What is coronavirus or COVID-19?

Corocoronavirusnaviruses (abbreviated CoV) are a family of viruses (there isn't just one virus called 'coronavirus') that infect both humans and animals. This family of viruses can cause many common illnesses like colds and the flu, as well as more severe illnesses like the current pandemic.

COVID-19 is the name for the disease caused in humans by a specific coronavirus called the "2019 novel coronavirus", or 2019-nCoV.

Coronaviruses got their name because their outer proteins look like crowns ("corona" is Latin for 'crown'). 

What about the vaccine?

Several COVID-19 vaccines are in development and trial. These are expected to be distributed as early as December 2020, beginning with health care workers. No vaccine has been approved as of early December 2020. Vaccine approval will fall under an Emergency Use Authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While this is a shorter authorization process than a standard vaccine approval, it is not less rigorous. The FDA does a great job of explaining Emergency Use Authorization specifically as it applies to COVID-19 on this page.

Some resources for further reading:

Research Resources

microscope There are some excellent online resources to help you research more details of COVID-19 and coronaviruses in general.
  • Coronavirus Research Database from ProQuest curates openly available information on coronaviruses, including resources on the current COVID-19 pandemic
  • The Gale Health and Wellness database topic page on coronavirus contains research articles, images, news links, and more
  • Salem Health has an encyclopedia entry on coronaviruses (It does not reference COVID-19, but provides general info on the family of viruses.)
  • In the Ebsco Science Reference Center, search ‘coronavirus’ for research and reference; they also have a subject heading of ‘COVID-19’
  • In AccessScience, search ‘coronavirus’ for more research articles
  • To learn about the history of pandemics, check out this collection of essays from Salem

Reliable News dctc logo

It can be hard to know who to trust and what to believe. Here are some reliable resources for current information on the pandemic:
Campus Minnesota
  • Minnesota Department of Health situation update - includes total confirmed cases and deaths
  • The Minnesota governor's office shares the full text of official orders (like the #stayhomeMN order)
United States Global

How do I know if what I'm reading is true?

question mark The following resources will walk you through evaluating sources and the information they present.

I have more questions.

Your friendly DCTC librarians are here to help! We are happy to answer your questions or point you in the right direction. Email us at or call 651-423-8366.

Naomi Johnston

Can I prevent COVID-19?

wash hands

Resources from the Minnesota Department of Health

Resources from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

I need help.

person calling doctor

It's okay to ask for help! Here are some places you can turn for help of all kinds.

  • Learn about Minnesota assistance programs and take a free assessment to see if you might be eligible for programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called ‘food stamps’), child care assistance, help with medical bills, and more
  • MN Economic Assistance website has information on child care, housing, food, and income assistance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Housing assistance
  • Find a food pantry near you
  • MN unemployment information and application
  • DCTC Office of Social Navigation has resources on food, clothing, self-help, and contact information for Chris Tran (campus social worker)
  • Mental health resources for the state of Minnesota
  • Yoga YouTube channel idea (there are plenty of others, too!)
  • Search YouTube for ‘mindfulness body scan’ and pick a video that’s pleasant to listen to for you

What if I might have COVID-19?

Visit the CDC website for information on how to care for yourself and advice on when to call the doctor. Call the doctor before visiting. If you need to call 911, tell them you might have coronavirus.

What about school?

  • Don't come to campus.
  • Inform all of your instructors as soon as possible.
  • Make arrangements with individual instructors for completing assigned work.

How can I help other people?


I have just the desire and a little time.

  • Donate blood or platelets at the Red Cross or Memorial Blood Center
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or place that packs/serves meals
  • Volunteer at the MN Cloth Diaper Bank
  • Offer to pick up groceries or prescriptions for people in your neighborhood, especially those in vulnerable groups
  • Write letters to people in nursing homes

I have extra food/household essentials.

  • Donate to a local food pantry
  • Donate to a homeless shelter
  • Donate to a women's/domestic abuse victim shelter
  • Share with neighbors in need
  • Share with those supporting loved ones in the hospital

I have some money to share.

Lots of places can use financial help right now. Some ideas:
  • Food pantry
  • Shelter
  • Other charities
  • Red Cross
  • Schools
  • Local businesses
MPR News has compiled a page of resources on ways we can help each other.

Social distancing is making me crazy. Help!

Here are some ideas to make the time at home a little more pleasant.
  • Video chat with some friends to exercise or have a book club together
  • Find people in your building or neighborhood to do distance exercise with – stay at least 6 feet apart in hallways or on driveways
  • Look for phy ed or PT videos and work out with kids in your home or neighborhood, staying 6 feet apart (and don’t cough on your neighbors!)
  • Listen to audiobooks (Audible has some free adult books, and all children can listen for free during the pandemic; your local public library is also a good source of audiobooks)
  • Check out your local public library’s website for free audiobook and video streaming options
  • Go outside! This is still allowed under the ‘stay at home’ order – just don’t go outside in groups and stay at least 6 feet from your neighbors. Walk your dog, ride your bike…
  • Find something to make you laugh every day – like funny animal videos or backfired pranks. Dust off an old joke book to impress your friends, or watch a comedy sketch.
  • Learn a new language with the library’s access to the Mango language learning app
  • MPR article with additional ideas
  • A survival guide for extroverts