The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy

Important Things to Know about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) 

What is a coronavirus? What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a sickness that is caused by a coronavirus—a kind of germ. Germs are very small things that can make people and animals sick. Colds, flu, and pneumonia are also caused by germs. COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019,” since people started catching it in 2019.

How do people get COVID-19?

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from person to person. Coughing and sneezing can put germs in the air. When you breathe in those germs, you can get sick. You can also get COVID-19 by touching someone who has it. For example, if you shake hands with somebody who has COVID-19, the germs will go from their hands to yours.

How can I stay safe?

Here are some ways you can protect yourself from COVID-19.

  • Don’t sit, stand, or lie down too close to other people. This is called social distancing. When you’re in a store or other public place, you should stand at least six feet apart from other people. The farther apart you stand, the harder it is for the virus to spread.
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine if you can. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will make it harder for you to catch the virus. If it’s harder for people to catch the virus, then fewer people will get COVID-19. There are three vaccines available in the United States, all made by different companies: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use two shots, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses one shot. You are fully vaccinated two weeks after you’ve had your Johnson & Johnson shot, or two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna shot.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth, especially if you’re not fully vaccinated. Even if you are vaccinated, you’ll still have to wear a mask on trains, buses, subways, and other kinds of public transportation.
  • If you can, do your shopping online instead of going in person.
  • Wash your hands before you eat, when you go to the bathroom, and after you sneeze or blow your nose. Make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. Use a tissue if you can. After you sneeze, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. You should also cough and sneeze into your elbow.

What happens to people when they get COVID-19?

  • Most people who get COVID-19 will have coughs and fevers. If your temperature is higher than 100.4° F, you have a fever.
  • Some people will also have trouble breathing.
  • Some people can get very sick from COVID-19. They can even die. Hundreds of thousands of people have already died of COVID-19 in the United States alone.
  • Some people can have the virus without even knowing it. Even if you feel all right, you can still spread the virus to other people and make them sick. It’s better to be safe than sorry! 
  • There are some people who may feel worse from COVID-19. Older people are more likely to feel worse. So are people who already have health problems. Some of these health problems include diabetes (high blood sugar), high blood pressure, and asthma (trouble breathing). If you are older or have another health problem, it is especially important to keep yourself safe.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

  • If you are having trouble breathing and have a fever, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about how you are feeling and find ways to help you. You may be able to get tested for COVID-19 before you see a doctor. Many stores now sell home COVID-19 tests. You can also get a COVID-19 test at a hospital, pharmacy, or clinic.
  • Wear your mask indoors if you live with other people. Masks make it harder for germs to spread to other people.
  • Stay away from other people as much as you can. This is very important! If you aren’t around other people very much, it’s harder for them to catch the virus.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Get as much sleep as you can.
  • Stay home! It is important not to spread your germs.
  • Take cough medicine, painkillers, and other medicine. Cough medicine and painkillers won’t kill COVID-19, but they’ll help with fever, pain, and coughing. Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure the medicine you’re taking is safe.
  • Your doctor may tell you to quarantine yourself. When you quarantine yourself, you stay inside and away from other people. Quarantining keeps other people from getting sick. This is because they can’t pick up your germs. You should stay in quarantine for two weeks. After two weeks’ time, get in touch with your doctor for next steps.


Administration for Community Living:

Centers for Disease Control:

(This document was last edited on July 27, 2021.)