What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19): Complete Guide For Parents

A Resource Guide For Parents: Everything You Need To Know About The Coronavirus

March 11, 2020 Updated June 1, 2020

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Scary Mommy and Thomas Barwick/Getty

With hundreds of articles being hastily loaded onto the web, many of them containing contradictory information, it’s hard to know exactly what to believe about COVID-19, caused by the virus known as coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2.

Well, you’re going to want to bookmark this page, because below is a wealth of common-sense, non-panicky information you’ll want to know for yourself as well as share with your friends, plus some links to the most reliable, up-to-date resources available for info on world, national, and state-level updates for COVID-19.

One point we want to clear up quickly, because people continue to debate this online and in our personal lives:

COVID-19 is NOT like the flu.

Tourists wearing masks walk through Union Square in New York City on February 28, 2020, amid fears of the coronavirus and a global pandemic.
Tourists wearing masks walk through Union Square in New York City on February 28, 2020, amid fears of the coronavirus and a global pandemic.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty

Here’s why:

With flu, many of us have been vaccinated (usually between 35 and 50 percent) which means the spread of flu is kept in check through herd immunity. No, this level of vaccination is not enough to provide full herd immunity, however it does help slow down progression of the flu. That is the major critical difference between flu and COVID-19.

The concern is not so much the number of people who become sick or even the number of people who die from COVID-19, but because of how rapidly the population could be infected, jamming up our healthcare systems to the point that people who need care cannot access it.

When experts recommend self-quarantine, it is not because they are panicking that everyone is going to die. It’s because they are trying to stem the spread of the virus so that our hospitals do not become overloaded with too many people requiring medical care all at once. This is not only a concern for those with coronavirus or flu, but also for everyday emergencies. If you were to get into a bad car accident, wouldn’t you like for there to be a bed available to you in the ER and doctors and nurses available to treat you?

With the latest research indicating an incubation period of approximately 5 days, we should all be concerned about how many people are carrying and transmitting COVID-19 without realizing it. This is why scientists and health officials recommend people avoid travel and crowds.

The other thing we all need to accept is that even if you’re confident your family would be just fine if they contracted COVID-19, you should still be concerned about the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Know anyone with cancer? Heart problems? Diabetes? An autoimmune disorder? They are all at risk. Even if you or your kids would just get the sniffles from this virus, it’s still on all of us to work together to do our parts to stem the spread, so as to protect those among us who would end up hospitalized or worse.

Practical Tips For Preventing The Spread Of COVID-19

Cameron Nightingale adjusts his mask and gloves, a precaution to protect himself from coronavirus, while walking by cable car in San Francisco, California on February 27, 2020.
Cameron Nightingale adjusts his mask and gloves, a precaution to protect himself from coronavirus, while walking by cable car in San Francisco, California on February 27, 2020.
JOSH EDELSON/Getty

So, what can you as an individual do to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in addition to the obvious washing of hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and staying home when you’re sick?

– Avoid crowded places. The majority of colleges and schools have shut down in-person classes, and most states have banned large groups of people from gathering. Most states have issued stay at home orders for anyone who is not an essential worker.

– Avoid unnecessary travel. Same reason as why you should avoid crowded places.

– Keep your distance from people when possible (the CDC says 6 feet is optimal).

Wear a mask when you are in public settings.

– Don’t hug or shake hands.

– Try to avoid touching “high-touch” surfaces, like door handles, service desks, etc. Use your sleeve, a tissue, the bottom of your shirt, or a hanky.

– Share accurate information. Correct people when they claim COVID-19 is a hoax or that people are “overreacting.”

From The World Health Organization: “This is an uneven epidemic at the global level. Different countries are in different scenarios, requiring a tailored response. It’s not about containment or mitigation – which is a false dichotomy. It’s about both. All countries must take a comprehensive blended strategy for controlling their epidemics and pushing this deadly virus back.”

The Very Latest On COVID-19

On March 11th, the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. “In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated at a briefing in Geneva. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.”

He also added that the WHO is “deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction” by world leaders.

Since the March 11th WHO declaration, cases of COVID-19 have increased rapidly around the world. The United States has been devastated with many cases of the virus, hospitalizations, and deaths. As of June 1st, there have been 1.8 million positive cases, and over 100,000 known deaths.

For up-to-date information about the latest number of known reported cases worldwide, check the following sources:

World Health Organization

U.S. Center for Disease Control (Be warned, though, the CDC may not reflect the latest numbers. According to the CDC site, “State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.”)

– You state department of health. (Google the name of your state along with “Department of Health COVID-19.” This should take you directly to your state’s page.)

OSHA site for workplace guidance

FAQs About COVID-19

What symptoms should I look out for?

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Usually, symptoms begin 2-14 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. Recently, the CDC added six new other possible symptoms, including chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. Many cases of COVID-19 can be managed at home, with comfort measures and guidance from your doctor. However, there are few symptoms that require immediate medical attention, including trouble breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, confusion/inability to stay alert and awake, and bluish lips or face.

Are the symptoms for kids and adults the same?

What we know about COVID-19 and children is constantly evolving. But so far, most cases of COVID-19 among children are milder than adults. Children are generally less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 as well. As the CDC explains, symptoms in children have mostly included cold-like symptoms, fever, runny nose, and coughing. Some children infected with COVID-19 have experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

“It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs,” explains the CDC.

However, over the past few weeks, a new condition affecting children and teens has emerged. “Pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome” has been seen in parts of Europe, as well as in the U.S. Most cases are treatable, but this condition is considered serious and usually requires hospitalization. Three children have died of it so far in New York. Symptoms include fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, stomach pain, and heart issues. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician for guidance.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

It’s important not overwhelm hospitals and emergency rooms with COVID-19 patients who are experiencing less severe symptoms, especially if you live in a heavily impacted area. At the same time, if you are having any COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact a healthcare provider ASAP. The CDC is recommending that unless you are having emergency symptoms of COVID-19 (trouble, pain in the chest, confusion, lips/face turning blue), you should call your doctor or urgent care center before leaving your home for medical care. Many doctors will consult with you and even prescribe you medicine through a virtual consultation.

Further Resources

CDC advice on coronavirus if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

Expert tips on how to talk to kids about coronavirus

Info for pregnant and postpartum moms

EPA list of products approved to kill coronavirus

What pediatricians have to say about asthmatic kids and COVID-19

Underlying conditions that put you into the “severe risk” category for COVID-19

A pediatrician’s biggest concerns about kids and COVID-19

The CDC’s coronavirus “self-checker” helps people assess symptoms

How to get government assistance if your family has been impacted by COVID-19

Food delivery and take-out is safe, but with guidelines

A psychologist’s thoughts about how to talk to kids about COVID-19

Experts say 25-50% of those infected with COVID-19 never show symptoms

What to know about COVID-19 stimulus checks

How to tell if your child’s symptoms are allergies, a cold, or COVID-19

Protecting your kids’ mental health during the pandemic

How to safely grocery shop during this pandemic

How to do laundry during a pandemic

What we know about making our homes safer against COVID-19

Can I run outside during a pandemic?

– COVID-19 and gastrointestinal symptoms: what we know

Doctors weigh in on ‘COVID toes’ and what to look for

What COVID-19 does to your lungs

The most promising treatment options for COVID-19 right now

What we do and don’t know about a possible COVID-19 vaccine

Pediatric disease expert weighs in on inflammatory condition linked to COVID-19

How to adjust your birth plan during COVID-19

What to know about COVID-19 antibody testing

Here are the CDC’s guidelines for the safe opening of schools

What parents should know as states start to re-open