TL;DR Science: Coronavirus

By John Sutor
April 01, 2020 · 3 minute read

It seems as if virtually everywhere you look right now, COVID-19 is the main headline. Every channel, website, news outlet, and even every form of social media is full of information (some reliable, some not), panels, and memes discussing the virus and its implications. For our first edition of TL;DR science, we wanted to briefly discuss COVID-19: what it is, how it spreads, and how to stay safe during this pandemic. Feel free to check out the TL;DR at the bottom for a summary of this post. Also, stay on top of your extracurricular involvement with STEM activities by looking for remote programs on our website that can expand your STEM horizons!

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a coronavirus, which takes its name from the characteristic spikes on the surface of the virus that resembles a crown. Coronaviruses are common to mammals and birds and are known to cause respiratory illness. Several other known coronaviruses besides COVID-19 are the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a novel form of coronavirus that was previously unidentified until the outbreak likely began in the city of Wuhan, China.

How does Coronavirus Spread?

Coronaviruses typically spread from person to person. COVID-19 is believed to spread through saliva or microparticles from a person coughing or sneezing. Coronavirus has an incubation period of between one and fourteen days, with five days being the most common length of time before a person begins to show symptoms of the virus. This means that a person could be carrying the virus and infecting others for up to fourteen days before they are even aware that they have the virus. Furthermore, little is known about how long coronavirus lasts on surfaces. It is believed to last between a few hours and a few days depending on conditions such as humidity and temperature.

How can I stay safe?

Though the virus may sound scary due to how rapidly it has spread, there are many ways in which you can prevent yourself from coming into contact with COVID-19. The best way to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic is to socially isolate as much as possible. This means avoiding large gathering places, and if possible, staying home and out of the public. If you must be around other people, the World Health Organization recommends keeping a distance of roughly 3 feet between you and the next person. To prevent the spreading of coronavirus, you can wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub, as much as possible throughout the day. Furthermore, it is important to avoid touching any part of your face with your hands as the virus may accumulate on your hand between periods of hand washing. Finally, it is important to wipe down surfaces that you come into contact with often to prevent contamination.


COVID-19 is a coronavirus, a type of virus that is common to mammals and birds. COVID-19 can spread from person to person through microparticles of saliva when an infected person coughs or sneezes. To avoid catching COVID-19, it is important to practice social distancing, hand washing, as well as to avoid touching your face.


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