COVID-19 Information

The global spread of COVID-19 has generated understandable concern in our community.

Learn more about what we’re doing, the science behind COVID-19, and the trusted sources we’re working with.

What OMSI is Doing

To help limit the spread of COVID-19 and in support of Governor Brown’s recent announcements, OMSI is currently closed to the public. By taking this proactive step, we may limit exposure to this virus and help protect our entire community, particularly those most vulnerable.

We have cancelled Spring Break Camps & Classes and have reached out to all registered families. We are deeply disappointed but feel this was the right decision at this time.


Questions about OMSI

Is OMSI closed to the public?

Yes, OMSI is closed to the public. As health and local authorities set restrictions and guidelines on community action, we are following their guidance to protect ourselves and our community.

This closure includes all events, submarine tours, planetarium shows, and Empirical Theater movies.

Will Spring Break Camps & Classes still be available?

We have cancelled Spring Break Camps & Classes and have reached out to all registered families.

Is OMSI offering refunds for tickets to the museum or an event?

Everyone who has purchased OMSI tickets will have the opportunity to turn their purchase into a donation, exchange tickets for a future date or receive a refund.

Please call our guest services team at 503.797.4000 x0. You can also send us an email:

Is OMSI still hosting school field trips, Museum Overnights, Family Science Nights?

We are not hosting any school programs at this time. Our School Programs team will be in contact with all registered groups and schools and work on a case-by-case basis to either re-schedule or refund.

Will OMSI still host Outdoor School this Spring?

We will offer outdoor school when Oregon schools re-open. Please contact our registration office at 503.797.4661 for more information.

Is OMSI still offering Outreach Programming across the Pacific Northwest?

We will offer outreach programming when Oregon schools re-open. Please contact our registration office at 503.797.4661 for more information.

If the PPS school year extends through the week of June 14th what happens to my June 14th summer program?

We will monitor updates from PPS and communicate any programming changes with registered students.

Learn more about viruses and COVID-19

What is a virus? What are coronaviruses?

A virus is an infectious agent that requires a host cell to replicate. When we are infected with a virus, the viral genetic material hijacks the cells within our bodies, forcing them to replicate and produce more viruses. The body will experience different symptoms depending on the type of host cell impacted by the virus. 

As defined by the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.


How is COVID-19 transmitted?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person, through people in close contact with each other and respiratory droplets. When a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales, small droplets from the nose or mouth are expelled from the body and land on objects and surfaces. 

Other people can catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also become infected with COVID-19 if they breathe in respiratory droplets from a person with COVID-19. 


How long does it stay contagious on a surface?
What is the transmission period?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. 

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.


Why do alcohol and soap kill coronavirus?
How does washing your hands help?
Sanitizer vs. soap: What’s the difference?

Washing your hands with soap and water physically removes the germs, but does not kill them. Soap dissolves the oils on your hands to which the germs stick, as well as other things that might be on your hands such as dirt and grease. It is important to rinse and dry hands after hand washing, since wet hands can transmit germs more easily than dry hands. 

If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer that works by reducing or destroying most—but not all—germs. Hand sanitizers do not remove the germs from your hands, nor do they remove dirt or grease. To be effective, the entire surface of the hands must be covered in alcohol, and hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are most effective. 

Coronaviruses are a type of virus that can be destroyed with the alcohol that’s in hand sanitizers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand washing with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands and decrease the spread of germs, but when that's not an option, the agency recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  


Who can get COVID-19?
Are babies and young kids okay?
Why is it worse for older people?

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. 

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus by following good hand and respiratory hygiene processes. 


What can I do to protect myself and prevent the 
spread of disease?

The World Health Organization recommends the following:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. 
  • Maintain at least 3 feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. 
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. 
  • Follow the directions of your local health authority and stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. 
  • Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

How does the human body fight viruses normally?

People have natural defenses against pathogens such as viruses. These defenses can be as simple as our skin providing a barrier, or a cut being able clot and block pathogens from entering our body.

Our body also has more intricate defenses that can be seen as symptoms, such as having a fever to “cook” some of the pathogens out of our body or sneezing to quickly expel those microbes from us.

This helpful TEDtalk addresses our body’s defenses in animated form.


How do vaccines work?

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases. Rather than treating a disease after it occurs, vaccines prevent us in the first instance from getting sick.

A vaccine helps the body’s immune system to recognize and fight pathogens like viruses or bacteria, which then keeps us safe from the diseases they cause. Our immune systems are designed to remember—once exposed to one or more doses of a vaccine, we typically remain protected against a disease for years, decades, or even a lifetime.

Vaccines protect against more than 25 debilitating or life-threatening diseases, including measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, influenza, tetanus, typhoid, and cervical cancer.


Do antibiotics work against viruses like COVID-19?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The new coronavirus COVID-19 is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Some individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.


Will the regular flu vaccine protect me?

The flu vaccine protects you against strains of flu, but is not effective against COVID-19. To date, there is no COVID-19 vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are being tested through clinical trials. The World Health Organization is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

Flu and cold prevention measures like regular and thorough handwashing, avoiding touching your face, sneezing and coughing into elbows or tissues, and staying home if you feel sick are all thought to aid in preventing the spread of COVID-19.


What kind of scientists study COVID-19 and other infectious diseases?

When disease outbreaks or other threats emerge, epidemiologists are on the scene to investigate. Often called “disease detectives,” epidemiologists search for the cause of disease, identify people who are at risk, determine how to control, or stop the spread or prevent it from happening again. Physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and other health professionals often train to be epidemiologists.


Who should I contact for more information about COVID-19?

Please reach out to your healthcare provider or local county health department:


OMSI encourages you to learn more and ensure you have scientifically-accurate information about this rapidly evolving situation. We trust the following sources: 


Additional information can also be found through: