COVID-19 is a dangerous disease caused by a virus discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is very contagious and has quickly spread around the world.
COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, the flu, or pneumonia, but COVID-19 can also harm other parts of the body.
Most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill.
Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and effective.
About the name
On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease: coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated COVID-19. ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is a coronavirus. The word corona means crown and refers to the appearance that coronaviruses get from the spike proteins sticking out of them.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect people and many animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. There are many types of coronaviruses, including some that give people a common head or chest cold. Other coronavirus diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are extremely dangerous but are much less widespread than colds and COVID-19.
Protect Unvaccinated Family Members
Some people in your family need to continue to take steps to protect themselves from COVID-19, including
- Anyone not fully vaccinated, including children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated yet
- People with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions
Wear a mask
- If you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older, you should wear a mask in indoor public places.
- In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
- In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may NOT be protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
- If you are fully vaccinated, see When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated.
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. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).
Stay 6 feet away from others
- Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from other people.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Authorized COVID-19 vaccines can help protect you from COVID-19.
- You should get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
- Once you are fully vaccinated, you may be able to start doing some things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Being in crowds like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters puts you at higher risk for COVID-19.
- Avoid indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors as much as possible.
- If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.
Wash your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- It’s especially important to wash:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your mask
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- If soap and water are not readily 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- If you are wearing a mask: You can cough or sneeze into your mask. Put on a new, clean mask as soon as possible and wash your hands.
- If you are not wearing a mask:
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean high-touch surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Use a household disinfectant product from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19)external icon according to manufacturer’s labeled directions.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
Monitor your health daily
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Especially important if you are running essential errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated?
How to Protect Yourself and Others?
Safer Activities for You and Your Family:
- If you are fully vaccinated, you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic.
- To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.
- You should continue to wear a mask where required by-laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance.
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, find a vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can do things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
In general, people are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.
If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be protected even if you are fully vaccinated. You should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by your healthcare provider.
What You Can Do
If you’ve been fully vaccinated:
- You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
- To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
- If 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.
What You Should Keep Doing
For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:
- You will still need to follow the guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
- If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others.
- Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.
- You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others. If your test is positive, isolate at home for 10 days.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
What We Know
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, including severe illness and death.
- COVID-19 vaccines are effective against severe disease and death from variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 currently circulating, including the Delta variant.
- Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.
- If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.
- People with weakened immune systems, including people who take immunosuppressive medications, may not be protected even if fully vaccinated.