Go to Content Go to Navigation Go to Navigation Go to Site Search Homepage

The best way to avoid COVID-19 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you, and take other steps to protect yourself if you have to go out in public — like avoiding crowds,  wearing a tight-fitting, multi-layer mask, and staying at least 6 feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you. If you are going to be around other people, it’s safer to be outdoors or in spaces with lots of ventilation.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Avoiding COVID-19 isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting your community, too. Even if you don’t get very sick from COVID-19, you could spread the virus to others who could get very sick and possibly die. 

There are several ways you can help keep yourself and others in your community healthy:

  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you.

    • Fully vaccinated people can safely do certain things — like visit with other fully vaccinated people and those who don’t live with anyone at high risk for serious sickness from COVID-19

    • When you’re out in public, wear a mask and practice social distancing, avoid crowds and places with bad ventilation, and wash your hands often — whether or not you’ve had the vaccine.

    • People who are fully vaccinated may still be able to spread COVID-19 to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves.

Read more about staying safe after you get the vaccine.

  • Avoid traveling or going out in public if you can, especially if you:

    • Live in an area with a lot of cases of COVID-19

    • Are over 65 years old

    • Are pregnant or have a medical condition that increases your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19

  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from people who don't live with you — this is called social distancing. It helps you avoid breathing infected droplets that spray out when people breathe, cough, sneeze, or talk.

  • Wear face masks if you have to go out in public — especially in places where you’ll be near other people (like the grocery store or doctor’s office), and even if you stay six feet away from others. Have children two years of age and older wear face masks, too. Masks slow the spread of the virus.

  • If you have to be in public or around other people you don’t live with, it’s safer to be outside or in places with lots of ventilation (like open windows, fans, or air filtration systems).

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water — especially after going to the bathroom, being out in public, or being around someone who’s sick; and before eating, handling food, or touching your face. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, cleaning all surfaces on your hands including between your fingers and under your nails. You can also use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol in it.

  • Try not to touch your face if you haven’t washed your hands. Your hands touch lots of things throughout the day, and can pick up lots of germs, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the germs on your hands can get into your body and make you sick.

It can take 2-14 days for someone who has COVID-19 to start showing symptoms. But people who are infected and don’t have any symptoms can still spread the virus. And people who have had the COVID-19 vaccine may still be able to spread the virus to other people. You can’t tell who does or doesn’t have COVID-19 just by looking at them — so be as careful as possible around people you don’t live with.

Right now, the safest thing for everyone to do is take as many steps as possible to prevent COVID-19. You’ll not only protect yourself, but you’ll help your family, friends, and community stay healthy and safe, too. The more careful everyone is, the easier it will be to stop the virus from spreading, which will save lives.

Read more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

How do I stay healthy if I have to work during the COVID-19 pandemic?   

If you need to leave your house for work, you will want to try to protect yourself from COVID-19. All of the tips listed above can also help you stay safe during your commute and while you’re at your job. You can also talk to your employer about on-the-job protection steps available for you and your co-workers during this time.

Learn more about how you can protect yourself and others from getting sick if you’re a domestic or home health care worker, a child care worker, or another type of essential worker.

You may have to stop working because of local laws related to COVID-19. The federal government has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act  to provide financial assistance to workers and families. Some people, like those who are undocumented, may not qualify for this support. Many local groups — like churches, schools, and community-based organizations — may also offer help with rent and groceries.  Learn more about resources available for undocumented immigrants

If you have to stay home from work because you feel sick, your employer may offer paid sick leave. There are new laws in place that require some employers to offer paid sick leave laws for those affected by COVID-19. Learn more about employee paid leave rights under the new federal law

What do I need to know before I go out in public?

There is still a COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., and many places still have a very high number of cases. If you go out in public, wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from anybody who doesn’t live with you, or anybody who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days. And get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you.

Remember: even if you get COVID-19 but don’t get very ill, you could give the virus to others who may die from it. And you can’t tell who does or doesn’t have COVID-19 just by looking at them — someone can have the virus and not know it. And even if you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, it may still be possible to spread COVID-19 to others who haven’t been vaccinated. So it’s best to be as careful as you can.

Before you go out, think about:

  • How many people will I be around, and who are they?

    • Close contact with anybody from outside your home increases your chances of being exposed to COVID-19.

    • The more people you’ll be around, the more likely you are to get the virus.

  • Will people be wearing masks and be able to stay at least six feet away from each other?

    • Being around people who aren’t wearing masks increases your chances of being exposed to COVID-19.

    • Being in a crowded area where people can’t social distance increases your risk.

  • Will I be inside or outside?

    • Indoor spaces are generally less safe, because there’s less ventilation and it’s harder for people to stay 6 feet away from each other.

    • If you have to be inside, places with lots of ventilation — like open windows, fans, or air filtration systems — are safer.

  • How long will I be around other people?

    • The longer you’re near other people, the higher your chances are of being exposed to COVID-19.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in my community?

    • If lots of people in your community or region have COVID-19, you’re more likely to get it if you go out.

    • You can get info on COVID-19 data in your county and state on the CDC website.

    • Check with your local health department for updates on the situation in your community.

  • Have I been vaccinated? Have the people around me been vaccinated?

If you do need to leave your home, there are ways to help keep yourself and your community healthy. The CDC has more information about specific activities, and how to keep yourself and others safe when you’re:

Doing personal and social activities (like going to a restaurant, gym, salon, or social gathering)

Going to the doctor or pharmacy

Getting deliveries and running errands (like groceries, banking, and takeout)

Using transportation

Visiting parks, beaches, pools, and playgrounds

Traveling

If I get the COVID-19 vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing?

It depends on the situation. Recently the CDC said fully vaccinated people can do certain things, like visit with other fully vaccinated people and those at low risk for serious illness from COVID-19 privately in someone’s home. But it’s still a good idea to avoid crowds and places with bad ventilation, wash your hands often, and wear a mask and practice social distancing when you’re out in public — whether or not you’ve had the vaccine. And keep in mind it takes 2 weeks after finishing the vaccine to have full protection from COVID-19.

Read more about staying safe after you get the vaccine.

Was this page helpful?
You’re the best! Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks for your feedback.