To help lessen the spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, here are important steps that can help protect you, your family and others. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Medicine, shares these guidelines:
Avoid close contact with others.
It’s important to understand that the new coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, their droplets can infect people nearby. That’s why it’s important to avoid close contact with others. Understand that people (including children) may be infected with the new coronavirus and have only mild symptoms.
Some measures you can take to avoid close contact with others include:
- Stay home as much as possible and reduce visitors.
- Practice physical distancing:
- Stay at least six feet away from others in public places.
- Call friends and family or visit by video.
- Ask your employer if it’s possible to work from home.
- Avoid people who appear sick.
- Go grocery shopping and run errands during off-peak times.
Wear a face mask whenever you are in a public place where you will encounter other people. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, sneezing, or singing— even if those people do not symptoms. Learn more information about how masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Practice good hygiene wherever you are.
The new coronavirus can survive for hours or even days on some surfaces. Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face is one of the ways to become infected.
The virus is no longer detectable on plastic after 72 hours, and on stainless steel or cardboard after about 48 hours. With that in mind:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, especially:
- After being in public places and touching door handles, shopping carts, elevator buttons, etc.
- After using the bathroom
- Before preparing food
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
- If you cough or sneeze, do so in the bend of your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately.
Coronavirus Self-Checker and COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
Check symptoms. Get vaccine information. Protect yourself and others.
Take precautions if you are living with or caring for someone who is sick.
- Wear a mask if you are caring for someone who has respiratory symptoms.
- Clean counters, door knobs, phones and tablets frequently, using disinfectant cleaners or wipes.
If you feel sick, follow these guidelines:
- Stay home if you feel sick unless you are experiencing a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath or a very high fever.
- Call your doctor or urgent care facility and explain your symptoms over the phone.
- If you leave your home to get medical care, wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms.
What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Advice for caregivers in non-healthcare settings
If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home or in a non-healthcare setting, follow this advice to protect yourself and others. Learn what to do when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or when someone has been diagnosed with the virus. This information also should be followed when caring for people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.
*Note: Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing more severe illness from COVID-19. People at higher risk of severe illness should call their doctor as soon as symptoms start.
Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests
- Help the person who is sick follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine.
- For most people, symptoms last a few days, and people usually feel better after a week.
- See if over-the-counter medicines for fever help the person feel better.
- Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests.
- Help them with grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, and getting other items they may need. Consider having the items delivered through a delivery service, if possible.
- Take care of their pet(s), and limit contact between the person who is sick and their pet(s) when possible.
- Have their doctor’s phone number on hand.
- Use CDC’s self-checker tool to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
- Call their doctor if the person keeps getting sicker. For medical emergencies, call 911 and tell the dispatcher that the person has or might have COVID-19.
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
- Limit contact
- Eat in separate areas
- Avoid sharing personal items
- When to wear a mask or gloves
- Clean your hands often
- Track your own health
Keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for a person who is sick
COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. Staying away from others helps stop the spread of COVID-19.
The caregiver, when possible, should not be someone who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The person who is sick should isolate
The sick person should separate themselves from others in the home. Learn when and how to isolate.
- If possible, have the person who is sick use a separate bedroom and bathroom. If possible, have the person who is sick stay in their own “sick room” or area and away from others. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from the sick person.
- Shared space: If you have to share space, make sure the room has good air flow.
- Open the window to increase air circulation.
- Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
- Avoid having visitors. Avoid having any unnecessary visitors, especially visits by people who are at higher risk for severe illness.
Caregivers should quarantine
Caregivers and anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should stay home, except in limited circumstances. Learn when and how to quarantine.
Fran Kritz is a freelance healthcare reporter with a focus on consumer health and health policy. She is a former staff writer for Forbes Magazine and U.S. News and World Report.
Ashley Hall is a writer and fact checker who has been published in multiple medical journals in the field of surgery.
Luis Alvarez / Getty Images
- Two new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been detected, and they appear to increase the risk of transmission.
- Preventive measures such as mask-wearing, distancing and handwashing are effective even on the new variants, so it’s important to keep practicing safety precautions.
- Experts say the vaccines now being distributed are effective even against the new virus variants.
New and more infectious variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that were first detected in South Africa and the U.K. have made their way to the U.S.
The U.K. strain, known as B.1.1.7, has been detected in several states including Colorado, California, Florida, and New York and “is likely spreading in communities across the nation,” according to a new report from the Brown University School of Public Health.
Public health experts say the recently-approved vaccines are still effective against the U.K. variant. While the risk of severe illness or death does not seem to be increased, the variant is significantly more contagious than previous ones, according to the Brown report.
Research from the Imperial College London estimated that the B.1.1.7 variant is 40% to 70% more infectious than the previous version, based on studies of people in the U.K. recently diagnosed with COVID-19.
So how do you protect yourself? Public health experts say follow all the same precautions already in place—social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing.
What This Means For You
At least two new versions of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified, and one has been confirmed in several U.S. states. Health experts say the virus may not be more dangerous, but it is more infectious and could increase your risk of getting sick unless you take the recommended precautions. Make sure to wear your mask, social distance, and wash your hands.
“The good news is that at this point, there is no evidence that the new variant is resistant to currently available vaccines,” Gwen Nichols, MD, the chief medical officer of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, based in New York, tells Verywell. “However, the higher transmissibility makes the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of wearing a mask, social distancing, and regularly washing hands, even more important for prevention.”
Nichols shares some further measures you can take to prevent COVID-19 and its variants, including:
- Staying away from crowded public places, particularly those indoors
- Disinfecting surfaces and objects that are frequently touched
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Sneezing or coughing into your elbow rather than your hands
But health experts worry that “COVID-19 fatigue” could be making us loosen strict adherence.
“We need for people to really redouble their efforts to social distance, avoid large gatherings, wear masks in public, and definitely stay home if they are sick,” S. Wesley Long, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology and genomic medicine at Houston Methodist Medical Center Academic Institute, tells Verywell. “We need for people to seek out the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are in an eligible group in their community…to help turn the tide against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Eric Ascher, MD, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, tells Verywell the best way to protect yourself is still avoiding unnecessary social situations like travel.
“Wearing your mask properly covering your nose and mouth is still very important,” Ascher says. “And if you or a member of your social circle travels, it is best to maintain distance for two weeks to ensure best protection against the virus.”
Like so many other health experts, Asher adds, “when offered the opportunity for vaccination, take it.”
New Variants Are Expected
Health experts are not at all surprised that new variants have emerged. “Viruses are commonly mutating—or changing form,” Ascher says.
He says he wouldn’t be surprised if there are still more variants. “With increases in travel and expanding social groups, the opportunity for increased spread of virus aids the potential for the virus to change form,” he says. “Hopefully, with better decision making in regard to decreasing travel and increases in social distancing, we will stop the spread and likelihood of creation of new variants.”
Even with the necessary precautions such as masks and social distancing, consider thinking through your interactions with other people each day to limit your risk of COVID-19, Sharon Nachman, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, tells Verywell. “If you’ve already been out among people during the day, for example, maybe head to the grocery store the next day during a less crowded time,” she says. You’re not just protecting yourself, reminds Nachman, “you are part of a community.”
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.
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Stay aware of the latest COVID-19 information by regularly checking updates from WHO and your national and local public health authorities.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!
You also find out more about WHO’s recommendations for getting vaccinated on our public advice page on COVID-19 vaccines.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Home care for health workers and administrators Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Home care for health workers and administrators
What to do to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19
- Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection when they cough, sneeze or speak. Maintain an even greater distance between yourself and others when indoors. The further away, the better.
- Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people.The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal are essential to make masks as effective as possible.
Here are the basics of how to wear a mask:
- Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.
- Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.
- When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.
- Don’t use masks with valves.
What can I do to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
The best strategy to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to continue to follow the CDC’s recommended public health guidelines to help prevent transmission of COVID-19, including wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding crowds. Read more tips below.
In early December 2020, the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use in the US using the FDA’s “Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)” process. At this time, all COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are approved for use in people ages 18 and up, with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine also approved for use in people ages 12 and up. As a COVID-19 vaccination provider, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provides vaccinations according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local departments of health. We are following the national vaccine distribution plan, which is occurring in a phased approach. Read more about CHOP’s COVID-19 Vaccine Program.
Guidance for vaccinated individuals
According to the CDC’s most recent guidance, fully vaccinated individuals can spend time indoors with small groups of other people who have been fully vaccinated without wearing a mask or physically distancing. Fully vaccinated people can also spend time indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household without wearing a mask, provided the unvaccinated individuals are at low risk of COVID-19. Masks are no longer necessary outdoors for fully vaccinated people, except for in crowded areas and venues.
Even for fully vaccinated individuals, however, gathering in large groups is still not recommended. Because we don’t yet know if COVID-19 vaccines fully protect against asymptomatic transmission of the virus, fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and practice physical distancing in public and when spending time indoors with members of multiple households. Please refer to the CDC for the latest guidance.
Four ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19
- Pay attention to personal hygiene. Yes, we know you’ve heard all this a million times already. It bears repeating. There are a lot of things we don’t know about this virus, but we do know it spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Other individuals may be infected when they touch a surface that has virus particles on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Hand hygiene is the very best weapon in any fight between human and contagious disease.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Don’t touch your face. This is a lot harder than it sounds and requires conscious effort. The average person touches their face 23 times an hour, and about half of the time, they’re touching their mouth, eyes, or nose — the mucosal surfaces that COVID-19 infects.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or upper arm.
- Stay home if you are feeling sick, and seek appropriate medical guidance.
- Practice “social distancing.” Social distancing is exactly what it sounds like: keeping your distance from other people. It’s often used to describe public health measures imposed by local governments — measures like quarantining the sick, closing schools, and canceling public gatherings. And, when it’s done early enough during a pandemic illness, it’s been shown to save lives. Here’s how to do it:
- Keep your distance. The number of people in any given location is important, but density is even more important. Stay at least six feet away from others — the distance respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze are thought to travel. Protect yourself by staying out of range.
- Make your meetings virtual. Or postpone meetings entirely.
- Don’t hug or shake hands. If you have to meet with someone in person, stay at least six feet apart, and find an alternative greeting. While research has shown that fist bumps —and even high fives — transfer far less bacteria than a handshake, no-contact options are better. Tip your hat, wave, or curtsy.
- Make a conscious effort to avoid crowds. For example, think about walking or riding a bike to get where you’re going instead of taking the subway or a bus.
- Wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a non-medical-grade, cloth face covering in public settings where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing, such as grocery stores. This is because we now know that people infected with the virus are most contagious during the 72 hours before they develop symptoms. In addition, a significant number of other individuals who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic but able to infect others. By blocking a significant amount of respiratory secretions, your mask protects others, and their masks protect you.
- Keep surfaces clean. While we know that the virus is primarily spread from person to person, it is theoretically possible to contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then, inadvertently, touching your mouth, nose or face. In any case, we know that the virus is susceptible to disinfectants. Here’s some cleaning tips:
- Use the right product. According to the CDC, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective against the COVID-19 virus. See the CDC’s environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations and this list of EPA-registered disinfectants.
- Use the product right. First, clean dirt off of the surface. Then wipe the surface with disinfectant. Leave the surface wet with disinfectant for as many minutes as the product instructions require. This is a vital step that people often miss. It’s not enough to just wipe the surface and go.
- Clean the right surfaces.
- High-touch areas such as door handles, phones, remote controls, light switches, and bathroom fixtures.
- Horizontal surfaces such as countertops, kitchen tables, desktops and other places where respiratory droplets could land.
- AND your mobile phone! It’s filthy. Did you wash your hands and then touch that phone? Just like that, you’re re-contaminated.
- Do not reuse disinfectant wipes on multiple surfaces. This can transfer germs from the used wipe to other surfaces. Use one wipe for each surface and then throw it out.
- Do not dry surfaces after wiping them down. Surfaces you are disinfecting need to stay wet for the amount of time listed on the label. The contact time with the disinfectant is what actually kills the germs.
This virus is likely to be with us for many months or years, so developing these habits is a good long-term strategy for keeping our community healthy. And, don’t forget, COVID-19 is not the only germ in town. Seasonal influenza, colds, and other viruses will continue to be a concern, so good hand hygiene and proper disinfection practices are habits that never go out of season.
Things to Know about COVID-19
Some people with COVID-19 feel fine.
Some people with COVID-19 feel bad.
Some people with COVID-19 get very sick.
People with COVID-19 get sick in different ways.
People with other health problems may get very sick.
Protect Yourself from COVID-19
Stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your home.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Wear a mask to protect everyone.
Wash your hands often.
Wash your hands with soap and water.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds.
Sing the happy birthday song twice while washing your hands.
Use hand sanitizer if that is all you have.
Rub the hand sanitizer all over your hands.
Rub your hands until they feel dry.
Washing your hands with soap and water is best.
Ask Support Staff to Help Protect You from COVID-19
Support staff are people who help you.
Ask support staff if they feel sick.
Ask support staff to stay away if they feel sick.
Ask support staff if they have been near a sick person.
Ask support staff to stay away if they have been near a sick person.
Ask support staff to wash their hands often.
Ask support staff to wash their hands when they arrive.
Ask support staff to wash their hands before they touch you.
Ask support staff to wash their hands after touching you.
Ask support staff to wash their hands after cleaning.
Ask support staff to wash their hands after doing dishes.
Ask support staff to wash their hands after doing laundry.
Ask support staff to clean and disinfect often.
Ask support staff to clean to remove dirt and germs.
Ash support staff to disinfect to kill germs.
Ask support staff to clean things that are touched often.
Ask support staff to disinfect things that are touched often.
Things You Can Do to Be Ready
Make a plan in case you get sick.
Make a plan in case people who work in your home get sick.
Make a list of ways you can get help.
Make a list of people who can help.
Make a list of agencies that can help.
Put phone numbers on the list.
Put email addresses on the list.
Keep the list with you.
Have enough food for 14 days.
Have enough medicine for 30 days.
Have enough medical supplies for 30 days.
Ask your doctor if you need a refill for medicine.
Ask your doctor if you need a refill for medical supplies.
Development of these materials was supported by a grant from the CDC Foundation, using funding provided by its donors. The materials were created by the Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Tech. For more information about how these materials were created, refer to the Guidelines for Minimizing the Complexity of Text pdf icon external icon . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided subject matter expertise and approved the content. The use of the names of private entities, products, or enterprises is for identification purposes only and does not imply CDC endorsement.
At the end of 2019, health authorities in China alerted the world to a new type of coronavirus (now named 2019-nCoV infection or COVID-19) that had caused pneumonia in a handful of people in Wuhan since mid-December. The number of cases has since ballooned, with thousands of cases now getting reported. The entire city of Wuhan is on lockdown, and those infected getting quarantined. The virus has been confirmed to be a new coronavirus, in the same family as SARS and MERS. So what can you do to protect yourself against COVID-19? Be vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring you keep your immune system strong:
Wash your hands regularly: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Throughout the day, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to continue disinfecting your hands. On average, we touch our face and mouth 20 times an hour, so this is a big one to limit exposure to COVID-19!
Wear an appropriate mask when traveling: There are two main types of face masks that are being used to do that. One is a standard surgical mask, which does not fully protect against all airborne bacteria but lessens exposure and one is N95 respirators, which offer more protection. Such devices are designed to prevent 95 percent of small particles from entering the nose and mouth area. But they only work if they fit properly, and are not suitable for children or people with facial hair.
Avoid contact with people who are sick: Especially as the virus progresses, try to limit exposure to people who are actively sick and coughing. A good rule of thumb is to assume that everyone you interact with could be a carrier for COVID-19 and act accordingly, keeping a good distance.
Keep surfaces clean: Touching contaminated objects is one of the leading causes of contracting an illness. Throughout the day you touch so many things other people may have touched – doorknobs, stair railings, appliances, your phone – and then you do the unthinkable without even realizing it: touch your face (or even worse, your mouth!). In your home make sure to keep surfaces clean with cleaner, particularly one containing tea tree oil because it is a natural antiseptic.
If you’re sick, stay home: When you’re already under the weather, your immune system is reduced, it’s best to stay at home and get better!
Get fresh air and sunlight: Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D correlate with an increased risk of respiratory problems, so it’s extremely important to get your daily dose of sunlight. Make sure to put on some sunscreen!
Use garlic: but keep garlic in its raw form (heat reduces its nutrients)- it’s known to boost your immune system. Its cloves were shown in a study to help fight off the common cold.
Eat fruits and vegetables: When eating fruits and vegetables, always look for variety; you want to have brightly colored food. Citrus fruits are a number one when it comes to strengthening your immune system as they pack a ton of vitamin C in them. Some leafy green vegetables contain a strong amount of vitamin C, such as kale and spinach.
Get enough sleep: Every night you should get seven to nine hours of sleep. Not sleeping enough can throw your body off and lead to increased inflammation and the spread of germs. When looking to fight off illness sleep will be your best friend. Read our list of best foods to eat to promote sleep.
Drink Tea: Tea: Researchers at Harvard University found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks, probably because of theanine. Tea also contains catechins, including ECGC, which act like a cleanup crew against free radicals. We recommend you drink 3 cups of tea a day during flu season and read our Healthiest Teas list.
Exercise regularly: Daily exercise does the body plenty of good. Exercise doesn’t have to be extremely strenuous – or even strenuous at all to qualify as exercise and allow your body to reap its benefits. Even walking for thirty minutes a day will make a difference in your immune system. Someone who doesn’t workout is more susceptible to getting sick rather than someone who does.
According to the CDC, if you traveled in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
- Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.