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Guide Information on the Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated as of February 27, 2020.

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Recently, a new coronavirus—2019 Novel (New) Coronavirus—was detected in Wuhan, China. This novel coronavirus causes a respiratory (lung) infection. As of February 27, there has been one confirmed case of this novel coronavirus in Massachusetts.

The risk to residents in Massachusetts remains low.

As of February 27, CDC is updating United States case counts based on repatriated individuals. For the latest on case counts, visit the CDC website.

Symptoms of this infection include:

  • fever
  • cough and shortness of breath, and
  • in severe cases, pneumonia (fluid in the lungs).

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide updated information on this website as it becomes available.

We want you to know that Massachusetts is prepared for this potential outbreak. Massachusetts public health departments and our world-class health care providers are well-versed in emergency preparedness and our healthcare workers, institutions and public health partners across the Commonwealth are constantly training for the possible emergence of diseases.

We are engaging in daily communications with the CDC, US Health and Human Services, and other federal and regional agencies to make sure we are sharing with you and all of our Massachusetts partners the latest guidance and recommendations.

To learn the facts about COVID-19 and help stop the spread of misinformation, visit CDC’s webpage: Share the Facts, Stop Fear.

(Note: On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The virus causing the disease has been named SARS-CoV-2. DPH will be updating this website and other materials to reflect the updated names.)

Information for travelers arriving in the United States

It is important for individuals who have recently traveled and who become ill to notify their health care provider of their travel history. Those who have recently traveled to China and who have symptoms of respiratory illness or individuals who have come in contact with someone with symptoms of a respiratory illness should contact their local board of health or health care provider.

Please check CDC for travel updates:

Travelers from China arriving in US

To slow the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus into the United States, CDC is working with public health partners to implement new travel procedures announced in a Presidential Proclamation on Novel Coronavirus. In summary:

  1. Foreign nationals who have visited China in the past 14 days may not enter the United States.
  2. American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their families who have been in China in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States, but will be redirected to one of 11 airports to undergo health screening. Logan International Airport is not one of these 11 designated airports. Depending on their health and travel history, they will have some level of restrictions on their movements for 14 days from the time they left China.

If you are in the second group above and are traveling to the United States:

  • Your travel will be redirected to one of 11 U.S. airports where CDC has quarantine stations.
  • You will be asked about your health and travel.
  • Your health will be screened for fever, cough, or trouble breathing.

Depending on your health and travel history:

  • You will have some restrictions on your movement for a period of 14 days from the time you left China.
  • You will be contacted by state or local public health authorities upon your return to provide you details on your movement restrictions and monitoring requirements.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses; some cause illness in people and some occur in animals, including camels, civet cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then may spread between people. Human coronaviruses cause routine seasonal respiratory virus infections. Other coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, can cause serious illnesses.

How do coronaviruses spread?

Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses and are generally spread through respiratory secretions (droplets from coughs and sneezes) of an infected person to another person. Information about how this novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads is still evolving. We know that outbreaks of new virus infections among people are always of public health concern and are working to make sure you have all the information you need to understand what is happening and how to protect yourself and your family.

What do we know about the source and spread of COVID-19?

Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person to person in parts of that country. COVID-19 illnesses, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, also are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States.

Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.


Although the risk to Massachusetts residents of the novel coronavirus is low, the risk for influenza is currently high. Many of the things you do to help prevent colds and the flu can help protect you against other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Download a printable fact sheet – this helpful guide can be posted in workplaces and public spaces: Prevent Flu and Other Viruses

There are currently no vaccines available to protect against this novel coronavirus infection.

Should I wear a mask when I go out in public?

The health risk to Massachusetts residents remains low and at this time we are not recommending that people wear masks when they are in public. Masks can be useful in some settings, such as a clinic waiting room, to prevent someone who has a respiratory illness from spreading it to others. There is no hard evidence that wearing a mask protects the wearer outside of the healthcare setting.

Should public events be cancelled?

No, not at this time. The health risk to the general public in Massachusetts remains low. Massachusetts state and local health officials are actively working to help protect the health of our residents and we have no indications that COVID-19 is spreading in our communities at this time.


At this time there is no specific treatment for this novel coronavirus. Antiviral medications used to treat other types of viruses are being used but their efficacy is not known at this time.

Guidance and recommendations

For clinicians

Clinicians who see patients with recent travel to China who have a fever, lower respiratory tract symptoms (such as shortness of breath and cough), and/or contact with a known novel coronavirus patient, should contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) 24/7 at (617) 983-6800 for assistance. Further clinical guidance can be found in these CDC advisories:

In the event of an outbreak, all hospitals should be prepared for the possible arrival of patients with COVID-19. The CDC Hospital Preparedness Checklist outlines a number of important practices.

For Long Term Care Facilities

DPH-issued guidance to Long Term Care Facilities, including nursing homes and rest homes: 

For schools

DPH-issued recommended guidance for school health personnel: COVID-19 Guidance for Schools.

For businesses/employers

CDC-issued guidance for employers to help prevent workplace exposures to illnesses and planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19.

For Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points

CDC-issued guidance for all first responders, including law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and emergency management officials, who anticipate close contact with persons with confirmed or possible COVID-19 in the course of their work: CDC’s Interim Guidance for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for 2019-nCoV in the United States.

Printable fact sheets

For more information

The most updated information is available from the CDC: 2019 Novel Coronavirus 

Additional Resources for For more information