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Information for Educators on COVID-19

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In late 2019, a new respiratory illness appeared in Wuhan, China, caused by SARS-CoV-2, a betacoronavirus like MERS and SARS, both of which originated in bats. The respiratory illness coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) expanded rapidly and now represents an evolving public health emergency, with new information published daily. 

SARS-CoV-2 belongs to family of viruses that cause a broad range of symptoms ranging from the common cold to more severe infections. These viruses are large, enveloped, positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses.1 A positive-sense virus has genetic material that can serve both as genome and messenger RNA. It can be translated into protein in the host cell by ribosomes. Other positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses that cause disease in humans include hepatitis C virus, West Nile virus, dengue virus, and SARS.

On December 30, 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin was detected in Wuhan, China. Most cases reported an exposure to the Wuhan seafood market, which was closed on January 1, 2020.2 A novel coronavirus was first reported on January 7, and the first fatal case occurred on January 11. The first case outside of China was reported in Thailand on January 13,2 and the first U.S. case was reported on January 20.2

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides an up-to-date map of locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world.

Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19. Individuals aged 12 and older are eligible to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations. For information about where to access COVID-19 vaccines, please consult for locations near you.

Find COVID-19 Vaccines Near You

More resources are available at the links below.


Measures that can help reduce possible transmission of respiratory illness, including COVID-19, include the following. 

  1. Stay home if you are sick. If you have flu- or cold-like symptoms, stay home to lower the chances of spreading the illness to others.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or face. Mucous membranes of the face—eyes, nose, and mouth—are entry portals for many microbes, including coronavirus and the viruses that cause the common cold.
  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into your elbow. Throw away used tissues. Do not cough or sneeze directly into your hands, because you will spread the microbes from your hands to anything else you touch.
  4. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Or, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is especially important to wash your hands before and after touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; after using the bathroom; and before eating. See this video from Baylor College of Medicine on how to wash your hands.
  1. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Frequently touched objects include keyboards, doorknobs, countertops, and desks.

The CDC offers printable posters that you can display in public areas or restrooms to help raise awareness about handwashing. The posters, which are appropriate for children and teens, are available at this link.

See resources provided by Baylor College of Medicine for ongoing coronavirus updates, a longer version of this article, and links to additional resources. 


  1. Paules CI, Marston HD, Fauci AS. Coronavirus infections—More than just the common cold. JAMA. 2020;37(October):435. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0757
  2. Wang C, Horby PW, Hayden FG, Gao GF. A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern. Lancet. 2020;6736(20):1-4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30185-9
  3. Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, et al. First case of 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med. January 2020:NEJMoa2001191. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2001191

Additional Resources

There are more handouts and posters related to preventing the spread of COVID-19 available from the CDC.