About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

a molecular image (white molecule with attached red cell receptors) of COVID-19 coronavirus adapted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated 5/16/2022

COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, is a type of virus that has only spread in people since December 2019.  Health experts remain concerned because the virus is highly transmissible and not everyone is vaccinated.

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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel Coronavirus, which was discovered in 2019.

Although this particular "novel" viral variant is new, Coronaviruses as a group have been known to science since the late 1930's and are recognized to cause 15-30% of all winter "common colds", and it is likely that every adult in the world has been infected with at least one common cold-causing Coronavirus at some point in their lives.

The term “novel” is used to describe a virus that enters a new species (animal or human) in whose population the virus does not normally circulate.

Reported cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization. Seniors and individuals with certain underlying health conditions may be more likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Variant Strains

As viruses grow and spread, they sometimes mutate into new versions, called variant strains. 

  • Mutation is natural, and most mutations do no additional harm.
  • Some variants are more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. This means they can spread more easily and quickly, which may lead to more cases.
    • These are known as "variants of concern" by the CDC, and are heavily monitored

There are a number of currently known variant strains of COVID-19 that have been found in Oregon. The CDC names COVID-19 variants after a greek letter, such as "Alpha", "Delta", or "Omicron". For the latest information on COVID-19 variants, please see the Centers for Disease Control website:

The symptoms of variant strains are the same as for other COVID-19 illnesses. See the Symptoms list below.

At this time, it appears that all currently approved vaccines provide protection against all known variants. Some medical treatments are shown to be less effective in specific variants.

These general precautions help prevent all known COVID-19 illnesses:

  • Wear a face covering when outside the house.
  • Avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with.
  • Stay at least 6 feet from people you don’t live with.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often

While we continue efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible, we need to stay vigilant. This includes using preventative measures, such as masking and avoiding crowded activities.

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Updated 9/28/21

For confirmed COVID-19 cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild flu-like symptoms to severe illness and death. These symptoms may appear anytime two to fourteen days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • 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 and may be updated in the future

Learn more at CDC website

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COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected. People who are infected often have symptoms of illness. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus and some variants have been shown to be infectious even in vaccinated people.

Person-to-person spread

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).
  • 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.
  • COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic).

Maintaining good physical distance (about 6 feet) and utilizing a barrier to stop droplets, like a face mask, are both very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It is possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to be able to survive on a surface for 1-3 days, though this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Also, routinely clean frequently touched surfaces.

Learn more at CDC website

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The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention and Oregon Health Authority officials continue to recommend people in Oregon take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Follow current mask and face covering guidance.
  • Keep physically distanced when outside your home.
    • Maintain a distance of six feet or more between you and people who don't live in your household whenever possible.
  • Avoid crowded locations and activities.
    • Choose activities which don't involve gathering in large groups
    • The more people in an area, the greater the chance of transmission
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Cover all surfaces of your hand and rub them together until they feel dry.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
    • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
    • Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
  • Take care of your health overall. Stay current on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine, eat well and exercise to help your body stay resilient.

Consult CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the US.​ If you test positive or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, follow the instructions here: COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Guidance.

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