About COVID-19 - Minnesota Dept. of Health
As we learn more about COVID-19, recommendations and guidance are updated frequently. Please check back often.

About COVID-19

On this page:
COVID-19 disease
How it spreads
COVID-19 variants
Prevention and treatment
Physical health effects

COVID-19 disease

  • COVID-19 is an infectious disease.
  • The disease is caused by a coronavirus not found in people before.
  • As doctors and scientists continue to gather new information, it is important to take COVID-19 seriously. We do not yet know all of the negative effects it may have.
  • It is important to keep working to slow the spread of the virus by staying home when you can, staying 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask, covering your coughs and sneezes, and washing your hands often and well.
  • For more information on symptoms, see CDC: Symptoms of Coronavirus.

We are still learning more about the new virus and will share new information when we have it.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Key Messages
Basic overview of COVID-19 in multiple languages.


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms.
  • Even after recovering from COVID-19, some people may have lingering symptoms such as fatigue, cough, or joint pain. The long-term health effects are still unknown but there may be permanent damage to the heart, lungs, or other organs. This is more likely in those who had more severe illness but may also be possible even in those who had mild illness.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.

How it spreads

  • People can spread the COVID-19 disease to each other.
  • The disease spreads by droplets or aerosols (tiny particles) from the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes, or exhales.
  • The most common way COVID-19 spreads is through close contact. When people are close to each other, the droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. It may be possible for people to breathe the droplets into their lungs. It is important to stay at least 6 feet away from other people in public. At home, someone who is sick should stay alone and in one room as much as possible.
  • COVID-19 can also sometimes spread through airborne transmission. This means that aerosols (small droplets or particles) can sometimes linger in the air for minutes to hours, and may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet from the person with COVID-19 or after they have left the room.
    • Airborne transmission of COVID-19 is more likely to happen in indoor spaces without good ventilation, or when the infected person was breathing heavily, like when singing or exercising.
  • It is possible that COVID-19 can spread when droplets land on surfaces and objects that other people then touch, though this is not thought to be a common way that it spreads. It is important to wash your hands before you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes. Clean surfaces that are touched often, especially if someone in the house is sick.
  • Infected people may be able to spread the disease before they have symptoms or feel sick.
  • A person can also spread the disease if they have no symptoms. Research has shown that around 40-50% of people infected do not develop symptoms.

For more information, see CDC: How COVID-19 Spreads.

Download the free COVIDaware MN app to get notified if you have been near someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 variants

  • Variants are common with a virus like COVID-19. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
  • Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating globally. Variants first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), Brazil (P.1), and South Africa (B.1.351) have been detected in the United States. All three variants have been identified and are spreading in Minnesota, as well as the B.1.427/9 variant first detected in California.
  • MDH and our partners are actively testing new positive test samples to continue to detect variants and learn more.
  • So far, the B.1.1.7 variant has been the most common in Minnesota and currently accounts for more than half of positive test samples.
  • These variants are concerning because they are more contagious. Early data shows that the B.1.1.7 variant spreads more easily and can be as much as 50% more contagious than the original virus. There is also concern some variants may be associated with more severe disease and a higher death rate compared to other variants. More research is needed to confirm these findings and what it will mean for vaccination efforts.
  • Continue to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is important to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often, and stay home if you feel sick or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Because variants can spread more easily, it is important to get tested. Families with school-age children returning to in-person learning should get tested every two weeks. Kids involved in sports or after-school activities should get tested once a week.
  • We will continue to give updates as we learn more.

For more information, visit CDC: About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19.


  • Many people with COVID-19 have mild illness. However, anyone can become severely ill from this virus.
  • Risk for severe illness increases with age. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among people 85 or older.
  • People of any age who have underlying medical conditions may have a greater risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • See CDC: People at Increased Risk for guidance on which underlying medical conditions put people at an increased risk or who should be extra careful.
  • Ask your health care provider if you have greater risk of getting sicker from COVID-19.
  • For more information, see:

Prevention and treatment

Physical health effects

Other health effects

  • COVID-19 disease can cause more than physical health problems. COVID-19 is a continuing threat to the personal, financial, and mental well-being of Minnesotans. This stress can lead to health problems. COVID-19 can cause stress when people:
    • Must be in the hospital.
    • Lose their jobs or cannot go to work.
    • Do not have money to pay bills.
    • Are separated from family and friends.

Visit Daily Life & Coping: COVID-19 for some helpful links to managing life during this time.

Updated Wednesday, 14-Apr-2021 15:24:39 CDT