Understanding COVID-19

Since first detected in December 2019, the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly changed our lives, but over the last 2 years there has also been some amazing outcomes that have provided hope. Decades of public health infrastructure paved the way to develop and distribute vaccines with unprecedented speed. New discoveries have helped us better understand the nature of COVID-19, and new innovations to protect against the virus have changed how we live, work, and play.


Thanks to a global concerted effort and the groundwork of decades of mRNA research, these new vaccines were able to be safely developed in record time. How does an mRNA vaccine work? And how do vaccines help protect your community?

Kids and Vaccines

In October 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines for children ages 5 and up. While COVID-19 is (on average) less severe in children, it is still a dangerous illness, and it’s a relief to have this tool to help protect kids. Before being approved for public use, the vaccine had to go through multiple rounds of rigorous clinical trials. Do you have questions about youth vaccination? Learn more in the video.

Mask Up

Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask.To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently. Read more about the types of masking on the CDC website.

Chart showing the efficiency of what mask you wear in COVID.

Times listed depend on multiple variables, and should be used to view the differences between different mask choices, not as a hard-and-fast rule of how long you can safely spend around another person. The percentages next to the N95 FFR categories represent the percentage of particles exchanged between the mask wearer and the outside world. A better fitting mask will have a lower leakage rate. Note that this chart was created before the Omicron variant, and numbers are likely to have changed. (Source: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.)

There’s currently a concerning number of counterfeit masks with “official” sounding labels on the market. The best way to make sure you have the real deal is to get a NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved N95 filtering faceplate respirators. To verify that a mask is NIOSH approved, check this list. For children, mask fit is also going to be a significant deciding factor. NIOSH does not certify masks for children, so choosing an FDA approved mask is likely to be your best bet for kids who can’t wear an N95. To improve fit on a surgical mask, knot the ear loops and tuck extra material into the mask, as shown in the video below.


Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have been closely monitoring the genetics of the virus to identify mutations known as variants. The most recent common variant is called Omicron (“AH-muh-kraan”), which has several traits caused by mutations to the virus’ genetics that allow it to spread more rapidly than any other strain of COVID-19.

Despite the differences in the Omicron variant, there is still plenty you can do to protect yourself and your community. Social distancing and proper mask wearing remain effective tools against COVID-19. The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone 5 years old or older, and that you get your booster when eligible.

Research and Innovation

Among all the chaos of the pandemic, the human spirit of ingenuity has risen to the challenge. It seems like every week there is a new research development or piece of technology designed to help keep people safe. Among these innovations are oral antiviral pills designed to disrupt the COVID-19 virus’ ability to replicate, first approved by the FDA in December 2021. There are also innovations in vaccine technology, like the Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFn) COVID-19 vaccine, which aims to provide the body with the ability to more effectively fight off not only current but future variants as well. Additionally, people have trained special medical detection dogs to sniff out the subtle changes in human biochemistry indicating a COVID-19 infection. There are sure to be more innovations in COVID-19 combatting technology just over the horizon.

Evaluating Sources

There’s a lot of information about COVID-19, and not all of it is accurate. Learning to evaluate sources can help against misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and beyond. Learn how to evaluate if an information source is trustworthy or not with our resources below.

Science in the City Vaccinations for the kids

Upcoming Science in the City: COVID-19 Vaccinations for the Kids

Vaccines for ages 5+ are now available, and a vaccine for children under age 5 is expected in the coming months. How do vaccine clinical trials for children differ from those for adults? What should parents and caregivers know when making vaccination decisions?

Join Drs. Andrasik and Danielson for a program centered on the COVID-19 vaccines for children, community outreach and answers to your vaccine questions!

Learn more and register.