrible side effects that happened after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Reporting to VAERS allows the CDC to continue their monitoring of the safety of the vaccines.
- Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have a history of allergic reactions?
- If you have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications, you may still be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. You would just need to make sure to tell the person giving you the vaccine ahead of time so that you may be monitored for about 30 minutes after getting the vaccine.
- If you have had an immediate allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable medications in the past, you should talk to your doctor to determine if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- If you have ever had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that you don’t get that specific vaccine.
- People who are allergic to polysorbate should not be get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- If you had an immediate or severe allergic reaction after getting the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, it is recommended that you don’t also get the second dose.
- Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
- Currently there is limited information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in people who have weakened immune systems or autoimmune conditions, however as long as you have never had a previous allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its ingredients, you may still get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Currently, there is no research on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and part of a group that’s been recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine (I.e., frontline essential healthcare worker), you may choose to get the vaccine. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about your potential risks and benefits.
- Attached below are stories of pregnant people who decided to go ahead and receive a COVID-19 vaccine:
- Who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine?
- Children under the age of 16 are currently not able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because children in this age group were not included in the original clinical trials for these vaccines.
- Several companies have begun enrolling children as young as 12 years of age in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials and soon even younger children will be included as well.
- For more information on COVID-19 vaccines and children, click the links attached below:
- If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
- Yes, you are still advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if you have previously had the virus and recovered.
- Even if you have had COVID-19 before, you should still get vaccinated because of the severe health risks that are associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection is possible.
- If you had COVID-19 and were treated for symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma (blood from people who have recovered from an illness), it is recommended that you wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine as reinfection within the first 90 days after initial infection is uncommon.
- Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Another reason why you should still get a COVID-19 vaccine even if you have had COVID-19 is that experts currently do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after initial recovery. The immunity that you gain from having an infection (I.e., natural immunity) varies from person to person.
- Can I stop taking safety precautions (I.e., wearing a mask, staying 6-feet from others) after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
- No, you must continue to take safety precautions even after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
- According to the CDC, there is currently not enough information available to say if or when the CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others not of their household. Experts still need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before this decision can be made.
- Other things influencing this decision is that we do not currently know if getting a COVID-19 vaccine stops you from spreading the virus to others, even if you yourself are protected from it.
- While scientists continue to learn more about the protections that the COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions, the CDC recommends that everyone, include those newly vaccinated, continue to do the following:
- Wear a mask over your mouth and nose
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
- Wash your hands often
- Stay home if you’re experiencing any symptoms
For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the following link.
For clarification on myths related to the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the following CDC page.
COVID-19 and Wellness
The current COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a major effect on our lives with many individuals reporting that they are facing challenges that have been stressful, overwhelming and have at times caused strong emotions.
While we know that such public health actions as social distancing and staying away from others not already in our households are necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, these actions can still make us feel isolated, lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with the stress we feel in a healthy way will enable us to both get through this pandemic and care for ourselves and our loved ones.
In order to cope with the stress that you’re feeling, you should first be aware of how stress manifests and affects you. Stress can cause the following:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires and interests
- Difficult concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping
- Physical reactions such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances
While it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, worry and grief during this pandemic, as with any other instance, too much stress can be detrimental. In this section, we provide many ways that you can help yourself, your loved ones and your community manage stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthy Ways to Cope with stress
- Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories
- While it is important to stay up to date with any changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, being too plugged in to the news and always hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.
- What you can do instead is to set limits on how much time and how much news you consume during the day
- You can achieve this by setting aside times during the day when you totally and completely disconnect from your phone, tv or computer screen
- Take care of your body
- When you’re too stressed and anxious, your entire body is wound up in preparation for the worst, doing the following can help reduce the amount of stress you feel while taking care of your body:
- Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Purchase shelf-stable and frozen foods as these will keep longer and are easy to incorporate into recipes
- Take inventory of the items in your kitchen and get creative with cooking. Choose a recipe site where you can plug in ingredients you have on hand and see what suggestions pop up.
- Some websites to try out include:
- Allrecipes Dinner Spinner
Ways to stay healthy under COVID-19
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco and substance use
- Continue with routine preventive measures including cancer screenings and vaccinations as recommended by your doctor
- Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you’re able to
- Work well enough from home
- Working from home may be new to you and could have its own unforeseen challenges, especially if you have children.
- When working from home, don’t expect to have the same type of productivity that you had in the office. Recognize that we are all distracted and needing to cope with a different daily life now
- So, reduce your goals for typical work that is not urgent, if possible and see below for recommendations on how to stay focused and productive during work hours
- Confine your workspace to a specific clear area; this will allow you keep your job from intruding on your personal needs and will allow you to associate productivity and work with a particular space in your home
- Control sound; use noise cancelling headphones or use music or fans to create white noise
- End the workday with clear boundaries; when your work day is over, put away all electronic devices and tool associate with work and focus on doing other more personal things with the remaining hours of the day
- Have a morning or evening check-in with a co-worker or supervisor; doing this can help to reduce social isolation while providing structure to your day and use video calls when you can, as seeing the faces of others can provide more feelings of being socially connected than just simply talking.
- Make time to unwind
- Although most of us are working from home now and the separation between home and work have been severely blurred, taking time to unwind is necessary and can help you recenter yourself during this time.
- Whenever possible, try to do some of the activities that you enjoy. These could include: watching Netflix with friends using Netflix party, cooking, reading, listening to music, knitting…etc.
- Connect with others
- Maintaining connections with others, especially if you live alone, can help reduce feelings of isolation and make it easier to get through the day
- Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how are you feeling
- Connect with your community or faith-based organizations
- While social distancing measures are in place, try to connect with your community online, through social media or by phone or mail.
For resources and social support services, visit the following links from the CDC below:
If you are in a crisis, get immediate help:
COVID Additional Reading
COVID information is constantly being updated as new things are learned by public health officials about the virus. Here are some of the sources we used to compile the information on this site. Please also reference the CDC for the most current information.