Health

Protect Yourself and Others

Although the risk of severe illness may be different for everyone, anyone can get and spread COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread and protecting themselves, their family, and their community. Wearing a face covering when you are in public, keeping space between yourself and others, and regularly washing your hands are the three best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread in communities.

Wear a Face Covering

Why wear a mask?

Studies show that wearing a mask can help protect both us and the people around us from spreading and catching COVID-19. It’s a way for each of us to protect our communities, our families, and ourselves.

Studies: The Lancet, ACS Publications, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What kinds of masks are acceptable?

Face coverings come in many kinds, ranging from homemade cloth face coverings and plastic face shields to surgical masks and N95 respirators.

Medical-grade masks should be preserved for medical professionals who need them most. Face shields and cloth face coverings are effective for most non-medical uses, and they’re both reusable and washable.

How to wear a mask

Masks and face coverings are most effective when they cover both your nose and mouth. Remember to wash them regularly, and only wear them once they are completely dry. Only put a face covering on someone who is able to adjust and remove it themselves.

Masks and kids

Kids age 5 and older are required to wear a mask, and kids over 2 can wear a mask, as long as they’re able to remove it themselves.

Here are a few ideas to help your child feel comfortable if they feel unsure about wearing a mask or other face covering:

  • Let your child choose and decorate their mask.
  • Try different styles to see which is the most comfortable.
  • Put a mask on a favorite stuffed toy, or draw one on a favorite book character.
  • Practice wearing the mask at home to help your child get used to it.
  • Point out other people wearing masks while you’re out.

Maintain Physical Distance

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing means avoiding contact or proximity with people other than those who live with you. It is one of the best ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Social distancing should be practiced in combination with wearing a face covering and regularly washing your hands.

Why six feet?

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you — or they — do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

If you are sick with COVID-19, have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it is important to stay home and away from other people for at least 14 days.

Tips for Social Distancing

Prepare for Transportation: Consider social distancing options to travel safely when running errands or commuting to and from work, whether walking, bicycling, wheelchair rolling, or using public transit, rideshares, or taxis. When using public transit, try to keep at least 6 feet from other passengers or transit operators – for example, when you are waiting at a bus station or selecting seats on a bus. When using rideshares or taxis, avoid pooled rides where multiple passengers are picked up, and sit in the back seat in larger vehicles so you can remain at least 6 feet away from the driver.

Limit Contact When Running Errands: Only visit stores selling household essentials in person when you absolutely need to, and stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household while shopping and in lines. If possible, use drive-thru, curbside pick-up, or delivery services to limit face-to-face contact with others. Maintain physical distance between yourself and delivery service providers during exchanges.

Choose Safe Social Activities: It is possible to stay socially connected with friends and family who don’t live in your home by calling or using video chat. If meeting others in person (e.g., at small outdoor gatherings, yard or driveway gathering with a small group of friends or family members), stay at least 6 feet from others who are not from your household. Follow these steps to stay safe if you will be participating in personal and social activities outside of your home.

Keep Distance at Events and Gatherings: It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household. If you are in a crowded space, try to keep 6 feet of space between yourself and others at all times. Masks are especially important in times when physical distancing is difficult. Pay attention to any physical guides, such as tape markings on floors or signs on walls, directing attendees to remain at least 6 feet apart from each other in lines or at other times. Allow other people 6 feet of space when you pass by them in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Stay Distanced While Being Active: Consider going for a walk, bike ride, or wheelchair roll in your neighborhood or in another safe location where you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other pedestrians and cyclists. If you decide to visit a nearby park, trail, or recreational facility, first check for closures or restrictions. If open, consider how many other people might be there and choose a location where it will be possible to keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and other people who are not from your household.

Wash Your Hands

COVID-19 can live for hours or days on a surface, depending on factors such as sunlight, humidity, and the type of surface. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

How Germs Spread

Washing hands can keep you healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next. Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you:

  • Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands
  • Touch a contaminated surface or objects
  • Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects

Key Times to Wash Hands

During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, you should clean your hands:

  • After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that’s how germs enter our bodies.
  • Before, during, and after preparing and eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet or changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Why? Read the science behind the recommendations.

Use Hand Sanitizer When You Can’t Use Soap and Water

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.

How to use hand sanitizer

  1. Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  2. Rub your hands together.
  3. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
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