CDC's Response

CDC's Response

Since launching an agency-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic on January 21, 2020, CDC has been learning more about how the disease spreads and affects people and communities. Our work helps frontline healthcare workers, communities, and the public to protect themselves and save lives.

Preparing first responders, healthcare providers, and health systems

  • CDC is actively working to learn more about the whole range of short- and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19. As the pandemic unfolds, we are learning that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19, and there are many ways the infection can affect someone’s health.
  • Persistent health disparities combined with historic housing patterns, work circumstances, and other factors have put members of some racial and ethnic minority populations at higher risk for COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death. CDC is working to reduce that gap by learning more about what produces it and giving healthcare workers and other front-line employees the tools they need to close it.
  • CDC has a dedicated team investigating multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but serious complication seen in some children who had the virus that causes COVID-19 or had been around someone with COVID-19. This team is working to learn more about this syndrome and communicate information quickly to healthcare providers, parents, and caregivers, as well as state, territorial, local, and tribal health departments.
  • CDC has launched a new, nationwide initiative to help enhance and complement the efforts of state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments through innovative hiring mechanisms designed to address their surge staffing needs.
  • This response complements local efforts to increase capacity using existing CDC field staff, deploying CDC teams to address outbreaks in special settings, and partnering with other federal agencies like AmeriCorps to give states more staffing options.
  • It also provides access to a variety of contact tracing and case investigation training products and tools for a diverse and evolving public health workforce.
  • CDC is establishing visibility across healthcare systems to understand healthcare use, particularly surges in demand for medical care and associated resources.
  • We’re also conducting extensive outreach to clinical and hospital professional organizations to ensure health systems are prepared to treat patients.

In addition, CDC:

  • Has published more than 150 guidance documents to advise healthcare providers on subjects like infection control, hospital preparedness assessments, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply planning, and clinical evaluation and management.
  • Has identified people who are at higher risk of getting severely ill from this disease and given them steps they can take to keep from getting sick.
  • Created COVID19Surge, a spreadsheet-based tool that hospital administrators and public health officials can use to estimate the demand for hospital-based services, including how many patients may need ICU care or ventilator support. These data can help hospitals prepare for a possible increase or decrease in cases.
  • Is developing a range of respirator conservation strategies, including strategies to make supplies last longer (such as using alternative products like reusable respirators) and extending the use of disposable respirators.
  • Is working with supply chain partners to ensure that healthcare workers at highest risk have access to PPE by understanding supply usage, what products are available, and when more aggressive measures may need to be taken.
  • Has shared information with stakeholders to help them recognize when to shift the strategies they are using.

Advising businesses, communities and schools

CDC has provided advice that has evolved as more is known about COVID-19.

  • CDC released indicators to help schools make decisions about in-person learning as local conditions evolve throughout the pandemic. When coupled with local data about community spread, these guideposts are an important tool to help local health officials, school administrators, and communities prepare, plan, and respond to COVID-19.
  • Wearing a mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19. CDC has published a list of tips on how to make, clean, and wear masks. Always wear a mask in public settings around people who don’t live in your household and when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others.
  • CDC has produced a series of toolkits that businesses, schools, retirement communities, and other institutions can use to successfully communicate information people can use to protect themselves, family and friends, and their communities.
  • CDC has published a list of stepspdf icon that state and local authorities, businesses, and other institutions can use to plan to scale back community mitigation measures and gradually return to pre-pandemic operations while protecting vulnerable populations.
  • These three-step guidance allows leaders to look at a series of six indicators, including case counts, emergency room visits, and testing programs, to help decide when to move from one phase to the next.
  • Published a list of actions for people planning events and gatherings to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread during gatherings and events.
  • We’re also providing technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions on testing, surveillance data collection and reporting, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, and outbreak investigation.
  • And for individuals, we offer advice on how to prevent infection or safely return to normal activities if you have had COVID-19.

In addition, CDC:

  • Created a Community Mitigation Frameworkpdf icon to implement mitigation strategies for communities with local COVID-19 transmission.
  • Created business guidance to help the public and private sectors ensure they can protect essential workers and help others operate with adaptations like teleworking and flexible sick leave policies.
  • Developed guidance for childcare programs, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities to help them plan and prepare for COVID-19 and respond if there is a local outbreak in their community.
  • Provided planning guides for COVID-19 that households, community- and faith-based organizations, event planners of mass gatherings, and public health communicators can use.

Sharing our knowledge

From the beginning of the pandemic, CDC has been at the forefront of sharing what we’ve learned about COVID-19.

  • The Household Pulse Survey, a joint effort by CDC and the US Census Bureau, produces a real-time snapshot of people’s mental health and access to care during the pandemic. About 100,000 people a week have answered questions about their physical and mental health, as well as job status, spending, and education. The result is a 50-state picture that can be broken down by geography, age, gender, race and ethnicity, and educational level.
  • CDC is leading the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES). This new national genomics consortium will coordinate large-scale, rapid genomic sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19, allowing public health experts to monitor any changes to the virus, learn more about how it spreads and help identify ways to diagnose and treat the disease.
  • CDC’s Cases, Data and Surveillance page uses several data streams to track and analyze COVID-19 at the local, state, and national levels.
  • CDC developed an rRT-PCR test to diagnose current COVID-19 infection and has helped equip state and local public health laboratories with the capacity to test people for the virus.
  • CDC has developed a laboratory serology (antibody) test to help estimate how many people in the United States have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • This test examines blood samples for proteins your body makes in response to an infection.
    • It’s designed to estimate how much of the U.S. population has been infected with the virus and learn how the body’s immune system responds to the virus.
  • CDC has grown the virus that causes COVID-19 in cell culture, a necessary step for further studies. The cell-grown virus was sent to the National Institutes of Health’s BEI Resources Repository external iconfor use by the broad scientific community.
  • CDC’s COVIDView page provides weekly updates on testing, hospitalizations, and mortality for COVID-19-like illness (CLI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) nationwide.

In addition:

Protecting the health of travelers and communities in a globally mobile world

CDC protects travelers and helps maintain public health security through activities that lessen the public health risk of rapid global travel, including issuing guidance; educating travelers; working with international, federal, state, local, and industry partners; and actions taken at U.S. borders.

Keeping travelers and destination communities healthy

Protecting public health at U.S. ports of entry

  • Between January and August 2020, CDC personnel screened more than 670,000 arriving international passengers for signs of illness.
  • All international travelers arriving at a U.S. airport or land border crossing receive a Travel Health Alert Noticepdf icon with information about how to watch their health and protect others during the 14 days after arrival.
  • In partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and other port-of-entry partners, health informationmedia icon is posted on electronic message boards at specific airports, seaports, and land boarders where more international travelers enter or leave the U.S.
  • CDC posted a southern border toolkit for partners, including state and local health departments, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and community outreach groups, to provide timely, effective, and culturally appropriate COVID-19 messaging to those who live, work, and travel along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ensuring the health of individuals coming to live and work in the United States

  • CDC posted a communication toolkit for migrants, refugees, and other limited-English-proficient populations to help partners reach populations who may need COVID-19 prevention messaging in their native languages.
  • CDC recognizes newly resettled refugees may experience living arrangements or working conditions that put them at increased risk of getting COVID-19.
    • CDC posted information on COVID-19 in Newly Resettled Refugee Populations to offer ways partner organizations can help protect refugees and their communities and slow the spread of COVID-19.
    • CDC is working with refugee resettlement agencies, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to educate refugees about COVID-19.
      • IOM disseminates CDC’s “What refugees can do if they are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19”pdf icon and welcome bookletpdf icon to refugees in their native languages at the overseas medical exam or during pre-departure screening to help refugees and their families stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic after arriving to the U.S.
      • At the U.S. port of entry, IOM staff provide important supplies including thermometers, hand sanitizer, and non-medical masks. Resettlement agency staff and local refugee health partners provide local and state COVID-19 information and contact information for healthcare providers.
  • CDC works closely with community organizations and public health professionals to educate and meet the healthcare needs of essential workers traveling to the United States on temporary agricultural work visas (H-2A visas), as they may be at increased risk of getting COVID-19 while traveling and during their time working in the United States.

Spreading the word

CDC has published a variety of communications resources that state and local governments and community organizations can use to support their own response to the pandemic. They include:

  • Video messages from CDC scientists and others, including Academy Award Recipient Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans, Avatar).
  • Audio public service announcements (PSAs) that can air on radio stations or in airports.
  • A collection of more than 3 dozen flyers and posters developed to support COVID-19 recommendations, which can be downloaded for free and printed on a standard office or commercial printers.
  • A social media toolkit of graphics and suggested messages to help communities spread their messages about COVID-19. All content on this page is in the public domain and free for anyone to use.