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The COVID-19 Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

*Updated: April 29, 2020*

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a patient traveling from Wuhan, China to Washington state tested positive for the coronavirus. Not much is known about the coronavirus, but the CDC says that it’s rapidly evolving.

What is the Coronavirus?

CDC officials said, “A novel (new) coronavirus is causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This outbreak began in early December 2019 and continues to expand in scope and magnitude.”

The Coronavirus is Similar to Other Respiratory Syndromes:

The Washington Post says, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to much more serious diseases and can infect both humans and animals, according to the World Health Organization. The strain spreading in China is related to two other coronaviruses that have caused major outbreaks in recent years: Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.”

Coronavirus Symptoms

Coronavirus Symptoms include:

  • Respiratory problems

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fever

  • Cough

Left untreated, this can lead to:

  • Pneumonia

  • Kidney failure

  • Acute respiratory syndrome

  • Death

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The CDC’s Immediate Response

The CDC immediately reached out to health officials in Washington State with a full agency response, and a team was deployed to assess the infected patient. Per the CDC’s protocol, all flights from Wuhan have been redirected to San Francisco (SFO), John F. Kennedy (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), and Atlanta (ATL).

The CDC also began screening passengers that were entering the United States from Wuhan. Incoming passengers are screened in a separate area, where health officials can observe travelers and look for signs of illness. Passengers’ temperatures are taken, and if they show signs of the coronavirus, they will receive public health support and additional medical attention at a local hospital. Screenings are not 100% effective, but they serve as educational tools and early intervention techniques. CDC officials hand out literature to asymptomatic airline passengers, and officials hope that if passengers start to show symptoms, they will reach out to a healthcare professional.

Thus far, the CDC has screened over 1,200 people; 12 have received more in-depth screening, and none met the symptoms for the coronavirus. The CDC raised the travel health notice to level 2, which means health officials should practice enhanced precautions. For those traveling to Wuhan, the CDC urges passengers to avoid contact with sick people, dead or alive animals, and animal markets.

Wuhan’s Response to the Coronavirus

Wuhan health officials are working rapidly to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to imposing travel restrictions, officials have set up screenings and are taking passengers’ temperatures at airports, train stations, ferry ports, and bus stations. The virus has come about during China’s Lunar New Year, which, according to the New York Times, “Is the world’s largest annual migration of people, with hundreds of millions of travelers fanning out across the country and the world.” However, many Chinese travelers have canceled their Lunar New Year plans.

Chinese officials issued stark warnings to travelers. Officials said they might not be able to contain a coronavirus outbreak and they are warning the public that the virus could mutate and become more widespread. According to CNBC, “On Thursday, China locked down the two cities at the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak. Most transport in Wuhan was suspended and people were told not to leave. Hours later, state media in neighboring Huanggang, a city of some 6 million people, said it was imposing a similar quarantine.”

Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus: The Importance of Hand Washing

The coronavirus, along with the 2019-2020 deadly flu season, serves as a reminder to practice good hand hygiene. Putting your hands in your eyes, nose, and mouth is the fastest way to spread germs and catch the flu or coronavirus. To prevent the flu and viral infections this season, individuals should learn the importance of proper handwashing. The CDC urges travelers to “wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.”

What to Do If You Have Symptoms of the Coronavirus

If individuals experience fever or symptoms in 14 days after exposure to an infected individual, that's an indicator to seek help. Immediately reach out to your healthcare provider, and let providers know ahead of time you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness’ Response

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness is following this outbreak closely, and we will continue to provide updates as news emerges. Although not much is known about the coronavirus at the moment, we feel it is our responsibility to discuss how this virus could potentially impact young children. Young children have no pre-existing immune systems, and according to Vox, “if a child gets a virus she's never had before, because she has no preexisting protection, her illness is typically going to be more intense and last longer.” The coronavirus could potentially be more deadly for young children, so if parents notice symptoms of the coronavirus, they should reach out to their pediatrician immediately.

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February 12, 2020 Coronavirus Update

Recent Updates:

  • On Monday, February 10, 2020, the CDC announced that a 13th patient in the United States is infected with the coronavirus.

  • On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the 2019 novel coronavirus will now be called COVID-19.

  • The coronavirus has now killed more than 1,100 people.

  • The virus has infected over 45,000 people worldwide.

  • The majority of cases are in Mainland China.

  • According to CNN, “A total of 175 cases have been confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined in Japan.”

  • After a 2-week quarantine, Chinese citizens are returning to work. Yet, in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, millions are still under lockdown.

  • CNN reported from the WHO, “It's too early to predict the end of the current novel coronavirus outbreak, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program.”

  • The CDC is preparing the United States: Dr. Nancy Messonnier is the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Dr. Messonnier said, “Most of the disease is in China, however, we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the US. The goal of the measures we have taken to date are to slow the introduction and impact of this disease in the United States, but at some point we are likely to see community spread in the US or other countries and this will trigger a change in our response strategy.”

  • The CDC says, “With the tighter travel restrictions now in place, there are now fewer passengers flying to the United States from China. Those who do are still being asked to self-monitor for 14 days in cooperation with the state and local health department, and to limit their activities and stay home during that period.”

  • United States: 420 people in 41 states have been under investigation by the CDC.

  • According to CNN, Illinois is the first state with the capability to test patients for the novel coronavirus. The test can produce results within 24 hours of receiving samples.

February 26, 2020 COVID-19 Updates:

  • The CDC says, “There is no evidence that children are more susceptible. In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults.”

  • The CDC also said, “Limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) have been reported in at least one child with COVID-19. These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms, and though severe complications (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.”

  • NPR reported, “Federal health officials issued a blunt message Tuesday: Americans need to start preparing now for the possibility that more aggressive, disruptive measures might be needed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in the U.S.”

  • Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more really a question of when it will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

  • The United States should be prepared for, “Measures that include school closings, workplace shutdowns, and canceling large gatherings and public events.”

  • NPR also says, “So far, there have been 14 confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the U.S. and 40 other cases among people from the Diamond Princess cruise who were repatriated to the U.S.”

Americans should be thinking about:

  • Making child care plans in the event that schools and daycare programs close.

  • Figuring out how to work from home.

  • Finding out whether there might be a way to get medical care remotely, such as through telemedicine.

March 12, 2020, COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates:

New information has emerged from the CDC:

  • COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats.

  • Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death.

  • As of the evening of March 8, 78 state and local public health labs in 50 states and the District of Columbia have successfully verified and are currently using COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

  • Combined with other reagents that CDC has procured, there are enough testing kits to test more than 75,000 people.

As of today’s reporting in the United States:

  • Total cases: 1,215

  • Total deaths: 36

  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 43 (42 states and District of Columbia)

Information from the World Health Organization:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

  • Maintain at least 3 feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

  • When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

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March 19, 2020 Update: Dr. Butler from the CDC:

  • COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, spreading to more than 150 countries.

  • The elderly and those over age 80 are at the highest risk for infection.

  • More than half of all COVID-19 deaths are individuals that live in long-term care facilities.

  • Families should practice social distancing, especially with elders, and those with underlying health conditions.

  • Virtual communication is crucial. This is not a good time for children to give grandma and grampa a hug and a kiss. Stick to phone calls instead.

  • The CDC also recommends driving to a grandparent’s house and waving through the window to maintain social contact while keeping your distance.

  • If you have symptoms of respiratory illness, stay away from those with chronic health conditions and the elderly.

  • For the general population, the vast majority of people will experience mild illness.

  • Because most who are infected will not require treatment from a healthcare provider, it will be a challenge to control the spread of the virus.

  • COVID-19 may spread from people who have no symptoms at all or from those who have not developed symptoms.

  • The virus spreads through respiratory droplets and affects the respiratory tract.

  • Clean surfaces with household disinfectants, including tabletops, phones, and doorknobs, as the virus can survive for minutes or hours on surfaces.

  • COVID-19 impacts education, commerce, and transportation. This requires everybody to work together to respond and be prepared.

  • People who are sick cannot come into work.

  • Be kind to your neighbors. Find out if they need help. We need to look out for one another and stand together, but 6 feet apart.

  • Encourage teleworking to lighten the load on the public transit system.

  • Avoiding mass gatherings: Gatherings of more than 10 people are cause for concern.

When Will The Outbreak End?

There are lots of variables at play. Dr. Butler says, “In many ways, we want the pandemic to spread out over a long period as possible. We want to flatten the curve and affect the fewest amount of people possible over a time period.” Will the virus go away in the summer? “Influenza generally does go away in the summer. The pandemic of 2009 experienced a lull through the summer months. We don’t know about the coronavirus yet. But, it would be a good idea to prepare for the fall outbreaks,” Dr. Butler stated.

If We Don’t Flatten the Curve:

  • We will overwhelm the healthcare system if everyone gets sick at the same time.

  • If the virus infects individuals over a period of 3-4 months, our healthcare system can manage patients.

  • Tips to reduce stress on our healthcare system:

  • Elective procedures and regular office visits can be deferred for weeks or months.

  • Be on alert for severe symptoms: high fever, trouble breathing, tightness in the chest.

  • Call your local ER or doctor in advance to minimize the risk of exposure.

COVID-19 Travel Advisements:

  • Americans should seriously consider delaying travel.

  • No one should travel on cruise lines at the moment due to the rapid spreading of COVID-19.

  • People who are older and those with chronic heart, lung, and kidney diseases should not travel within the United States.

How Should We Avoid Stigmatizing Groups or Products?

  • COVID-19 is a global disease, and it affects everyone. There is no justification for stigmatizing anyone.

  • It’s also important not to shun or shame people who have COVID-19.

  • Epidemiology indicates that the virus is not spread through the mail.

  • The CDC doesn’t believe that products coming out of China have played a role in the spread of COVID-19.


Quarantine: Separating someone who’s been exposed to infectious agents from others.

  • Taking people and separating them from their loved ones.

  • Achieves the goal of preventing transmission that may occur early in the illness.

Isolation: Commonly used every day in hospitals. Taking someone who is sick, and separating them from people who are well. This prevents the transmission from the infected to the people who are well.

What Can State and Local Agencies Do to Prepare and Respond?

  • Every state has gone through some type of pandemic exercise.

  • Organizations should stay in touch with state, local, and tribal leaders to provide funding and technical advice.

  • Local jurisdictions should have a dedicated emergency operations center.

  • Local health departments are building capacity. State funding is intended to be flexible for the state or local agencies to use in a way that’s best for the community.

  • The States that struggled with funding issues could not prepare well in advance for this pandemic.

  • Funding helps with public health nurses, case investigations, health educators, messaging appropriate for the community, and data studies by epidemiologists.

  • Public health funding is not dedicated to treatment centers.

  • Funds are now available more broadly for disaster response. These funds will help to provide emergency care facilities as needed.

  • Each state has a dedicated COVID-19 website, as well as many cities and counties. it’s best to consult these sites for specific regulations and guidance.

Guidance for K-12:

  • There’s more fear when dealing with children.

  • When schools suddenly close it can stress the healthcare system.

  • If two parents are working someone has to stay home.

  • Grandparents babysitting could be a problem for taking care of the kids because they are at greater risk for infection.

  • Schools may re-open very soon and may need to close again. Going forward, recommendations may shift depending on how the virus progresses.

What Should Caregivers Tell Children?

  • Be honest with children, but there is no reason to scare kids.

  • Teach children that hand washing and covering coughs are more important now than ever.

  • Explain why schools have closed. It’s ok to frame it the same way as a snowstorm.

  • Dr. Butler says, “These situations can be scary, but these are things we have experienced in the past. This is something we’ll get through as well.”

How Quickly Will a Vaccine be Available?

  • Ongoing work in the development of a vaccine.

  • At least a year to year and a half out.

  • We’re in the early stages of candidate trials.

  • Trials then need to move through to the next phase.

  • Any vaccine recommended for the general public must be as safe and as protective as possible.

April 7, 2020 Update:

The COVID-19 coronavirus is a rapidly-evolving pandemic, with new information emerging daily. To keep up with all issues concerning child care and the early childhood community, we have created a dedicated National Dashboard for Early Childhood. We’re keeping track of child care closures, states that are providing incentives or grants to child care programs, states providing child care for children of essential workers, and states that classify child care programs as an essential business. Each state’s status can be shared using Facebook or Twitter. Check to see the status of your state’s child care programs:

Our friends at Bankrate have put together useful tips for handling cash during the coronavirus pandemic. Bankrate says, “To help with this issue, our experts put together a guide that explains what kinds of precautions to take when handling traditional currency and how to best utilize digital methods of payment. We also provide advice on what preventive measures consumers can take financially during these uncertain times.”

The newest information from the CDC:

  • If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.

  • If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.

  • If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (lung condition, heart condition, or weakened immune system), stay home and away from others.

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.

  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

  • The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

  • If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

  • 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.

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

  • The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

  • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

  • As of April 7, 2020, there are now at least 378,289 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and more than 11,000 deaths.

April 29, 2020 Update:

New Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes from the CDC:

Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces including your workplace, school, home, and business will require you to:

  • Develop your plan

  • Implement your plan

  • Maintain and revise your plan

This document provides a general framework for cleaning and disinfection practices. The framework is based on doing the following:

  1. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.

  2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk.  Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.

  3. When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children.

Some surfaces only need to be cleaned with soap and water. For example, surfaces and objects that are not frequently touched should be cleaned and do not require additional disinfection. Additionally, disinfectants should typically not be applied on items used by children, especially any items that children might put in their mouths. Many disinfectants are toxic when swallowed. In a household setting, cleaning toys and other items used by children with soap and water is usually sufficient. Find more information on cleaning and disinfection toys and other surfaces in the childcare program setting CDC's Guidance for Childcare Programs that Remain Open.

Consider practices that reduce the potential for exposure

It is also essential to change the ways we use public spaces to work, live, and play. We should continue thinking about our safety and the safety of others.

To reduce your exposure to or the risk of spreading COVID-19 after reopening your business or facility, consider whether you need to touch certain surfaces or materials. Consider wiping public surfaces before and after you touch them. These types of behavioral adjustments can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. There are other resources for more information on COVID-19 and how to Prevent Getting Sick.

Another way to reduce the risk of exposure is to make long-term changes to practices and procedures. These could include reducing the use of porous materials used for seating, leaving some doors open to reduce touching by multiple people, opening windows to improve ventilation, or removing objects in your common areas, like coffee creamer containers. There are many other steps that businesses and institutions can put into place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect their staff and the public. More information can be found at CDC’s Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.

Download the CDC's Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting: Click Here.

New COVID-19 Coronavirus Online Training Course for Early Childhood Professionals

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness released an online training course this week discussing everything we know about coronavirus. COVID-19 Coronavirus for Early Childhood Professionals. Learn more and register for the course today:

Who Is This Course For?

Any individual that’s interested in learning more about the COVID-19 coronavirus can take our training course. But, the course material is tailor-made for early childhood professionals, those that care for infants, toddlers, and children, Child Care Resource and Referral organizations, parents, child care providers, directors and administrators, and early childhood learning institutions.

We will continue to provide updates as the latest information becomes available.

Public health officials in the United States and abroad are doing everything in their power to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness has decades of experience in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. Don’t be scared. Be prepared. Schedule disaster plan creation and review, or emergency preparedness training in English or Spanish today:




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