What to know about COVID-19

March 18, 2020

What to know about COVID-19

Highlights of CDC’s Response

  • CDC established a COVID-19 Incident Management System on January 7, 2020. On January 21, CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to better provide ongoing support to the COVID-19 response.
  • The U.S. government has taken unprecedented steps with respect to travel in response to the growing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus:
    • Foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland and any one of 26 European countries within the past 14 days cannot enter the United States.
    • U.S. citizens, residents, and their immediate family members who have been any one of those countries within the past 14 days can enter the United States, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.
    • People at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
    • Additionally, the CDC has issued the following additional specific travel guidance related to COVID-19.
  • CDC has issued clinical guidance, including:
    • Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
    • Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients, including guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during a shortage.

    • Preparing for COVID-19: Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes
    • Discontinuation of Home Isolation for Persons with COVID-19
  • CDC also has issued guidance for other settings, including schools, and mass gatherings.
    • Guidance for Child Care Settings.
    • Resources for Large Community Events & Mass Gatherings
  • CDC has deployed multidisciplinary teams to support the state health department's case identification, contact tracing, clinical management, and public communications.
  • CDC has worked with federal partners to support the safe return of Americans overseas who have been affected by COVID-19.


  • An important part of the CDC’s role during a public health emergency is to develop a test for the pathogen and equip state and local public health labs with testing capacity.
    • CDC developed an RRT-PCR test to diagnose COVID-19.
    • As of the evening of March 15, 89 state and local public health labs in 50 states and the District of Columbia have successfully verified and are currently using CDC COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
    • Combined with other reagents that CDC has procured, there are enough testing kits to test more than 75,000 people.
    • Commercial manufacturers are now producing their own tests.
  • CDC has grown the COVID-19 virus in cell culture, which is necessary for further studies, including for additional genetic characterization. The cell-grown virus was sent to NIH’s BEI Resources Repositoryexternal icon for use by the broad scientific community.
  • CDC also is developing a serology test for COVID-19.

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CDC Recommends

  • Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
    • On March 16, the White House announced a program called “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” pdf icon external icon which is a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the implementation of social distancing at all levels of society.
    • Older people and people with severe chronic conditions should take special precautions because they are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
    • If you are a healthcare provider, use your judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Factors to consider in addition to clinical symptoms may include:
      • Does the patient have recent travel from an affected area?
      • Has the patient been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or with patients with pneumonia of unknown cause?
      • Does the patient reside in an area where there has been community spread of COVID-19?
    • If you are a healthcare provider or a public health responder caring for a COVID-19 patient, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
    • If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.
    • If you are a resident in a community where there is an ongoing spread of COVID-19 and you develop COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.
  • For people who are ill with COVID-19, but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness.
  • If you have been in China or another affected area or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow the spread of this virus.