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From the World Health Organization

What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What is COVID 19?
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally.

How does COVID-19 spread?
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails.  People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand rub.  Being vaccinated provides strong protection against infection, hospitalization, and death.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
The most important thing to know about coronavirus on surfaces is that they can easily be cleaned with common household disinfectants that will kill the virus. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard. As always, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Harvard Medical School 
Read more from the Harvard Medical School Coronavirus Resource Center

Why should we still wear masks and physical distance??
There is a rapidly expanding body of evidence supporting the benefit of nonmedical masks and cloth face coverings in preventing the spread of all viruses. Until the majority of people are vaccinated, masks and physical distancing are needed to open the economy in the safest way possible and our best chance of keeping it open. 

Coronavirus spreads when someone breathes in virus that an infected person emits through coughs or sneezes, or when they talk or breath, or when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. Physical distancing of at least 6 feet and wearing a tight-fitting cloth mask that covers your nose and mouth can help prevent spread. (Medical-grade N95 masks are more effective than cloth masks but are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers.) Continue to wash your hands frequently as well.

In an early study, researchers at Columbia University affirmed the importance of these health-promoting behaviors. They reported that 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak if physical distancing measures has started one week earlier; if physical distancing had begun two weeks earlier, 54,000 fewer people may have died.  More recent studies have reported that early interventions would have saved 100,000 lives.

If you are vaccinated, wearing a mask is still recommended in crowded indoor spaces, especially those with poor ventilation, and crowded outdoor spaces.  While being vaccinated gives you a high degree of immunity against COVID 19, as with all vaccines, there are still break through infections, although they will likely be mild.

From Johns Hopkins University
Read more at the Johns Hopkins Resource Center

How do I protect myself and others?
Get vaccinated against COVID. If you are unvaccinated, it is important wear a mask and avoid close contact with others from outside your household until the majority of people are vaccinated (80%). The coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, their droplets can infect people nearby. Understand that people (including children) may be infected with the new coronavirus and have only mild symptoms.

The COVID 19 can survive for hours or even days on some surfaces. If you are unvaccinated, touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face is one of the ways to become infected. The virus is no longer detectable on plastic after 72 hours, and on stainless steel or cardboard after about 48 hours. With that in mind, wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, especially:

  • After being in public places and touching door handles, shopping carts, elevator buttons, etc.
  • After using the bathroom
  • Before preparing food
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • If you cough or sneeze, do so in the bend of your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately.

If you are unvaccinated or vaccinated and immunocompromised:

  • Continue to wear cloth face coverings in public and where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
  • Wear a mask in close or confined spaces with poor ventilation.
  • Avoid large crowds if possible, but if not, wear a mask.
  • Practice social and physical distancing by staying at least six feet away from others in public places.
  • Avoid people who appear sick.
  • Practice good hygiene wherever you are.​​​​​​​
  • Wear a mask if you are caring for someone who has respiratory symptoms and clean counters, door knobs, phones and tablets frequently, using disinfectant cleaners or wipes

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The AAP recommends adolescents ages 12 and older get vaccinated against COVID-19.  Read more.

Masks and other spread containment measures for younger children: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly endorses the use of safe and effective infection control procedures to protect children. For coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), effective infection control and prevention requires the use of a cloth face covering. Children 2 years of age and older have demonstrated they can be taught basic infection control skills (such as hand washing and physical distancing), including wearing a cloth face covering. Many cloth face coverings have demonstrated similar infection control performance to standard medical facemasks used in health care settings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the safe return of children to school, child care, and other group settings must include the universal use of cloth face coverings by children 2 years of age and older and the adults with whom they interact.

Cloth face coverings can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including the vast majority of children with underlying health conditions, with rare exception. In addition to protecting the child, the use of cloth face coverings significantly reduces the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory infections within schools and other community settings, as well as in the home. Use of cloth face coverings at home may be beneficial in helping children to become accustomed with their use in school. Home use of face coverings also may be particularly valuable in households that include medically fragile or at-risk adults and children. Parents are encouraged to discuss infection control practices with their pediatrician.  Read more.