Is the pandemic over? Q&A about COVID-19




The COVID-19 pandemic brought uncertainty to nearly every aspect of daily life. It’s been over three years, and many questions remain. In this FAQ, we will address lingering questions and share helpful information about Long COVID, testing, vaccines, face coverings, and more.

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The guidance shared here is from a team of public health professionals at UMASH and is not medical advice. If you can, talk to a healthcare practitioner to learn more and get specific recommendations for you and your health.

Steve Kirkhorn

The information in this FAQ has been reviewed by UMASH’s medical advisor, Dr. Steve Kirkhorn.

Steve R. Kirkhorn, MD, MPH, FACOEM

Dr. Kirkhorn serves as UMASH’s Occupational Medicine Advisor, as well as Medical Director of AgriSafe. He received a BS in Zoology, MPH in Environmental Health, and MD from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Kirkhorn’s extensive experience includes practicing as a rural occupational medicine physician since 1991, including a sabbatical and fellowship focused on agricultural medicine. He has held positions such as the Medical Director of the National Farm Medicine Center and Chair of Occupational Health at Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Program Director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program with the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety. Recently retired as the Director and Section Chief of Occupational Health at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Health Care System, he maintains affiliations as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Apart from his professional pursuits, he holds the title of Master Naturalist through the University of Minnesota Extension and enjoys birdwatching, biking, and kayaking.

Is the pandemic over?
On May 11, 2023, the federal government declared that the emergency phase of the pandemic had ended. This announcement does not mean that the COVID-19 pandemic is over – it just changed how the federal government is responding to the pandemic. The end of this emergency phase means that the federal government is no longer paying for COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment. So, some people will now have to pay for these services if they do not have insurance or enough coverage. The end of the emergency phase also means that the rules about telehealth, medical licensing, and more return to the way they were before the pandemic. Read more about these changes from the Cleveland Clinic.
What is COVID-19 like in my county?
Select your county and state in the CDC’s “COVID-19 County Check Tool” to see information about COVID-19 in your county. Be sure to keep in mind that numbers are likely underestimates, as many people are testing themselves without reporting their results.
What are the current COVID-19 symptoms?
Some possible symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, and more. Symptoms can also differ depending on your age, health, whether or not you are vaccinated, and which strain of COVID-19 you have. Sometimes, people can have COVID-19 without having any symptoms. Knowing the common symptoms of COVID-19 can help you quickly decide to get tested if you have symptoms. COVID-19 spreads the easiest within the first five days of the infection, so early detection and isolation can help keep the people in your life healthy. Early detection is especially important for people who are more likely to get very sick from the virus because most medication treatments need to be started as soon as possible to work well.
What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?
COVID-19 and the flu (influenza) are both viruses that affect your respiratory system (the system that helps you breathe). Sometimes people are unsure if they have the flu or COVID-19 because they can have similar symptoms. Although both can spread between people, COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu. Although both can cause severe illness, COVID-19 seems to make some people sicker and may cause long-term health problems.
Is it possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. It is possible to test positive for flu (as well as other respiratory infections) and COVID-19 at the same time. Make sure to stay up-to-date on both your flu and COVID-19 vaccines. People infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time are more likely to get severely sick or even die from the viruses.
Why is it safer to be outdoors with people than indoors?
When you’re outside, respiratory droplets from an infected person disperse and become less concentrated because there is more air flow. Because of this, you’re less likely to breathe in COVID-19 droplets enough when you are outside.

When inside, especially in poorly ventilated areas, respiratory droplets stay in the air and flow throughout the same space longer, meaning you’re more likely to breathe in the droplets at a rate high enough to get COVID-19. This is why good ventilation, like opening windows, having portable air purifiers, and HVAC filters, are important indoors.

How long should I isolate if I test positive for COVID-19?
It can be confusing to figure out how long you need to isolate yourself from others if you test positive for COVID-19. To protect others in your household and community, you may also wish to isolate yourself if you know you have been exposed to COVID-19. Use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Isolation and Exposure Calculator to find out exactly how long to isolate.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Improve ventilation while indoors.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms.
  • Stay home if you have COVID-19.
  • Avoid contact with people who have COVID-19.
  • Wear a respirator if you are taking care of someone with COVID-19 to keep yourself safe.

Read more about these recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

How should I isolate myself at home?
If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself away from others, even those you live with, for at least 5 days. If you live with others, try to spend those days in a different room to keep others healthy. Another way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to increase the ventilation in your home by opening doors and windows, turning on fans, and using a portable air filter.

Corsi-Rosenthal boxes:
Corsi-Rosenthal boxes are easy and inexpensive DIY air cleaners you can make using a fan and air filters. These boxes significantly reduce viruses in the air, and can also reduce the levels of other harmful airborne particles. Faculty, students and staff in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH), including several members of UMASH, recently constructed several of these boxes.  Read more in the SPH story.

Can you catch COVID-19 from animal products or food packaging?
There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from any food (including animal products) or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Can COVID-19 infect my herd, flock, or pets?
The COVID-19 virus can spread between humans and at least some animals during close contact. Scientists are still trying to figure out if all animals can get COVID-19. If you think you might have COVID-19 you should avoid being around animals just to be safe. What we do know is that humans are more likely to give COVID-19 to animals than get COVID-19 from animals.
Do I still need to stay home and away from others if I am positive for COVID-19? Can I continue doing farm work?
It is still important to stay home and away from others if you are sick to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and away from others for at least five days. After those five days, you can return to working around others as long as you do not have symptoms or they are improving and you have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without taking any anti-inflammatory medications. If you take anti-inflammatory medications regularly, like ibuprofen or aspirin, talk to your doctor to find out when it is safe for you to return to work.

For some farmers, it is difficult to take days off when operating a farm. This is especially true on farms with daily tasks, like feeding or milking livestock, that need to get done. In this situation, the decision to do farmwork will likely depend on how sick you are, your overall health, and the type of jobs you are doing. If you have to come into close contact with others during your work, it is important to stay home or wear a respirator the entire time.

I’m an agricultural worker. What are my rights related to COVID-19?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many rules that protect the rights of agricultural workers. Some of these rules are about safety and health requirements in employer-provided housing and working conditions related to COVID-19. Read about the Q&A from the U.S. Department of Labor to learn about your rights.
How can we support our rural communities?
Check-in on the health and well-being of your friends, family, and neighbors in your rural communities. Maintaining these connections can help you better manage stress and maintain or improve your mental health.

Looking for a place to find connection? Keep an eye out for upcoming Cultivating Resiliency events. For additional resources, check out the UMASH Stress and Mental Health page to learn about the signs and symptoms of stress and find national and local resources that can support you.

What is 'Long COVID'?
Long COVID, also called Post-COVID Conditions, is when someone experiences health issues for weeks, months, or even years after being sick with COVID-19. Anyone who has had COVID-19 can develop Long COVID. Even people who had COVID-19 but did not have any symptoms can still experience Long COVID. However, Long COVID seems to happen more often among people who get really sick from COVID-19. Adults ages 18-64 are the most likely to experience Long COVID.

The good news is most people do recover from Long COVID. Getting vaccinated can make it less likely that you will experience Long COVID since those who are vaccinated often do not get as sick from the virus. If you think you might have Long COVID, it is best to see a healthcare practitioner to find out the cause of your symptoms and understand your treatment options.

What are the symptoms of Long COVID?
There are many symptoms of Long COVID, and they can be very different from person to person. Some symptoms include difficulty thinking, trouble sleeping, low energy, anxiety, depression, joint pain, headaches, stomach issues, or changes in smell or taste. Remember, this is not a comprehensive list. For others, the symptoms of Long COVID are hard to put into words and share with a practitioner. A healthcare practitioner can help you figure out if your symptoms may be a sign of Long COVID and can recommend treatment options. 
Who can I see if I think I might have Long COVID?
If you think you might have Long COVID, see a primary healthcare provider, general doctor, or family medicine doctor. They can assess your symptoms and can help you figure out if you have Long COVID or if something else may be causing your symptoms.

Some people, especially those with low income or without health insurance, may hesitate to see a healthcare practitioner because they are worried about how they will be able to pay for the appointment. To help reduce this barrier, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has created a tool called “Find a Health Center” that can help you locate low to no-cost healthcare.

How should I prepare to talk to a healthcare practitioner about my symptoms?

If you think you may have Long COVID and are able to see a healthcare practitioner, prepare for your appointment by using these tips, including keeping a list of your symptoms in the weeks leading up to the appointment and preparing questions to ask your practitioner about your symptoms, treatment options, and more.

Health Equity
It is important to recognize that some people who seek out healthcare for their symptoms of Long COVID may not feel like their healthcare practitioner listens to or believes their health concerns. Some patients may experience stereotyping, discrimination, or assumptions based on their race, gender, body size, disabilities, existing health conditions, and more. People with multiple marginalized identities, like Black women with disabilities, continue to experience some of the most intense medical discrimination. Although there is not an easy fix to this problem, an organization called Patients Rising provides a helpline and website resources to help patients become stronger advocates for their health. If you are interested to read about how many professionals and researchers are working to improve health and well-being for everyone, check out the healthcare research from the Research Library at the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity.

What is the recovery process for Long COVID?
The recovery process for Long COVID looks very different for everyone. Some with Long COVID have symptoms for a few weeks, while others continue to have symptoms for many months or even years. Others have noticed that their symptoms improve or go away but then come back.

Currently, there is not a single treatment for Long COVID. Most of the treatments currently available are to help manage the symptoms of Long COVID. Sometimes, a combination of treatments is needed to improve symptoms. Some examples of treatment options could include physical therapy and rehabilitation for physical symptoms, medication, counseling, and other support. If you think you may have Long COVID, we encourage you to see a healthcare practitioner if you can.

I have Long COVID. What are my rights?
If Long COVID “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” it is considered a disability under sections 504 and 1557 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that if you have Long COVID, you are entitled to certain rights and protections that can help to make living with Long COVID easier. If offered by your employer, you may qualify for short or long-term disability for your Long COVID symptoms.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe'?
Yes, COVID-19 vaccines are safe. No steps were skipped in the making of COVID-19 vaccines. Some people experience mild side effects for a few days after being vaccinated, as their immune system works hard to become stronger. These mild side effects are well worth the benefit of being less likely to get severely sick or die from getting the COVID-19 virus. Overall, serious side effects from the vaccine are very rare. Experiencing health problems from COVID-19 (the illness) is actually much more common than experiencing serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

To learn more about how the COVID-19 vaccine works, what to expect, and more, check out the Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Basics Factsheets available in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali.

NRC-RIM Get the Facts Campaign

National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants

The Get the Facts campaign from the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants (NRC-RIM) is based on CDC guidance, offering facts about COVID-19 vaccines in a simple and memorable way that counters common misconceptions. These facts address cost, ingredients, side effects, eligibility and more. Each set of materials includes translations in more than 30 languages as well as the abilityto customize the logo, URL, photo and more.

What happened to the previous COVID-19 vaccines?
Viruses change over time so the COVID-19 vaccines have been updated to give you better protection from the new variants of COVID-19.

The original COVID-19 vaccine, released in 2021, was a monovalent COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine strengthened the immune system against the original strain of the COVID-19 virus. The 2022-2023 bivalent vaccines were designed to protect against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the previous Omicron strains that were spreading. These vaccines are no longer available because the 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccine was released, giving you better protection against COVID-19.

What COVID-19 vaccines are currently available?
As of September 12, 2023, a new COVID-19 vaccine became available. This vaccine is called the “2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccine”. This vaccine gives your body better protection against the new Omicron variants of COVID-19.
Why do I need to get the most updated COVID-19 vaccine?
Like many other vaccines, the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine at preventing severe illness naturally decreases over time. Getting the most recent COVID-19 vaccine helps keep the immune system on high alert, strengthening the body’s protection against the virus. Getting regular vaccines is normal for other vaccines, too. For example, people usually receive tetanus vaccines every ten years and influenza vaccines every year.

Getting the most updated COVID-19 vaccine gives you the most protection against the current strains of the virus.

Wondering if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines? Check out the CDC’s vaccine recommendations. This page updates regularly to provide you with the most current vaccine information.

I’ve had COVID-19 before and recovered. Do I still need to get an updated vaccine?
You should still get vaccinated even if you’ve already had COVID-19. If you have had COVID-19 and get vaccinated, your body will have better protection against COVID-19 in the future compared to those who have had COVID-19 and are not vaccinated.
I am recovering or have recently recovered from COVID-19. When can I get my updated vaccine?
If you currently have COVID-19, you should wait to be vaccinated until you no longer have symptoms and have isolated long enough to stop being contagious. Check to see how long you need to isolate for by using this Isolation Calculator from the CDC.

If you have recovered from COVID-19, some people choose to get vaccinated right away, especially if they live in an area where COVID-19 hospitalizations are high, are personally more likely or around others who could get really sick if they got COVID-19.

However, if you have multisystem inflammatory syndrome, you should wait 90 days before receiving your updated COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC has also said that people “may consider delaying your next vaccine by three months” after having COVID.

We know these recommendations are a bit confusing and always changing. Talk with your healthcare practitioner to find out what vaccine timeline they recommend for you after having COVID-19.

When am I “up-to-date” for my COVID-19 vaccines?
As of September 15, 2023, everyone ages 5 years and older is recommended to get 1 dose of the 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccine. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Children who are less than 6 months old are currently not eligible to get the 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine. .
  • Children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years who have received a previous COVID-19 vaccine may need one or two of the 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines to be up-to-date.
  • Children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years who did not receive any of the previous COVID-19 vaccines are unvaccinated and may need two or three of the 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines to be up-to-date.
  • People with certain health conditions may have a unique vaccine schedule tailored to their individual health by their healthcare practitioner.

All of these exceptions can be confusing. Talk to a healthcare practitioner to find out how many vaccines you need to be up-to-date. Keep in mind, these recommendations change often so check the CDC for the most updated vaccine recommendations.

Where can I get COVID-19 vaccines? How much will it cost me?
Find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Locator.

Most people with Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance are able to get a COVID-19 vaccine for free. People who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover their vaccine can get free vaccines through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. To find places to get your vaccine that are part of this program, enter your zip code in the Vaccine Locator and look for vaccine locations that are listed as a “Bridge Access Program Participant”.

When should I be getting tested for COVID-19?
There are a few important times to get tested if you think you may have COVID-19.

  • If you have symptoms, get tested immediately.
  • If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms yourself, wait five days to get tested.
  • Get tested when you are required to do so, like for travel, your job, or certain events.
  • Consider getting tested if you plan to be around someone with a weakened immune system or is more likely to get really sick from the virus.

To learn more or read about the most current testing guidelines, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Testing page.

Download testing recommendation fact sheets from the Minnesota Department of Health:

What are the types of COVID-19 tests?
Currently, there are two types of tests for COVID-19. Both tests require either your nose or throat to be swabbed. One type is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is usually taken by a healthcare practitioner. The sample is then sent to a lab to be tested, and results usually come back within a couple of days. The second type of test is an antigen test. This is the type of test that you can buy at some pharmacies and take yourself – often called an “at-home test.” It is also sometimes called a “rapid test” because you can get your results within minutes.
Which test is better?
There are benefits to both types of tests. The good news is that both tests are very accurate in correctly telling someone they are positive. In other words, if you get a positive test result, you can feel confident that you do have COVID-19.

Antigen tests can be easier and faster to get since you can buy a test yourself and get results within minutes. However, the downside of antigen tests is that they can be less sensitive in detecting if you have COVID-19, especially early on in the infection. This means that there is a chance that the antigen test may tell you that you don’t have COVID-19 when you actually do have the virus. However, when the test does give a positive test result, it is usually correct. This means that if the test tells you that you have COVID-19, you can feel very confident that you actually do have the virus.

Do the tests detect all of the strains of COVID-19?
Currently, most COVID-19 tests can still detect the current strains of the virus. The FDA continues to do research and will update their website with the latest information about which tests are unable to detect new strains of COVID-19.
Where can I get tested?
At the time this FAQ was written, every U.S. household may order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. It is unclear how long this program will last.

You can also buy antigen tests at most pharmacies. Some insurances may cover COVID-19 tests. Call your insurance company or ask your pharmacist to find out if they are covered under your insurance.


Rather get tested in person? You can find your closest testing site using the Center for Disease Control’s Testing Locator.

Are the tests I have at home expired?
There is an expiration date on the box your tests came in. However, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has extended the expiration date for some COVID-19 antigen tests. You can look up your test to see if its expiration date has been extended.

Should I get treated for COVID-19?
People who are older, unvaccinated, or have certain medical conditions may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. The good news is there are treatment options available that can help people recover from the virus. If you test positive for COVID-19, talk to your healthcare practitioner right away to see if you need to be treated. Most of the treatments available need to be started as soon as possible to work well.
What treatment options are available?
Currently, there are two main types of COVID-19 treatments available. The first option is an antiviral medication. Some are taken by mouth, and some are taken through an intravenous (IV) infusion at a healthcare facility.

A second treatment option, called convalescent plasma, is available for some people with weakened immune systems. For this treatment, a person with COVID-19 gets an IV infusion of plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19. This treatment can help their immune system fight the virus.

Most of these treatments need to be started within the first few days of having symptoms, so talk to your healthcare practitioner right away to see if any of these treatment options are right for you.

I do not have insurance. Can I still get treatment?
People without insurance can get free or low-cost treatment at a community health center. Use the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) “Find a Health Center” tool to find your closest community health center.
What are the risks and benefits of getting treated?
There are both benefits and risks to consider when deciding to get treatment for COVID-19. The main benefit of treatment is that it can help reduce the likelihood that you will get very sick or die from COVID-19. One risk of treatment is that some people experience side effects. There also may be other risks that we are not aware of yet because these treatments are still being researched.
Where can I get treated?

If you are positive for COVID-19 and want to get treatment, you have a few options to access treatment:

  • Contact your healthcare practitioner and request treatment. This practitioner can help you weigh the risk and benefits of getting treatment. If you decide to get treatment, they can help identify which treatment is best for you.
  • Find a pharmacy or clinic that offers treatment. You can use the COVID-19 Test to Treat Locator through the Administration for Preparedness & Response to find locations that can test you for COVID-19, offer treatment, and fill prescriptions. This tool also shows you which treatment options are available at each location.
  • If you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota, you may be able to get prescribed antiviral treatment for COVID-19 through a telehealth appointment at no cost. The Wisconsin COVID-19 treatment program will be offered to Wisconsin residents at least through December of 2023.


What face coverage should I wear?
Recommendations in the U.S. about face coverings have changed greatly throughout the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, cloth masks were recommended because there was a shortage of surgical masks and respirators for healthcare workers. Now, most places in the U.S. no longer have a shortage of masks or respirators, allowing people to be able to pick them up at the store or order them online more easily.

Experts at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy have strongly recommended wearing a respirator (like an N95 or KN95) instead of a cloth or surgical mask. Cloth and surgical masks do not offer enough protection against the virus. As experts have learned more about COVID-19, they have found that the particles of COVID-19 that travel through the air and cause the virus to spread are very, very small. These small particles pass easily through cloth and surgical masks. Respirators do a much better job at preventing COVID-19 particles from entering your mouth or nose.

Where can I get a face covering?
You can buy masks and respirators at most pharmacies and can purchase them online. You may also be able to find free respirators at local health clinics, health departments, and at some pharmacies.
When should I be wearing a face covering?
Some people may choose to wear a face covering at any time, especially if they are more likely to get very sick from the virus. Here are a few specific reasons why you should consider wearing a face covering:

  • If you live in an area where COVID-19 is rapidly spreading. Enter your zip code in the CDC’s COVID-19 County Check tool to see what COVID-19 is like in your county.
  • If you are positive for COVID-19 and are unable to isolate yourself in a separate room from others. This will make it less likely that you will spread the virus to other people around you.
  • If you are caring for someone with COVID-19. COVID-19 can spread easily between people, so it is important to wear a mask to protect yourself.

Don’t forget!  You should still wear NIOSH-approved respirators when farm tasks expose you to grain dust, pesticides, toxic chemicals or infectious diseases.

I have more questions. Where can I find more information?

Information about COVID-19 can be confusing and hard to find. If you have more questions, reach out to us or use this list of sources:

  • Check out this list of frequently asked questions from the CDC
  • Ask a healthcare practitioner
  • Call the CDC at 800-CDC-Info
  • Call your state health department. We found hotlines for the following states in the UMASH region:

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Health Hotline
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

North Dakota Department of Health Hotline
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wisconsin Department of Health COVID-19 Telehealth
Seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

View COVID-19 Resources