The following information about COVID-19 is offered by Brethren Disaster Ministries as a resource to help Brethren congregations and members better understand the outbreak and ways to respond. Also provided are links to trusted websites to visit frequently for updates and suggestions. Contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or explore these web pages for more about the disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren.
For ministry resources related to the pandemic, please go to https://covid19.brethren.org/resources-for-congregations.
The current outbreak of the respiratory illness that is caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China at the end of December 2019. The disease that the virus causes is named COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be international health emergency on Jan. 30, 2020 and a global pandemic on March 11. The United States declared a public health emergency on Jan. 31, 2020 and a National Emergency on March 13.
The numbers of people in the U.S. and around the world is growing daily. A key tool to follow the statistics around the world by the Johns Hopkins University can be found at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. In the U.S. coronavirus cases are reported in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To find information about the incidence of coronavirus in your particular area, or the area of a loved one, it is best to stay tuned to your local and state health department and government sites.
This is a new virus and health officials and researchers are learning as much as they can about it, how it is spread, and how to treat it. There is a worldwide effort to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. As more is known about COVID-19, information sources are being constantly updated.
Much of the information, precautions, and resources listed here also apply to the prevention of influenza and other illnesses, which are more common in the U.S. but can also be deadly. It is important to keep up to date on the specific guidance, recommendations and regulations of your own state and local jurisdictions, as they may differ slightly from place to place.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Includes extensive information on COVID-19 in the US and globally, with many graphics, downloadable posters, videos, and answers to frequently asked questions.
- World Health Organization (WHO) – www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Includes extensive information about COVID-19 and how the international community is responding, with resources including Q&As, graphics, and easy-to-understand videos. This site also tracks and addresses myths about the virus.
See “Beware of coronavirus scams” below for references to false or misleading information.
Guidance for families and individuals
Symptoms of COVID-19 infection
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases. So far, about 80 percent of the cases are mild.
The following symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath, sometimes leading to pneumonia
Anyone experiencing these symptoms, especially if you may have come in contact with someone who is ill or may have been exposed, should seek medical attention. Follow the guidelines of your local health authorities to do so. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include, but are not limited to, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion or inability to arouse; and bluish lips or face.
Who is at a higher risk of experiencing more severe illness?
People 65 and older and people with severe chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are at higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19. Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk than adults and those who do contract the virus generally have more mild symptoms. It is important to note that this is a new virus and knowledge about it is evolving.
What to do if you are at higher risk:
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often. More recently the CDC has recommended wearing a face covering when in public
- Avoid crowds.
What should you do to avoid infection?
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected. People who are infected often have symptoms of illness but even those without symptoms can still spread the virus. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it (from droplets) and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. Although this is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread, surfaces that may be infected should be avoided (if in public) or cleaned.
The most effective ways to lessen the chance of infection are social distancing (especially for those at high risk and from anyone exhibiting symptoms), hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face (unless your hands are clean), and vigilance in cleaning your surroundings (home, work, etc.).
Social distancing means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing:
- Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people when outside of your home. This includes when visiting public places such as parks or when walking in areas with other people.
- Do not gather in groups (many areas have mandated gatherings be no more than 10 people)
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to sing twice through the “Happy Birthday” song.
- Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Both soap and water, and alcohol strip the virus of it outer coating, killing it.
- Wash all surfaces of hands and wrists, including between fingers, under fingernails, and the backs of your hands.
- Dry hands thoroughly, preferably with paper towels, and throw paper towels into a waste bin (preferably a closed bin).
Avoid touching your face
Most people are unaware of how often they touch their face, including eyes, nose, and mouth. It could be as many as 200 times a day. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets containing the virus may land on your hands. Or you may pick up the virus from a surface where the droplets fell. Touching your face with those unwashed hands will increase the chances of contracting the virus. Always wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer before touching any part of your face.
Good cleaning practices
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Remember to clean items such as cell phones, iPads, and other technology that is used frequently and/or shared. Avoid placing these objects on unwashed surfaces, particularly in public spaces.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, after
- touching public surfaces,
- using the restroom,
- touching pets, especially those who have been outdoors,
- shaking hands,
- blowing your nose or coughing,
- being within a close distance (generally 6 feet) of someone who is coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose, and
- returning to your home
- Wash your hands before eating.
The CDC has updated its guidelines and now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Recent studies show that people with coronavirus who are asymptomatic (do not show symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (have not yet shown symptoms) can spread the virus when in close proximity to others when, for example, they speak, cough or sneeze. By wearing a face covering, a person is protecting others in case they themselves are unknowingly infected with the coronavirus.
People who have a high-risk status should wear a facemask in addition to observing social distancing when in public. A facemask should also be used by people who have COVID-19 or, if they are unable to wear one, by anyone taking care of an ill person.
Please note the following:
- Cloth face coverings ARE NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
- Wearing a face covering IS NOT a substitute for other CDC preventative guidelines such as social distancing, washing hands or staying home when feeling ill.
- Cloth face coverings may be purchased or created from common household items (see designs below).
- Cloth face coverings should fit snugly, be looped around ears or tied in place, include multiple layers of cloth, and should be washable. They should not restrict breathing.
- Before putting on a face covering and after removing one, clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when wearing or removing a face covering.
For additional information, see
- CDC – www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
- WHO – www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
There are many designs for sewn and no-sew face coverings. Below are links to some basic simple designs. Others may be found by searching the internet or through resources available by your local authorities.
Sewn face coverings
No-sew face coverings
What to do if you or someone you care for is sick
- Stay at home when you are sick, except to get medical care, to avoid spreading your illness to others.
- Wash your hands frequently!
- If you think you may have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 or have contracted the disease, follow guidelines from your local health authorities regarding isolation or quarantine. There are no medicines created specifically for COVID-19 infections. So far about 80 percent of infections have been mild. A mild case will recover by using the same regimen for other similar types of infections: drink plenty of fluids, get rest and take pain and fever medicines.
- If your condition worsens, you may need to seek medical care. Call your medical provider and/or follow the guidance of local health authorities regarding when and how to seek medical assistance. There may be a call-in center or a particular location or procedure for testing in your area. To reduce the chances of infecting other people, do not just show up at a local health facility such as hospital or clinic or your doctor’s office.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a trash receptacle, preferably one that is covered.
- If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, making sure not to aim to the floor or another surface. Remember that your elbow and/or shirt now contains infected droplets so avoid touching that area and clean it as soon as possible.
- Disinfect frequently-used surfaces and wash garments, towels, and bedding often. Do not share towels, eating utensils, or cups. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html
- When caring for an ill person, wash your hands as often as possible. If the patient is not able to wear a facemask, you should wear one when in close contact with that person, and then throw the mask away in a closed bin. Change and wash any clothing that may have become infected. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands. See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html#precautions for additional information.
- CDC travel updates are at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/ and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html .
- When traveling, observe the same hygiene practices that you would use at home. Be diligent about washing hands and wiping off public surfaces that are used by many people. On airplanes, pay particular attention to wiping off tray tables and surfaces in restrooms. It is suggested to use hand sanitizer even after washing your hands in the restroom.
- For travel within the U.S., go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html
- For international travel, pay close attention to travel advisories listed by the US State Department. Go to travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html. As the coronavirus has spread, travel restrictions and recommendations have become more common. The CDC is tracking these by country at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html
- Expect delays and extra screenings as the virus continues to spread, particularly if you have traveled to or through a high-risk country. See www.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
- Depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice). See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html. Travel from certain countries is even more restricted, particularly for foreign nationals. See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html.
Coping with and understanding the coronavirus and COVID-19
Mental health resources
Centers for Disease Control
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has many resources to help people cope with stress.
- Tips for social distancing, quarantine, and isolation during an infectious disease outbreak
- Coping with stress during infectious disease outbreaks (available for free PDF download)
- Disaster Distress Helpline
- Toll-free number 1-800-985-5990 (English and Spanish)
- SMS: text TalkWIthUs or Hablamos to 66746
- TTY: 1-800-846-8517
- www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov or www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/espanol
Beware of coronavirus scams
Be vigilant! As often happens, scammers are trying to take advantage of anxiety and fear surrounding COVID-19. Remember—there is currently no vaccine or miracle cure to prevent or cure COVID-19. Do not be fooled by anyone offering a cure. Always make sure to check your source of information.
- Stick to trusted sources, such as those listed above and your state and county health departments as well as your own physicion for up-to-date and verified information.
- WHO has a webpage devoted to scams that may say they are coming from WHO. This good advice applies to a wider range of scams also. Go to www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security.
- The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA, www.cisa.gov) has information on avoiding scams and phishing emails:
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. See “Using Caution with Email Attachments” and “Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Scams” for more information.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for information on scammers and information on donating to charities.