The Coronavirus Outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives, our economy and nearly every corner of the globe. It has sickened more than 113 million people worldwide. More than 2.5 million people have died so far.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coronavirus

Probably not. If you are practicing social distancing and making only occasional trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, experts say that it’s not necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. You should, however, always wash your hands upon entering your home. The same advice goes for head and facial hair: If you practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently, you probably don’t need to worry.

In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.

Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.

The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It's a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it's windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.

As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.

So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,”  but she later walked back that statement.

A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

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  1. Photo
    CreditNiklas Halle'n/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  2. PhotoScientists worry that if vaccinated people are silent spreaders of the virus, they may keep it circulating in their communities, putting unvaccinated people at risk.
    CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times
  3. PhotoDr. Anthony S. Fauci in March. “We really don’t know what the real number is,” he said recently.
    CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
  4. PhotoThe Department of Homeland Security’s list of essential workers is long and varied, including jobs such as tugboat operators and these grocery store clerks in Brooklyn.
    CreditJuan Arredondo for The New York Times
  5. PhotoThe Johnson & Johnson campus in Irvine, Calif.
    CreditMark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Maps and Trackers

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  1. PhotoAquené Tyler watches as her son, Dashawn Montgomery, 9, signs into his Zoom class.
    CreditHannah Yoon for The New York Times
  2. PhotoMembers of the Kansas State University marching band maintained social distance as they played before a college football game in October 2020.
    CreditCharlie Riedel/Associated Press
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    CreditThe New York Times
  4. PhotoMeisha Porter’s deep experience in New York City schools will be put to the test, as she works to get more of the city’s one million students back into school buildings.
    CreditNew York City Department of Education
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    CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times


  1. PhotoThe Maldives in 2017. More than 300,000 tourists have visited since the country reopened its borders last summer, including several dozen influencers who have traveled on paid junkets.
    CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times
  2. PhotoHotel guests in quarantine, a mandatory protocol for travelers returning to Australia to curb the spread of the coronavirus, watch a musical performance from their rooms in the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney, Australia.
  3. PhotoLorraine Luongo of Myrtle Beach, S.C., has filed an arbitration claim against Airbnb seeking to recover the money she lost.
    CreditLeslie Ryann McKellar for The New York Times
  4. PhotoClearwater, Fla., last week. Without business travelers, who generate the bulk of profits, airlines are trying to cater to leisure travelers undeterred by the pandemic.
    CreditEve Edelheit for The New York Times
  5. PhotoInstructor Peter Rogers, above, teaching aqua yoga at  the Marker Key West Harbor Resort. The yoga class, which can relieve joint pain and arthritis, has been popular with older guests.
    CreditMark Hedden for The New York Times


  1. PhotoSpeaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Friday that a minimum wage hike remained “a priority and we will get it done,” but stressed that President Biden’s relief package was still a “great bill” without it.
    CreditOliver Contreras for The New York Times
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  3. PhotoSpeaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Friday that a minimum wage hike remained “a priority and we will get it done,” but stressed that President Biden’s relief package was still a “great bill” without it.
  4. PhotoA grocery store cashier in Charlottesville, Va., on Friday. The state is among those with the highest share of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage.
    CreditEze Amos for The New York Times
  5. PhotoA Los Angeles mall this week. Money spent on goods rose 5.8 percent in January, but spending on services rose only 0.7 percent.
    CreditPhilip Cheung for The New York Times

Lives We've Lost

More in Lives We've Lost ›
  1. PhotoAntoine Hodge dressed in costume as King Balthazar for Opéra Louisiane’s performance of Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” He played that role three times for the company.
    CreditLinda Medine
  2. PhotoClaudette White was a tribal judge who practiced a judicial model known as restorative justice, which aims to heal and rehabilitate offenders and their victims.
    CreditAnne Makepeace
  3. PhotoPat Filien got his first head basketball coaching job in 2018, at Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y., and it came with the job of athletic director. “This was something I’ve had to create,” he said. “You name it, I’m doing it.”
    CreditUniversity of Albany
  4. PhotoLuis Fernando Arias had an ambition: to make sure Colombia’s Indigenous people had a place at the table.
    CreditNational Indigenous Organization of Colombia
  5. PhotoElizabeth R. Duff, the first woman to serve as a Nashville city bus driver, endured racial and sexist abuse but was known for her cool head, no-nonsense style, compassion and driving skill.
    Creditvia Duff family