Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

It’s been less than six months since the first known case of coronavirus surfaced in China, and less than two since the threat of the virus overtook normal life stateside and phrases like “social distancing” and “contact tracing” became lodged in our collective vocabulary. From rising unemployment statistics to promising drug trials, new information about this pandemic emerges constantly, and dozens of theories about how the disease spreads and can be treated get advanced or disproven on any given day. In recent weeks, debate has raged over whether or not to reopen and meatpacking plants have emerged as dangerous new hotspots. We’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know about this pandemic—be it how to keep your children entertained or how this outbreak is affecting the economy. We’ll be updating it regularly to help you keep track of all aspects of this rapidly evolving situation.
Sign up for our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the latest updates, and subscribe to support our journalism .

Basic Background

What the coronavirus is, and when it became a pandemic

The 2019 coronavirus is one of hundreds we know of, and one of seven known to infect humans. These viruses affect the lungs and also cause fever and sometimes gastrointestinal problems. The WHO declared the coronavirus situation a global emergency in January and a pandemic in mid-March.

Covid-19 symptoms

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Others include diarrhea and loss of smell or taste . Some people develop severe blood clots . The disease is mercurial —fairly mild for some and fatal for others. Scientists can’t say definitively why, but women are less likely to die than men . We know that older people, especially those with underlying health issues, are more at risk . And children fare better than adults , but for babies, toddlers, and kids with other conditions the disease can be severe.

Social distancing and safety issues

Social distancing is about staying away from other people for long enough to slow the spread of the virus. When you do have to be near others, like at the grocery store, while delivering food, or going for a walk, the CDC recommends staying 6 feet away from others . To enforce this, many states have implemented shelter in place orders , though many Americans don’t know what their state’s guidelines are .

How long coronavirus lasts on surfaces (and how to disinfect them)

Coronavirus can last for up to two or three days on some surfaces , so it’s important to regularly clean and disinfect your home and belongings , especially things you’re touching all the time like doorknobs, remote controls, and counters. You’ll want soap or disinfectant , but if you can’t find any in stores you can also make your own sanitizer .

Wearing and making masks

The CDC recommends wearing a mask in public places where social distancing measures are hard to maintain. Surgical masks should be reserved for medical workers and first responders, but all you need to make a cloth mask are a t-shirt and two rubber bands .

Check out WIRED's coronavirus FAQs.

Testing and Treatment

The latest testing updates

The US is still struggling to meet the demand for testing . Many companies are developing tests that can test patients at the point of care and produce results quickly, and four were recently approved by the FDA . Plus, antibody testing is becoming more widespread, though the results are mixed so far and the FDA recently tightened its regulations .

Covid-19 treatments

At the moment, there’s no definitive treatment for Covid-19. Some researchers are investigating chloroquine , the malaria drug touted by President Trump, but there's little evidence that it's a viable treatment. Others are looking into using an anti-influenza drug , the antiviral Remdesivir , or Crispr to treat the disease. Vaccine development is also underway. Clinical trials have begun for two promising candidates, though it's probable a vaccine won’t be available until early next year . And even then, it won't be available to everyone at once .