General Information on COVID-19

COVID-19 Virus & Symptoms

The 2019 Novel (New) Coronavirus is a virus that causes a disease called COVID-19. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills 
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

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How COVID-19 Spreads

The virus is spread from one person to another person, either in close contact (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes.

COVID-19 can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The researchers also found that this virus can hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But most often they will fall more quickly. 

Follow CDC’s recommendations for disinfection methods and products:

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Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Personal Hygiene

  • Everyone should monitor their health status and stay home when feeling symptoms of any illness.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • The use of equipment such as phones, headphones, microphones, and other personal equipment should not be shared, and should be sanitized before and after each use.

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Cleaning & Disinfection

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Personal Protective Equipment

Face Coverings

Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control

Governor’s Executive Order No. 202.16: Face Coverings for Essential Workers

All employees in the workplace must wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public. Essential employees may use their own face covering if it meets the CDC guidelines. Otherwise it is the responsibility of the employer to supply them with one. 

Governor’s Executive Order No. 202.17: Face Coverings for Community Members

All community members – who are over the age of 2 and can medically tolerate a face covering – are required to cover their nose and mouth with a cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain social distance. Individuals, who are currently in isolation or quarantine, should use a face mask while interacting with other household members or their caregiver. 

Note: The use of N95 and surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers and other sectors when appropriate.  


The use of gloves is recommended for cleaning, caring for someone who is sick, or certain workplace environments. Gloves are not a substitute for regular hand washing.

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Social Distancing

Social distancing is an effective way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of people you come into close contact with (within 6-feet). 

  • Maintain 6-feet distance from others in public spaces and use a face covering over your nose AND mouth when unable to do so (see above). 
  • Consider alternative gatherings, such as parties on a virtual platform or car parades. 
  • If you’re hosting an in-person event, please consider the following: 
    • Limit the guest list to family and close friends. 
    • Ask guests not to attend the party if they’re experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. 
    • Wear a face covering over your nose AND mouth. 
    • Encourage guests outside your household to maintain a 6-foot distance and wear a face covering if unable to do so.
    • Move the party outside. 
    • Before and after the party, homeowners should clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, particularly in bathrooms and food preparation spaces (TV remotes, tables, doorknobs, handrails, telephones, light switches, etc.) (see above). 

Note: All in-person gatherings in NYS are limited to 50 people or less. Please visit the New York Forward page. 

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If You Have COVID-19 Symptoms

Most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. 

  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. 
  • Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible).  
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Consult with your doctor if you have new or worsening symptoms. If you do not have a doctor, call the NYS Department of Health Hotline: 1-888-364-3065.  
  • If you have a medical appointment, notify your healthcare provider ahead of time that you have or may have COVID-19.   
  • Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, TV remotes, food and drinks. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.

If you or a family member develops emergency warning signs, call 911 and get medical attention immediately. Tell the 911 operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19. 

  • In adults, emergency warning signs*: 
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest 
    • New confusion 
    • Inability to wake or stay awake 
    • Bluish lips or face  

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any symptom that is severe or concerning.

Visit the CDC’s website for more information:

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High-Risk Populations

Older adults (60 years and older) and people of any ages with certain underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.). Pregnant women have had a higher risk of severe illness when infected with viruses similar to COVID-19 and may be more vulnerable.

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COVID-19 testing is now available to all eligible New Yorkers. Call your health care provider or the New York State COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065 to find out if you qualify. 

Free testing is available at testing locations run by New York State. If you go to a test site operated by local governments, private companies, including pharmacies and medical practices or not-for-profit organizations, call ahead to find out if you meet testing requirements. Additionally, contact your insurance carrier before being tested to confirm you will not be responsible for any fees associated with your test.

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There are no drugs or other therapeutics presently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent or treat COVID-19. People infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment in a hospital might be required. Call your healthcare provider to find out more about what care and treatment is available to you. 

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Pets & COVID-19

While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person. While CDC recommends that people traveling to affected countries avoid animals both live and dead, there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with COVID-19.

Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.  A small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19. 

However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene.

Learn more at the CDC website:

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Mental Health & COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Taking care of yourself, your friends and family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

 Additional Resources 

Page updated October 1, 2020

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