Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of single-stranded RNA viruses that cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness. Some coronaviruses can only infect humans and we see these cases as the common cold. Other coronaviruses are more dangerous such SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes the disease COVID-19), SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus), and MERS-CoV (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) are what is known as zoonotic viruses. Zoonotic viruses originate in animals and crossed over to infect humans.

Is COVID over?

SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will most likely be in the human population for the foreseeable future.  However, much of the population has at least some immunity to the virus, and we are now seeing far fewer deaths from COVID than in the early days of the pandemic.  There may still be waves of outbreaks in the future, highlighting the importance to continue to monitor the situation and take reasonable precautions.

How can I protect myself?

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay up to date with vaccination against COVID-19 (see Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC for information on staying up to date).  Avoiding sick people, curtailing travel during outbreaks, using masks, social distancing, good hand hygiene, and improved ventilation are all reasonable strategies to protect yourself.  For more on this, see How to Protect Yourself and Others | CDC.

Do I need to take precautions or be worried anymore?

Now that effective vaccines, antivirals, and other treatments are available, COVID-19 is not as dangerous for the average individual as it once was.  However, it is still advisable to be aware of the local factors. In the event of a local outbreak, it is recommended to take precautions such as social distancing, masking, and other known preventative measures to contain the virus spread.

General COVID-19 Variant Questions

What is a variant?

Variants are genetic branches from the original strain of a virus, or the ancestral strain. These variants occur through random mutation during virus replication. Virus mutations that are resistant to natural immune response have an increased replication rate which leads to higher rates of disease. The omicron variant and its subvariants are the dominant variant of SARS-Cov-2 as of May 2023..

What is Omicron?

Omicron is the most mutated strain to date, with over 32 mutations in the spike protein alone, which is twice as many seen with the Delta variant. These mutations have specifically made omicron better at binding to the human ACE-2 receptors, allowing the virus to better enter the body for infection and evade the immune system for detection. This could be the main reason why Omicron is more transmissible than the previous variants.