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About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a specific strain of coronavirus, which is a large family of viruses that are common in humans and many different species of animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people, such as with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current understanding about how COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States. 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); or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 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, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. However, respiratory illnesses like seasonal influenza, are currently widespread in many US communities.

What are the symptoms?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

What are the treatments?

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

What does “close contact” mean?

The CDC defines “close contact” as either 1) a “prolonged period of time” spent “within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) or within the room or care area” of an individual who has been positively diagnosed with the virus or 2) “direct contact with infectious secretions.” Examples include sharing eating or drinking utensils, close conversation, or kissing, hugging, and other direct physical contact. “Close contact” does not include activities such as walking by a person or briefly sitting across a waiting room or office.

What does "social distancing' mean?

The CDC defines social distancing as it applies to COVID-19 as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible." Congregate settings are crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums.

Social distancing includes minimizing contact with people. Avoid public transportation whenever possible, limit nonessential travel, work from home, and avoid social gatherings.

Practicing social distance can help stop the spread of the infection.

How can I best protect myself?

The CDC and state DPH have recommended precautionary measures consistent with routine preventive measures for many types of virus transmissions, including common colds and influenza. They include:

  • Frequent hand-washing with soap and warm, running water for at least 20 seconds; if soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol
  • Coughing or sneezing into your sleeve
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Not sharing food, drink, or eating utensils
  • No contact with bodily fluids of an ill person
  • Staying hydrated
  • Get enough rest, exercise, and make healthy food choices
  • Clean your living space
  • Staying home when ill until fever-free for 24 hours

Learn more on the CDC How to Protect Yourself page

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Please refer to the CDC website for more information.

The following Federal, State, and local websites should be monitored for the latest developments in the outbreak:

MCPHS will operate an information hotline, and those who have questions may call 617-879-5999. The hotline will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. You can also email

Flexplan 2021

Cover image of Flexplan 2021 PDF

Our plan for the safe reopening in the spring.

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COVID-19 Team Contact Information



Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.