What to Read to Understand Coronavirus


The novel coronavirus has dominated headlines and conversations since it was first detected on New Year’s Eve of last year. To date, the illness continues to spread across the world as communities contend with the best ways to prepare and react without descending into panic. If you’re looking to get informed but don’t know where to start, ELLE.com has compiled a reading guide full of expert answers. Read on if you have questions about…

The Virus

The CDC has helpful explainers on the virus’ symptoms and what to do if you think you’re sick. If you’re pregnant and have more specific questions, the CDC has an FAQ for you. (The World Health Organization also has a detailed FAQ if you have additional questions.)

You might also have heard some people talk about the R0 of coronavirus, a number used to determine whether an outbreak will spread. If you’re curious about what R0 means—and what it doesn’t mean—The Atlantic has a detailed explainer.


If you’re wondering where it’s safe to travel, the CDC keeps an updated list of travel health notices, including which countries are marked level 3 and should be avoided for any nonessential travel. At the moment, the level 3 countries are China, South Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Italy. Keep up to date with the list here.

If you’re curious about whether you should cancel your trip, avoid cruises, or avoid layovers in level 3 countries, the CDC put together an FAQ with its recommendations.

How to Prepare

The CDC has guidelines on how to prevent spreading disease while we wait for a potential vaccine. The World Health Organization also put together an informative TikTok with information on how to protect yourself from the virus. There’s also CDC information on how the virus spreads.

Scientific American has an article about why it is essential—and altruistic—to prepare for coronavirus and exactly what that preparation should look like. The Atlantic also has information about whether or not you should avoid large crowds.

If you, like me, have heard that you should stock up on non-perishables but don’t know where to begin, an editor at Bon Appétit wrote a suggested list of what to buy. (But if you are eating out, remember to support your local Chinatown restaurants. Many cities have reported that restaurants have taken a hit in the wake of “generally baseless, arguably racist” coronavirus fears.)

How to Inform Children

If you’re looking for a way to explain the virus to your children, NPR created a kid-friendly comic that can help:

How to Wash Your Hands

Experts are recommending people wash their hands often for at least 20 seconds to prevent spreading illnesses. The CDC put together a thorough video explaining all you need to know about handwashing:

Wearing a Mask

According to the World Health Organization, if you don’t have respiratory systems, you do not need to wear a medical mask. (More information on masks and coronavirus here.) However, if you do end up needing to wear a mask, WHO created a TikTok to teach you how to do it properly.

How to Stay Informed

Of course, it’s essential to stay educated as this all unfolds, without slipping into an all-out panic. If you want consistent updates, outside of checking the CDC and WHO, The Washington Post has created a coronavirus newsletter for updates. The New York Times also has a guide you can sign up for.


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