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.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is caused by a coronavirus not found in people before.
  • Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to prevent getting or spreading COVID-19. For more information, visit COVID-19 Vaccine.

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

COVID-19 Key Messages (PDF)
Updated 5/25/21


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, 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.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
  • For more information, visit CDC: Symptoms of COVID-19.

How it spreads

  • COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
    • Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
    • Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
    • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them. It is important to wash your hands before you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes.
  • People can spread the COVID-19 disease to each other.
  • 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, visit 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, and in the United States. Several of these variants have been identified and are spreading in Minnesota.
  • MDH and our partners are actively testing new positive test samples to continue to detect variants and learn more.
  • These variants are concerning because they are more contagious. For example, early data shows that the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant spreads more easily and can be as much as 50% more contagious than the original virus. Currently, the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant is the most common in Minnesota.
  • 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 get vaccinated, wash your hands often, and stay home if you feel sick. If you are not fully vaccinated, wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and avoid gatherings.
  • Variants developing around the world can spread to new places when people travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. Visit CDC: International Travel During COVID-19.
  • Because variants can spread more easily, it is important to get tested when recommended. Visit COVID-19 Testing.

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.
  • Refer to 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, visit:

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.
Mental Health and Well-being
Resources include supporting mental well-being during COVID-19. If someone you know is in crisis, use Crisis Text Line by texting MN to 741741.

Updated Thursday, 24-Jun-2021 10:47:08 CDT