About This Disease

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) was discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It quickly spread around the world causing a global pandemic.

See CDC’s Museum Timeline of COVID-19 Events.

See News Releases for COVID-19 news and updates.


The COVID-19 vaccine is available in Hawai’i for those 6 months old and older. The best way to protect Hawai‘i families and communities is to ensure that residents receive the COVID-19 vaccine. There are two types of COVID-19 vaccines licensed or authorized in the United States to prevent COVID-19, the mRNA vaccines and the protein subunit vaccines. Vaccine recommendations are based on age, and in some cases, time since last dose, the first vaccine received, and immune status. Regardless of vaccination status, mask wearing, and staying home while sick remain critical tools against the virus. Learn more on our Vaccine FAQ page.

Signs and Symptoms

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In addition, a significant percentage of infected people are asymptomatic – or have no symptoms.


Like many other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses spread through droplets that you project out of your mouth or nose when you breathe, cough, sneeze, or speak.

As genetic changes to the virus happen over time, the SARS-CoV-2 virus begins to form genetic lineages, like a family tree. Scientists call the viruses with these changes “variants.” Variants such as the Delta variant and Omicron variant are still SARS-CoV-2 but may act differently. Differences in variants can also include how fast the virus spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or the effectiveness of treatments against it.


If you have cold or flu symptoms and are at higher risk for severe disease, knowing what illness you have can help get you the right treatment. Your provider can order a test for COVID-19 or home self-test kits can be purchased at many pharmacies. No-cost COVID-19 testing for individuals without insurance can be found here: No-Cost COVID-19 Testing​ | CDC


If you have COVID-19, there are a variety of treatments that can help prevent you from becoming severely ill. These medications require a prescription from a provider and should be started as soon as possible.

Antiviral treatments

These medications target specific parts of the COVID-19 virus and can help reduce its multiplication and spread through the body.

Other treatments

Other treatments for hospitalized patients include intravenous medications to treat the virus, reduce an overactive immune response, treat complications of COVID-19, and convalescent plasma.

More information on COVID-19 treatments can be found here: COVID-19 Treatments and Medications | CDC

Risk in Hawaii

To date, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) infection has resulted in more than 1 million deaths nationally, including over 2,000 deaths in the state of Hawai‘i. COVID-19 often causes only mild symptoms but may result in life-threatening disease in high-risk individuals, including pregnant women, newborn infants, people over 50 years old, or those with chronic heart or lung disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, organ transplant, or immunodeficiency.


Get immunized.
Stay up to date on your flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines.

Stay home when sick.
Stay home until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication AND other symptoms are mild and improving.

Wear a mask.
Wearing a mask when you are indoors with other people is a precaution you can take at any time. Wearing a mask helps protect you and those around you.

Practice good hygiene.
Cover your coughs and sneezes, clean frequently touched surfaces, and wash your hands often.

Take steps for cleaner air.
Open doors or windows to bring in fresh outside air, purify indoor air or gather outdoors.

Test and treat.
If you have cold or flu symptoms, and are at higher risk for severe disease, knowing what illness you have can help get you the right treatment. Antiviral medications for COVID-19 and flu work best when taken as soon as possible and are recommended for those at higher risk.

Visit COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.