General Coronavirus Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus, symptoms, prevention, and how COVID-19 spreads.

In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes COVID-19, which was discovered in late 2019.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or 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. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

A COVID-19 self-checker is available on the CDC website.

As of March 2, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control offered this information about transmission: 

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 or sneezes.

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

Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can 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; this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

At a state level, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan have launched a Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148.

Discrimination Helpline: 1-833-454-0148

This helpline reinforces the state’s efforts to protect the civil rights of Minnesotans. It allows those who experience or witness bias and discrimination to report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

The creation of the Discrimination Helpline comes at a time when there's continued reports from Asian American community members who are experiencing heightened fear and backlash due to COVID-19. One of the disconcerting aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is the continued rise of xenophobia and racism. 

Every Minnesotan can call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or complete and submit the Discrimination Reporting online form. The helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Interpreters are available. 

Translation services are available and information about the helpline is available in 17 different languages


As this situation continues to rapidly evolve, fears tend to rise to the highest level, which may influence how people perceive and treat others. We are committed to an environment free of discrimination and to ensuring that all members of our community conduct themselves with integrity and respect, as per our Core Values.

Please remember to treat others kindly and respectfully and do not make assumptions about COVID-19 exposure or other discriminatory comments based on perceived race, color or ethnic origins. It is important to be informed of accurate information and not rely on rumors or speculation that leads to misinformation. You are encouraged to review the FAQs listed here, as well as the Helpful Resources, to obtain the most accurate information.

Recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

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.

Routine cleaning and disinfecting is key to maintaining a safe environment for faculty, students, and staff.

Cleaning removes dirt and most germs and is usually done with soap and water.

Disinfecting kills most germs, depending on the type of chemical, and only when the chemical product is used as directed on the label.

Those who feel sick are recommended to stay home until they are free of fever, signs of a fever and any other symptoms for at least 3 days, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick and seek medical attention depending on the severity of their symptoms.

Minnesota's screening tool can help you determine if you should be tested for COVID-19. 

In general, people who do not have symptoms should not be tested for COVID-19, but the Minnesota Department of Health may recommend that people who do not have symptoms get tested in certain situations, such as a setting where an outbreak is occurring.

Most of these can be treated with rest and over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms. Absent a positive test, there is no way to know if an acquaintance is suffering from COVID-19 or another illness. The University is not in a position to require employees or students who are ill to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test.

It is understandable that you may feel stressed or anxious about the situation. It is a good idea to get the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable precautions. The CDC has many resources on this topic.

Your healthcare provider, your national public health authority and your employer are all potential sources of accurate information on COVID-19.

You do need to take the risk of infection seriously. Follow the advice issued by national and local health authorities. Although for most people COVID-19 causes only mild illness, it can make some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable.

It’s understandable that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation. The Minnesota Department of Health has tips for Supporting Mental Well-Being During COVID-19.