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Understanding Coronavirus and COVID-19

Below you will find what we believe to be reliable sources of information about the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19.
Students and other English language learners: Scroll down for simple English and for images and posters.

General Information for Tutors: 
We are going to try our best to make it possible for you to connect with your students during this crisis. Naturally, the pandemic will be a topic everyone needs reliable information on. While we have no special expertise, we do have access to many reliable lines of communication. Here we try to give you what you need to know and to share. 

Coronaviruses are commonplace. Most that we encounter are relatively harmless. However, the one called “SARS-CoV-2” (short for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus 2”) is a threat -- a deadly threat to some, particularly the elderly or those with compromised health. Few if any children have suffered serious consequences from this disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus causes COVID-19, a flu-like disease whose symptoms include respiratory congestion, cough, fever, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Not all symptoms appear in all those infected. Fever and cough appear to be the two most prominent indicators. Due to a shortage of testing kits, only people who fit priority criteria can be tested (as of late March). More details below.

The virus replicates itself in the cells of infected people and then spreads when they cough or sneeze. COVID-19 infections have so far been found in 142 countries (or territories), including the United States. Worldwide, as of Monday, April 6, there are over 1.3 million cases. The majority are now outside of China, where the outbreak began and has now apparently leveled off. The coronavirus is currently spreading rapidly elsewhere.

The disease is now present in all 50 United States. Confirmed cases are growing daily. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which updates totals once a day, on Monday, April 6, reported more than 330,000 confirmed cases in the United States. An unofficial but frequently updated tally, maintained by Johns Hopkins University, puts the U.S. total as on the same day at 367,500. Most are in coastal states, but a growing number of cases have also been reported in other states. As Thurs., April 9, Lincoln has 42 confirmed case, bringing Nebraska's total to 567. 

The Mayor's Office and Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department advise: "Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Those who experience these symptoms should self-quarantine and call their health care providers for recommended follow up before visiting. If you need help accessing care, contact the Health Department at 402-441-8006. Do not go to the emergency room unless it is essential.

UPDATE:  The state has created a website to help people who feel they need to get tested for the coronavirus. Click here:

"While officials are working to increase the number of tests available in Lincoln, testing continues to be limited and prioritized for those who are most vulnerable or those in high-risk populations.

"According to the State guidelines for COVID-19 testing, patients who have symptoms - and who have been diagnosed as not having the flu or other respiratory illness - will now be considered presumptively positive and be considered for testing. Patients considered presumptively positive should self-quarantine for 14 days as they wait for resolution of their symptoms.

"Those prioritized for testing remain healthcare workers; public safety personnel; residents and employees of nursing homes and group homes; those attending or working at daycares; and people over 60 or those with underlying health conditions

"Those who have no symptoms do not need to contact your health provider to be tested. Do not go to urgent care, the emergency department, or a doctor's office to get a COVID-19 test. Those test kits and medical personnel must be reserved for individuals in the prioritized categories."

Update: As of Thursday, April 9 there are 42 known cases in Lincoln. The Health Department has issued new restrictions on gathering in groups of more than 10. Click here for details:

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, use of alcohol-based hand-sanitizer, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and not touching the face. The CDC recommends that we avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. If a person has traveled to China recently, or has been in close contact with someone who has, and begins to feel sick with fever or cough or have difficulty breathing, they are advised to seek medical care. However, it is important that they call the doctor or ER ahead of a visit to tell them that they are a possible COVID-19 case.

Simple English Information for Students: 

There is a good, doctor-produced 12-minute video here. However, the words may be hard to understand without help from a tutor.

Some questions and answers:  

Please note that the information below does not constitute medical advice from Lincoln Literacy. It is information gathered from what we believe to be reliable sources and simplified for use in lessons

What causes the disease?
It is a virus. A virus is a tiny, tiny germ. (See images below.) It is about 50 thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair. The coronavirus infects a person when they breathe it in. It has spikes on its surface. The spikes penetrate a lung cell and force the cell to make copies of the virus. Then, when the person coughs or sneezes, many copies of the virus escape. They float through the air or ride on the hands of the person to infect someone else. 

What is the disease like?
Information about this disease is still developing. According to the WHO, it differs from person to person. When the virus enters a person's body, there is believed to be a period of 2 to 14 days before symptoms develop. For some, there are no symptoms. For some, it is like a cold. The person might have cough, sneezes, and maybe fever or trouble in their stomach. (See posters and graphics at bottom.)  For some, it is like the flu. For some, it becomes deadly. The death rate is highest for people over 80 and for people who have had lung problems before catching the disease. 

What should I do if I think I have this disease?
Unless you are in a condition that threatens your life now, stay at home, away from other people, and call your doctor. If you do not have a regular doctor, or you need help with language, you can call the Health Department at 402-441-8006. If it's not urgent and you think someone at Lincoln Literacy can help you with interpretation, text us at 402-310-0572 or 402-475-3774.  Please give your name when you text. We will do our best to help.

With so many places closing, I have no income. Where can I get help?
Download the free MyLNK app onto your phone. It has up-to-date information on services. If you cannot do that, click here for some information. You can also send any question to us by email at 

Is it dangerous to be around Asian people?
No. Asians are no more likely to catch or spread the disease than any other human being, as the CDC confirms. Although the outbreak began in China, it is now spreading more rapidly in Europe and other parts of the world. In China, fewer than one in a million people has a confirmed case of COVID-19, and elsewhere it remains rare. The danger of infection comes from close contact with anyone, regardless of origin, who has the virus, or by touching a surface that someone with the virus has touched. 

What treatments are available? 
Prevention is the best treatment. This is a new disease. The name COVID-19  refers to its discovery in 2019. There is no proven or widely available vaccine. There is no widely available  medicine to treat the disease. Do not buy a "coronavirus medicine" or vaccine. They are fake. They will not help, and they might harm you.

How do we prevent spreading or catching the disease?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department you should  take following steps to reduce the spread of any respiratory virus:

> Avoid close contact with sick people.

> While sick, stay home and limit contact with others as much as possible.

> When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with tissue if possible. Throw the tissue into a waste can afterwards.

> If using a tissue is not possible, cover your mouth and nose with the elbow of your sleeve.

> Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

> Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

> Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

> If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. It must have at least 60 percent alcohol.

To see the city-county health directives in various languages, click here and scroll down:

Additionally, some authorities recommend that we stop shaking hands to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Since handshaking is not a universal cultural practice, and since it can add to the spread of disease, we recommend a friendly wave instead. If you cannot stop shaking hands without causing offence to others, we recommend that you wash your hands soon after. If you cannot do that, use hand sanitizer after shaking hands.

Why isn't wearing a face mask on that prevention list?
Ordinary face masks may not be effective in preventing viruses from entering our lungs. That's because viruses are so small. Using an ordinary face mask may be like trying to stop a mosquito with a tennis racket or a chain link fence. Medical-grade face masks require training to be effective, and should be reserved for medical personnel treating infected persons, or in some cases those providing home care. Consult a medical provider. 

Update: the City and other authorities are now recommending an ordinary face mask when going into an enclosed space. This will not be likely to prevent a person from inhaling the virus, but it may a) prevent the person from touching their face after touching a surface contaminated by the coronavirus and b) constrain the spread of virus-laden droplets from a person who is infected without being aware that they are carrying the virus. For these purposes, you can make a mask out of any cloth and tie it or use band around your ears to hold it in place.
To see a video of the U.S. Surgeon General showing an easy way to make a face mask, click here:

What is Lincoln Literacy doing in response to the spread of COVID-19?

  Our Classes, Offices, and Public Operations Are Temporarily Closed.

With regret, we announce suspension of all Lincoln Literacy classes, matches, and public operations for an indefinite period. It is likely to last months. This decision follows Lincoln Public Schools' announcement that in an abundance of caution regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, LPS will not hold in-person classes until further notice. However, we are working to bring people together online. See our website or contact us if you are interested. You can email us at or text us at 402-310-0572.

Why is Lincoln Literacy closed now?
It has long been our policy to close when the public schools close, in part because we recognize that parents need to be with all their children at such times. But there are additional reasons why a closure now makes good sense. Even though there are relatively few known cases of COVID-19 in Nebraska to date, this coronavirus has shown itself able to spread very rapidly. Italy went from 20 cases to many thousands in a little more than a week, and their medical system has been overwhelmed. If we all act prudently now and are able to slow its spread in the US, then our medical providers will have a chance to give each patient the care he or she needs whatever their ailment might be.
   Beyond that, even if we wanted to go ahead, many of our partners who host LL classes have either closed or asked us to stay away, and some of tutors have expressed concerns, so it would be impractical to go forward now.

When will classes resume? 
Unfortunately, it is too early to say. A key question will be what LPS decides to do, but that is not the only question we will take into account. Meanwhile, Lincoln Literacy senior staff are monitoring important sources of information, including LPS, the City Health Department, the CDC, and the WHO. We will update this page at least once a week.

Will the Lincoln Literacy office be closed?
Yes, to minimize the risks, we will close to the public, starting now. We're asking staff to stay home unless they have essential tasks or functions to perform. However, you can communicate with us via email at any time. The general email is

External Information Links (linkage does not signify endorsement):

Information for the Public from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Information on COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Information from the CDC in other languages (Spanish, Russian, Farsi, Arabic, Vietnamese, and more)

Information on COVID-19 in Nebraska from the Ne. Dept. of Health and Human Services

Information on COVID-19 from the City of Lincoln

Latest Global Stats: A Frequently Updated Global Dashboard from Johns Hopkins University

The Pandemic in Statistics and Graphs, regularly updated, by Worldometer

Video: "How to protect yourself against COVID-19"

Mythbusters: WHO puts rumors to rest

Univ. of Nebraska Medical Center Coronavirus Updates

Univ. of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus

Helping Children Cope with Fears about Coronavirus

Stop touching my face? Why the easiest way to prevent coronavirus is so hard.

Video: Local medical perspective and advice from Dr. Bob Rauner.

What does the virus do inside a human body? An illustrated guide.

Click on any image below to get a larger version. Then right-click on it to save or print the image.