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COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While, for some, symptoms can be mild, COVID-19 can be serious or life-threatening especially among older adults, people who are immunocompromised and those with certain underlying medical conditions. Many people who contract COVID-19 also develop “Long COVID” where symptoms can continue for months, even after the infection has resolved.

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets released into the air when an infected person breathes out. Other people can breathe in these droplets and become infected. These droplets may also contaminate surfaces they touch or spread through ventilation systems.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Recent loss of taste or smell, or an altered sense of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Congestion/runny nose
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)

The best way to prevent yourself from contracting COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated, however there are many other precautions you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

  • When you’re feeling sick, stay home and test yourself.
  • Practice good hygiene like frequent handwashing
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Improve ventilation
  • Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick


Residents can seek treatment for COVID-19 that helps prevent severe disease. Antiviral therapeutics are medications used to treat at-risk groups for COVID-19 and are prescribed by healthcare providers. Treatment must be started within the first few days to be effective. Contact your medical provider to determine if treatment is appropriate.

Antiviral treatment can inhibit or reduce the ability of the virus to replicate in your body, which can lessen the severity of the disease, however therapeutic treatment is no substitute for receiving the current COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and staying up to date on approved boosters can lower your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent serious illness and death.


Aside from being current on your COVID-19 vaccines, testing yourself for COVID-19 and then taking proper precautions is the best way to stop the spread. COVID-19 test kits are available at a variety of locations. COVID-19 test kits:

  • Can be purchased at most pharmacies, and many health insurance companies will cover the cost.
  • May be available at select DC Public Libraries. More information on availability can be found at
  • Obtained for free through the federal government at
  • For those without insurance, the CDC provides an online locator to find no-cost COVID-19 testing sites at
  • You can also contact your primary care physician or call your local pharmacy to make an appointment for a COVID-19 test.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dial 911 and seek immediate emergency care. For more information about COVID-19 testing, please visit



COVID-19 vaccines continue to play a crucial role in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and loss of life. The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing and protection from vaccines can decrease over time. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine is the number one thing you can do to protect yourself and your family against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death.

The updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and it is especially important for people at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 to get the updated vaccine. These higher-risk groups include people over the age of 65 and people with certain medical conditions. For more information, see

There are a variety of ways that you can get your vaccination, including:

  • Find a local pharmacy or book an appointment at (children under 3 years old cannot get the vaccine at a pharmacy).
  • Contact your healthcare provider to see if they have it available for you or your child under 3 years of age.
  • If you are uninsured or underinsured, you can find a location to receive a free vaccine at
  • If you are unable to leave your home, do not speak English as a primary language, or have Medicaid or DC Healthcare Alliance, you can request an at-home vaccination by calling 1-855-363-0333. Providers under the Home Vaccination Program will come to your residence.
  • DC Health facilitates connections between community organizations and vaccine providers. Find additional information at


The District of Columbia monitors key public health signs of multiple communicable diseases as a part of routine surveillance activities and disseminates health communications to decrease community spread.

Researchers and others can access COVID-19-related data tables at To submit additional data requests, please follow guidance from the Institutional Review Board for the Public Health.

Reporting Requirements

Visit the DC Health COVID-19 Reporting Requirements page for more information.