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CDC's Response

CDC's Response

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

Preparing first responders, healthcare providers, and health systems

  • CDC is collecting information and offering recommendations about the vaccines that are being distributed in the United States after having received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Although CDC does not play a role in developing vaccines, we have been working closely with health departments and other partners to develop vaccination programs.
  • CDC has developed the v-safe tool to increase our ability to rapidly detect any safety issues with COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe is a smartphone-based health checker for people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • CDC is working to detect and characterize new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. As CDC has learned new information about the variants, the agency has been providing updates to the public and our partners around the world.
  • 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 infection, severe illness, and death from COVID-19. CDC is working to reduce those gaps by learning more about their causes and giving healthcare workers and other frontline employees the tools they need to close them.
  • CDC is working to learn more about the short- and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19. As the pandemic has unfolded, we have learned that COVID-19 can affect many organs in addition to the lungs.
  • CDC is investigating multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but often serious complication seen in some children after they have become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This team has been learning more about this syndrome and quickly communicating that information to healthcare providers, parents, and caregivers, as well as to state, territorial, local, and tribal health departments.
  • CDC has launched a nationwide initiative to help state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments address their staffing needs through innovative hiring mechanisms.
  • CDC’s global response provides emergency risk management (communications) resources to countries and vulnerable populations, provides international public health leadership, and fosters partner outreach to further the scientific and technical experience with COVID-19 in order to strengthen disease surveillance systems needed to detect and respond to future outbreaks.

In addition, CDC

  • Has published more than 180 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 groups of people who are more likely to become severely ill from this disease and offered 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 predict demand for hospital-based services, including how many patients may need ventilator treatment or other treatment in an intensive-care unit. These data can help hospitals prepare for possible changes in caseload.
  • Developed a range of respirator conservation strategies to make supplies last longer and increase the supply of disposable respirators.

Advising businesses, communities, and schools

CDC has provided advice that has evolved as we have learned more about COVID-19.

  • CDC has released indicators to help school officials make decisions about in-person learning as local conditions have evolved during the pandemic. When coupled with local data about community spread, these guideposts helping local health officials, school administrators, and communities plan for and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • CDC has published a list of tips on how to make, clean, and wear masks, which help stop the spread of COVID-19 when used properly.
  • CDC has produced a series of toolkits that businesses, schools, retirement communities, and other institutions can use to communicate information people can use to protect themselves, their family and friends, and their communities.

In addition, CDC has

  • Created business guidance to help the public and private sectors protect essential workers and to help others increase their workers’ safety by adopting policies like teleworking and flexible sick leave.
  • Developed guidance for childcare programs, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities to help school officials plan for and respond to any outbreaks of COVID-19 in their communities.
  • Provided COVID-19 planning guides for use by households, community- and faith-based organizations, planners of mass gatherings, and public health communicators.

Sharing our knowledge

Since before March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, CDC has been sharing with Americans and the rest of the world what we’ve learned about COVID-19.

  • COVID Data Tracker contains a wealth of numbers and tools to analyze COVID-19 cases, deaths, and trends at the local, state, and national levels. Data Tracker tool contains total cases; average number of daily cases during the previous seven days; total number of deaths; and total number of vaccinations. The information, which is updated daily, is both big-picture (with national data) and granular (down to the county level).
  • CDC’s COVID-19 Science Update helps inform CDC’s response to the pandemic and helps CDC staff stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 research. This series, published every Friday, provides brief summaries of new COVID-19-related studies on many topics, including epidemiology, clinical treatment and management, laboratory science, and modeling.
  • The Household Pulse Survey, a joint effort by CDC and the U.S. Census Bureau, produces a near real-time snapshot of people’s mental health and access to care during the pandemic. Each week since April 2020, tens of thousands of people have answered questions about their physical and mental health, as well as their 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 national genomics consortium is coordinating large-scale, rapid genomic sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19. Public health experts are using it to monitor changes to the virus; learn more about how it spreads; and help identify new ways to diagnose and treat the disease.
  • CDC has developed an rRT-PCR (Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction) test to diagnose current COVID-19 infection and has helped equip state and local public health laboratories with the capacity to test for the virus.
  • CDC is also offering interim guidance for antigen testing. These tests are not as accurate as rRT-PCR tests, but because they are faster, cheaper, and easier to use, they can be valuable tools in the fight against COVID-19.
  • 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 the 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 to learn how the body’s immune system responds to the virus.
  • CDC has grown the virus that causes COVID-19 in cell culture and sent it to the National Institutes of Health’s Biodefense and Emerging Infections Research Resources Repository external iconfor use by the broader scientific community in a variety of studies.
  • COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review provides a weekly summary and interpretation of COVID-19 data.

In addition

  • CDC’s COVID-NET program collects data on laboratory-confirmed, COVID-19-associated hospitalizations among children and adults through a network of over 250 acute-care hospitals in 14 states.

CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) publishes the results of COVID-19 outbreak investigations and guidance. MMWR is the agency’s primary vehicle for scientific publication of timely, reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and useful public health information and recommendations. The data in MMWR are based on weekly reports to CDC by state health departments.

CDC’s monthly journal Emerging Infectious Diseases has published dozens of studies by researchers studying COVID-19. The open-access, peer-reviewed journal promotes the recognition of new and reemerging infectious diseases around the world and improves the understanding of factors involved in disease.

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 associated with rapid global travel. Those activities include issuing guidance; educating travelers; working with international, federal, state, local, and industry partners; and taking actions at U.S. borders.

Keeping travelers and destination communities healthy

  • CDC has created a web page for travelers that gives advice on when and for how long to delay domestic or international travel to avoid spreading COVID-19.
  • CDC provides public health guidance related to travel that is intended to limit new introductions of the virus that causes COVID-19 into U.S. communities.
  • CDC provides guidance for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and knowing your travel risk to keep international and domestic travelers healthy.
  • CDC has issued after-you-travel guidance to encourage all travelers, both international and domestic, to be aware of the risk they may pose to family, friends, and home community as a result of possible COVID-19 exposure during travel.
  • All international travelers arriving at U.S. airports or land border crossings receive a Travel Health Alert Notice pdf icon[691 KB, 2 pages] containing information about how to safeguard their health and protect others during the 14 days after arrival, when travelers infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 may be contagious, even if they have no symptoms.
  • 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 borders where international travelers enter or leave the United States.
  • CDC has 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 people who live, work, or travel along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ensuring the health of individuals entering the United States to live and work

  • CDC has posted a communication toolkit in different languages for use by people whose English-language skills may be limited.
  • CDC recognizes that newly resettled refugees may experience living arrangements or working conditions that put them at increased risk of getting COVID-19.
    • In response, CDC has posted information on COVID-19 in Newly Resettled Refugee Populations to offer ways that partner organizations can help protect refugees and their communities and slow the spread of COVID-19.
    • CDC is working with refugee resettlement agencies, the 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 to refugees CDC’s “What refugees can do if they are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19”  pdf icon[3 MB, 1 page]and welcome booklets pdf icon[3 MB, 8 pages]. Published in the refugees’ native languages, these booklets are  handed out during their overseas medical exam or pre-departure screening. They are intended to help refugees and their families stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic after arriving in the United States.
      • At U.S. ports of entry, IOM staff provide arrivals with a number of 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 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 responses 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 and in airports.
  • A collection of more than three dozen flyers and posters, which can be downloaded for free and printed on standard office or commercial printers. The materials were developed to support COVID-19 recommendations.
  • 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.