Use the instructions here if you’re NOT an index case, and you have NOT been exposed. These are general instructions for all of us to follow. If you’re at high risk or are likely to expose individuals at high risk, you need to be even more careful.
The most important steps to take are to socially distance — avoid crowds, and stay at least 6 feet apart from other people. You should also wear a mask when you cannot maintain that six foot distance, or when you’re indoors with other people who don’t live in your home.
Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, you can relax some of these restrictions. See the “You’ve been vaccinated” page for more details. COVID vaccines are very safe and very effective — get yours as soon as possible.
How is COVID transmitted?
Most COVID transmission is directly from person-to-person, on respiratory droplets. These are bits of saliva or snot that fly out of your face when you talk, sneeze, or cough. If you’re contagious with COVID, even if you have no symptoms, your respiratory droplets can transmit the virus if they land on another person’s eyes, nose, or mouth.
What increases the risk of transmission?
Since most COVID is transmitted person-to-person, things that increase the risk are being close to other people physically, and spending more time with other people. Decreasing time and increasing distance are the best ways to prevent transmission. In addition, if both you and your coworkers/friends/family are wearing masks, transmission can be interrupted.
Do I have to wear a mask at home?
No. In general, staying with your own immediate family in your own home or while out walking, etc, is not risky. You should wear a mask though if someone in your home is an index case, especially if you cannot stay more than 6 feet away.
Are some settings riskier than others?
In general, the larger the crowd, the riskier it will be. In the past, many states have specifically banned groups larger than 10 — check with your local laws for exact guidance for your area.
Also, activities that increase respiratory droplets are also riskier. This includes yelling, screaming, cheering, singing, breathing heavily (like during exercise), or talking loudly. It probably also includes playing wind instruments.
What settings are safest?
Small gatherings with small groups are best, especially if they’re outside. Also, repeatedly socializing with the same people is better than mixing in different groups. While outside, stay six feet apart.
What else can I do while out with other people?
- Practice good “sneeze etiquette” – sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm or into a tissue.
- Wash your hands especially before and after eating or touching your face.
- If washing your hands with soap and running water is impractical, an alcohol-based sanitizer is also effective. Dab a small amount and rub it all over your hands until it dries.
- Don’t share things like utensils, serving spoons, tongs, or other things that multiple people end up touching. Use single-serve containers.
- Be mindful that some people are at higher risk than others. Be respectful and kind with other people as they try to protect themselves.