We learn more about COVID-19 each day. When public health experts learn something new, they sometimes need to change their recommendations to keep us all safe. This page puts all that advice in one place so you can easily find the most up to date COVID-19 guidelines for the United States.
COVID-19 and its symptoms
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the disease caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2) that came about in December 2019. This virus has spikes on it that make it look like a crown. That’s why we call it a coronavirus: “corona” means “crown” in Latin. It spreads from person to person through droplets in the air. You can see if you have it by taking a quick test.
How bad is it?
COVID-19 can be severe and has caused millions of deaths around the world. It can cause lasting health problems in some people who survive the illness.
What are the symptoms?
People with COVID-19 can feel a wide range of symptoms. These include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Upset stomach
This list does not include all symptoms. Symptoms may change with new COVID-19 strains and can differ if you’ve gotten a vaccine or not.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
You can protect yourself and the people you love by getting a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot when you are able, taking a COVID-19 test when you feel sick, wearing a mask around others, washing your hands, and staying home when you’re feeling under the weather.
I think I might have COVID-19. What do I do?
If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, start wearing a mask as soon as you find out. Even if you’re not feeling sick, you should take a COVID-19 test 5 days after you were last around that person. If you do start feeling sick, take a test as soon as you can to see if it’s COVID-19 or something else.
If you test positive, you should stay home and away from others (isolation) for at least five days. This is when you’re most likely to spread it to someone else. The amount of time that you need to stay home depends on how sick you get.
- If you get mild symptoms or no symptoms at all and are fever-free after 5 days, you can leave your home after day 5 but should wear a mask through day 10.
- If you had moderate illness (shortness of breath or trouble breathing) or severe illness (you were hospitalized), or you have a weak immune system, you should stay home through day 10.
- If you ended isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms start again or worsen, you should restart your isolation from day 0.
Even if you test negative, you should still wear a mask when you’re around others at home and indoors in public places through day 10—just to be safe.
Use this card to help keep track of how long you need to wear a mask or stay away from others.
General COVID-19 vaccine guidelines
COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are great at protecting people from getting very sick, going to the hospital, or even dying from COVID-19—especially people who are boosted. As with vaccines for other diseases, you are protected best when you stay up to date. CDC recommends that
- everyone ages 6 months old and older get their primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine,
- everyone ages 5 years old and older get a bivalent booster shot if it has been at least 2 months since their last dose, and
- all children ages 6 months–4 years who completed the Moderna primary series get a bivalent booster shot if it has been at least 2 months since their last dose.
Children aged 6 months–4 years old who got the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine primary series do not need a booster shot at this time.
Updated (bivalent) boosters
The updated (bivalent) boosters are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Omicron variant (BA.4 and BA.5).
Previous boosters are called “monovalent” because they were designed to protect against the original virus that causes COVID-19. They also provide some protection against Omicron, but not as much as the updated (bivalent) boosters.
Two COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, have developed updated (bivalent) COVID-19 boosters.
When do I need to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot?
All people 6 months old and older should be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. Up to date means that you have received all your needed COVID-19 vaccines for the time being. What counts as being up to date depends on your age, the strength of your immune system, what vaccine you first received, and when you first got your vaccine.
The illustration below describes who can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot and when you can get them.
Guidelines for people with a very weak immune system or for people vaccinated outside of the U.S. can be found in the following sections.
Getting vaccines if you had or currently have COVID-19
If you recently had COVID-19, you may delay your next vaccine dose (whether a primary dose or booster) by 3 months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you first received a positive test.
Catching COVID-19 is less likely in the weeks to months after an infection. However, certain factors, such as personal risk of severe disease, or risk of disease in a loved one or close contact, local COVID-19 Community Level, and the most common COVID-19 variant currently causing illness, could be reasons to get a vaccine sooner rather than later.
Vaccine guidelines for people with very weak immune systems
People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised (i.e., have a very weak immune system) are at increased risk of getting very sick or even dying from COVID-19. Your body may not get the vaccine’s strong protection as quickly or easily as others’. As with vaccines for other diseases, you are protected best when you stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines as described below.
Who is moderately or severely immunocompromised?
Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to be immunocompromised (having a weakened immune system). People are considered to be moderately or severely immunocompromised if they have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune response
Talk to your healthcare provider about COVID-19 vaccination and your medical condition.
You can self-attest to your moderately or severely immunocompromised status. This means that you do not need any paperwork about your status to get COVID-19 vaccine doses wherever they are offered.
Vaccine timeline for immunocompromised people
The illustration below describes the timeline for COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for people of different ages with very weak immune systems.
Vaccine guidelines for people who were vaccinated outside of the United States
If you received COVID-19 vaccines outside the United States, whether you are up to date depends on which COVID-19 vaccine (and how many doses) you received.
You are considered fully vaccinated if you
- Received any single-dose COVID-19 vaccine series that is authorized or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by World Health Organization (WHO).
- *Received any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series.
*CDC does not recommend mixing different COVID-19 vaccines for the primary series, but CDC is aware that this is increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the interpretation of vaccination records, these people are considered fully vaccinated.
Accepted COVID-19 Vaccines
|Vaccines approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration||Vaccines listed for Emergency Use (EUL) by the World Health Organization|
If you received a COVID-19 vaccine that is not authorized or approved by FDA or listed for emergency use by WHO, wait at least 28 days after the last dose you received of that vaccine then start COVID-19 vaccination over with a COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved or authorized by the FDA.
Please note that no data are available on the safety or effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination after receiving a non-FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Visit the clinical considerations webpage for more information.
As with vaccines for other diseases, people are most protected when they are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 treatment options
If you test positive and are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, there are treatments that can reduce your chances of being hospitalized or dying from the disease. Medications to treat COVID-19 must be prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Don’t delay! These treatments must be started within days of when you first develop symptoms to be effective.
Contact a healthcare provider right away to determine if you are eligible for treatment, even if your symptoms are mild right now.
Treatments include pills (like Paxlovid) and medicines that need to be given by IV.
People who are more likely to get very sick include people 50 years old and older, people who are unvaccinated, and people with certain medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, or a weakened immune system.
Being vaccinated makes you much less likely to get very sick. Still, some vaccinated people, especially those ages 50 years or older or who have other risk factors for severe disease, may benefit from treatment if they get COVID-19. A healthcare provider will help decide which treatment, if any, is right for you.
|Nirmatrelvir with Ritonavir (Paxlovid)||Adults; children ages 12 years and older||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start||Taken at home by mouth (orally)|
|Remdesivir (Veklury)||Adults and children||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 7 days of when symptoms start||Intravenous (IV) infusions at a healthcare facility for 3 consecutive days|
|Molnupiravir (Lagevrio)||Adults||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start||Taken at home by mouth (orally)|
Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you are taking other medications to make sure the COVID-19 treatments can be safely taken at the same time.
How can I find treatments?
Talk to your healthcare provider and look online by using the Department of Health and Human Services’ “Test to Treat Locator.”
COVID-19 vaccines do a good job at keeping us safe, but sometimes we might need to do more to protect ourselves and those around us. The CDC offers some guidance on when we should wear masks.
COVID-19 Community Levels
COVID-19 Community Levels are a new tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
Find your local community level here.
Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 based on the COVID-19 Community Level in your area.
- Everyone ages 2 years and older should properly wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high, regardless of vaccination status.
- Wear a mask with the best fit, protection, and comfort for you.
- If you are sick and need to be around other people or are caring for someone who has COVID-19, wear a mask.
- If you are at increased risk for severe illness or live with or spend time with someone at higher risk, speak to your healthcare provider about wearing a mask at medium COVID-19 Community Levels.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. They should talk to their healthcare providers about what additional precautions may be necessary.
What Prevention Steps Should You Take Based on Your COVID-19 Community Level?
People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
For Healthcare Facilities: COVID-19 Community Levels do not apply in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Instead, healthcare settings should continue to use community transmission rates and follow CDC’s infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare workers.
If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease, learn more about how to protect yourself with additional CDC recommendations for each COVID-19 Community Level.