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What is the novel coronavirus?

It is a new virus that had never been detected before January 2020. The virus has spread quickly since then and has been detected on every continent besides Antarctica.

Coronaviruses are not something new. They are a large family of viruses that are common in people and animals. What makes COVID-19 different is that this one is new or “novel” given that we have never seen it before.

What are the differences between “COVID-19” and “novel coronavirus”?

Essentially, they’re the same thing. COVID-19 is the acronym for the official name of the virus known as “coronavirus disease 2019.” It was given this name by the World Health Organization.

What is a pandemic?

It is a worldwide spread of a new disease. It is when a new virus emerges and spreads around the world where most people do not have immunity. The World Health Organization categorized COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus spreads easily from person-to-person. It is spread through respiratory droplets. The droplets are created when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can travel on our body and can live on surfaces.

What are the symptoms of the virus?

Fever, dry cough, fatigue, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. In mild cases, symptoms can resemble the flu. Sometimes symptoms take two to 14 days to appear which is called the incubation period.

Where did COVID-19 come from?

It was first detected in Wuhan, China. Researchers are still studying the exact origins but believe it may have come from bats. The first cases may have been spread from animal to people. Since then, the virus has mutated and now spreads from person to person.

Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

How do I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If you are in public places, do this frequently … and if you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day. This includes tables, light switches, door knobs, phones, sinks, etc.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

If I’m concerned that I might have COVID-19, what do I do?

Call your doctor before you visit. This will avoid sitting in a waiting room where you can potentially infect others. If possible, wear a face mask to your appointment. Cover your coughs and sneezes. In some states, there are hotlines to call if you think you may be infected. If your illness is severe, seek immediate medical attention. Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health care department to ensure they record the number of cases.

Should I use a face mask to protect myself?

No. You do not need to wear a face mask unless you are sick yourself or if you are caring for someone who is sick. Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

How do I protect my family?

If you or anyone in your household is sick, stay home. Tell your family to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.

What does a COVID-19 test look like? What is the protocol for people who get tested?

The test involves using a specimen like a nose or throat swab or some phlegm. They use a standard molecular biology technique to detect any amount of the virus in the specimen.

When will treatment or vaccines be made?

There is no known cure for COVID-19. As far as treatment goes, researchers estimate a vaccine is at least a year away. Some drugs are being tested now. They would have to be tested on a small group of people and then a larger group.

Should I travel during the outbreak?

International travel is strongly discouraged especially to China, Iran and South Korea. On Wednesday night, President Trump announced all travel from Europe is suspended for the next 30 days. There have been no travel bans domestically yet. Some tribal nations are strongly discouraging non-members to visit their reservations at this time.

I see community members who aren’t concerned about COVID-19. What do I say to them?

There has never been a virus detected like COVID-19 before which means there are many “unknowns” to the pandemic. There is no way to tell how long it will take for researchers to find a treatment for the virus before it spreads further. There is no way to tell how our public health system will be able to handle cases of people who may need to be hospitalized. Because of these and other factors, it is important to be diligent about stopping the spread of the virus now.

Isn’t the seasonal flu more deadly than COVID-19?

So far, yes. The seasonal flu is something we’ve seen before which means it can be slowed by vaccines and sometimes people build immunity from it because of past outbreaks. Because COVID-19 has never been seen before, there is no way to tell how many people will get it or how many of those cases will be fatal.

Why is hand sanitizer, clorox, and toilet paper missing from my local store?

They are hot commodities. Hand sanitizers made with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used as an alternative to washing your hands when you are in public places. Disinfecting wipes like Clorox are some of the most common EPA-registered household disinfectants. And besides these items, people are stocking up with water, toilet paper and non-perishable food in the event that everyone is required to self-quarantine in their homes.

I have seen many events be cancelled. Why is this happening?

Many are hoping that cancelling large public gatherings will help stop the spread of the virus. At basketball tournaments, conferences and music festivals, people are often in close proximity to one another. They are shaking hands, sneezing, coughing, etc.

Why are people worried about creating a stigma surrounding COVID-19?

In times of emergencies, some people associate fear with nationality. Because COVID-19 originated in China, there have been reports that people of Asian descent are experiencing stigmas. In particular, of people avoiding them or expressing harsh words towards them. This affects the emotional and mental health of those who are being discriminated against. It is important to note that viruses do not target specific racial groups— therefore it is not possible for people of Asian descent to give it to others simply based on their race.

Every news organization is talking about COVID-19. What is the best source of information?

The best website is It serves as information central from The Centers for Disease Control. Besides this, major news organizations are briefed by officials. Indian Country Today is also working diligently to bring accurate information as fast as possible.

What events in Indian Country are cancelled, postponed or still on?

Indian Country Today is keeping a running list of all the events. Contact our reporter Aliyah Chavez about the event and link to the announcement. 


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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at

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