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The best way to avoid COVID-19 is to stay at home. If you do have to go out in public or be around other people, wear a cloth face mask and stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you.

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:

  • 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

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people — this is called social distancing. It helps you avoid breathing infected droplets that spray out when people cough, sneeze, or talk.

  • Wear a cloth face mask or covering over your mouth and nose 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 6 feet away from others. Have children 2 years of age and older wear face masks, too. Cloth masks slow the spread of the virus. You can make your own mask from T-shirts, bandanas, or other types of cotton fabric. The CDC has more information on how to make and use face coverings

  • 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 new coronavirus. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the germs on your hands can get into your body and make you sick.

Scientists think it can take 2-14 days for someone who has COVID-19 to start showing symptoms, but they may still be able to spread the virus before any symptoms show up. You can’t tell who does or doesn’t have COVID-19 just by looking at them — so the safest thing to do is limit your contact with other people as much as you can.

Follow the recommendations of your state and local government and health authorities. Right now, the safest thing for everyone to do is stay home and avoid being physically close to other people as much as you can. You’ll not only protect yourself, but you’ll help your family, friends, and community stay healthy and safe, too. The more people stay home, 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?   

State and local governments have labeled some jobs as essential. These include certain jobs in farming, hospitals and health centers, child care, grocery stores and pharmacies, home health and elderly care, mail and delivery services, and others. If you’re considered an essential worker, or need to leave your house for work or urgent reasons 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 some employers must 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?

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the U.S., and many places are experiencing a large increase in cases. The best way to avoid COVID-19 is to avoid coming into contact with people who have COVID-19 — and the best way to do that is by staying at home. If you do need to go out in public, stay at least 6 feet away from anybody who doesn’t live with you (called social distancing), or anybody who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days. 

Remember: even if you get COVID-19 but don’t get very ill, you could spread 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, but still spread it to others. So it’s best to stay home as much 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 risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

    • The more people you’ll be around, the higher your risk.

    • Gatherings with people who are traveling in from outside your local area also increases your risk.

  • Will people be wearing masks and be able to stay at least 6 feet away from each other?

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

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

    • Barriers (like plexiglass screens) or other arrangements that help people keep their distance from each other can lower 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.

  • How long will I be around other people?

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

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in my community?

    • A large number of COVID-19 cases in your area increases your risk 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.

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


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