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COVID-19: Fact and Fiction

What we know so far

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Common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever,
  • Cough, 
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Chills,
  • Repeated shaking with chills,
  • Muscle pain,
  • Headache,
  • Sore throat, and
  • New loss of taste or smell.

Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]


Asymptomatic: You can be infected with COVID-19 and not display any symptoms.  [Harvard Health]



SOCIAL: In times of crisis, it is critical for everyone to know the facts and come together as a community to help one another. 


CIVICS: The White House has created a "Coronavirus Task Force" comprised of representatives from these federal departments:

  • Office of the Vice President
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) / National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC) / Office of the Surgeon General
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

[The New York Times]


You can get COVID

Everyone is able to get the virus. No one is immune. You get COVID-19 only from infected individuals that:

  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Exchange salvia 

The virus can live in the air for hours and on surfaces for days. Research out of NIH found the virus can live up to [National Institutes of Health, Science Daily]

  • 3 hours in the air,
  • 24 hours on cardboard and
  • up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

This virus is dangerous because people who feel healthy can have COVID-19 and easily infect others. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]




You can prevent transmission by:

  • Washing your hands often,
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol,
  • Avoiding touching your face (mouth, eyes, nose),
  • Avoiding crowds of more than 10 people,
  • Staying 6 feet away from others,
  • Social distancing, isolation or quarantine.

[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],  [Cleveland Clinic]


An official death rate is difficult to report at this time. [Reuters]

  • Older individuals or people with serious medical conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease) are at a higher risk to contract and die from COVID-19. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
  • Younger individuals or people considered healthy are less likely to contract and/or die from COVID-19. [Harvard Health]
  • There is a threat to healthy or young individuals. [The Los Angeles Times]


The following are statements that have been proven to be false, unverified, or requires more scientific study at this time.


"I'm young, I'll be fine"

Response from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID

  • There will be, as we’ve seen in influenza, an occasional person, who’s young and healthy, who winds up getting COVID-19, seriously ill and dies,” [The Los Angeles Times]

  • CDC data shows nearly 40% of patients hospitalized in the U.S. are 20 to 54 years old. [The New York Times]

  • About half of the severe cases in France are individuals 65 years or younger. [The New York Times]

  • You can be "asymptomatic," meaning you can be infected and not show symptoms.

  • You can easily and unknowingly spread the virus to someone at risk. [Harvard Health]


"It's just like the flu"

Response from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

  • COVID-19 "is a unique virus with unique characteristics,”
  • COVID-19 "causes more severe illness" than the seasonal flu strains,
  • People have "no immune protection against COVID-19," compared to various protections against seasonal flu (vaccines). 
  • "The seasonal flu cannot be contained." But we can work to mitigate COVID-19.


"I recovered, I won't get it again"

Response from the World Health Organization:

  • There is "no evidence" showing you can't get COVID-19 again. [Reuters]
  • The WHO warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have recovered.  [Reuters]
  • The WHO warned believing such a statement could increase infections.  [Reuters]


"My dog gave me corona"

Response from National Geographic:

  • Animals can contract COVID-19. [National Geographic]
  • Experts agree there needs to be more scientific tests and studies done.
  • CDC: There is no evidence that pets can transmit coronavirus to humans. [The New York Times]
  • Do not abandon or euthanize your pet.


  • There are at least 1 million confirmed cases in the United States. Track cases worldwide with Johns Hopkins University.
  • States and cities are taking control to do what is best for their citizens and community. [The Verge]
  • Mar. 13, 2020: President Trump declared a national emergency to help fight the pandemic. This declaration provides $50 billion in additional funding. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • Mar. 29, 2020: The White House strongly encouraged social distancing recommendations until April 30, 2020. [NPR]
  • May 1, 2020: The White House allowed social distancing guidelines to "expire" with the focus now on reopening states. [USA Today]
  • May 5, 2020: The U.S. continues to see a climbing rate of infection. [The New York Times]


  • Everyone needs to work together in the community to "flatten the curve." [NPR]
  • Allergies, flu, or coronavirus? How do you know? Learn more with The New York Times.
  • How are you helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
  • Dive deep into more facts around the flu vs. COVID-19 from ProPublica. 
  • Here is the CDC's framework for "mitigation."
  • Here is the CDC's tips for managing anxiety during a quarantine.
  • How does COVID-19 impact homeland security? Read how the Department of Homeland Security is responding to the threat. 
Key Vocabulary