On this page:
Covering coughs and sneezes
Cleaning product safety
COVID-19 signs and symptoms
How COVID-19 spreads
Avoid contact with people who are sick
Prepare your home and family
Be prepared when you go out
Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19
There is no one single step or strategy that can stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead, we need to follow multiple strategies--all at the same time--to stop the spread.
- It is important to keep at least six feet between yourself and others. Limit close contact with others you do not live with in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
- Do not gather in groups. Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. If you are in a crowded place or large gathering, wear a mask and try to keep at least six feet between you and other people.
- If you are exercising, cheering, shouting or singing, which make us breathe more heavily, you may want to stay even farther apart (e.g., 10 feet).
- Think about the risks before you go out.
- The more time you spend with people you don’t live with, and the closer you are to them, the higher the risk of COVID-19 being spread. You increase your chances of getting COVD-19 or giving it to someone else. People with COVID-19 don’t always feel sick or have symptoms.
- If you or someone you live with is at high risk for COVID-19, try not to go out unless you really need to.
- The outdoors is safer than indoors. This is because it is easier to stay at least six feet apart and there is more ventilation (fresh air) when outside.
- Make sure that you understand your workplace’s sick leave and teleworking policies. People with COVID-19 will need to isolate from others while infectious and might not be able to go to work.
For more information, see Practicing Physical Distancing During COVID-19.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask (cloth face covering) in public and when around people you don’t live with. Make sure that your mask fits and be sure to wear your mask properly. A mask should completely cover both the nose and mouth, fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of your face, and allow you to breathe without restriction.
- Masks should not be placed on young children under 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unable to remove their mask without help.
Learn more about Masks and Cloth Face Covers.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, rubbing your hands together for at least 30 seconds until they are dry. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
- Clean your hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose; and after removing your mask.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
For more information, see: How Can I Avoid Getting COVID-19?
- Clean the items and surfaces you touch often, such as phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles.
- Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
- Other options are to use diluted household bleach solutions if appropriate for the surface by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water, or simply use soap and water or an alcohol solution with at least 60% alcohol.
- Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation.
- Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
- Many of us are doing extra cleaning and disinfecting these days, but it’s important to do this safely. Calls to Poison Control Centers have gone up since the start of COVID-19.
- Do not use household cleaners or disinfectants on bare skin. Do not drink or inhale (breathe in) these cleaners or spray them on your skin. The chemicals can cause injuries or poison you. They will NOT work inside your body to kill the COVID-19 virus. Soap and water are all you need to safely clean your skin.
- Do not wash food with bleach or other cleaners or chemicals; this could burn your mouth, throat, or stomach. COVID-19 is not spread by eating food.
- Read product labels and follow the instructions. Do not mix different kinds of cleaners together. Follow any instructions for wearing gloves and eye protection, such as goggles.
- Click here for a list of Virginia Poison Control Centers.
For more information, see Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.
- There are currently two vaccines being used to prevent COVID-19 illness (made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).
- Both vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection, after two doses have been given.
- Because the initial supplies of vaccine are limited, Virginia will use a phased approach when giving out the vaccines.
- Virginia is currently in Phases 1a and 1b. In Phase 1a, vaccines are being given to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers in specific industries, such as police officers, firefighters, hazmat, pre-kindergarten-12th grade (PreK-12) teachers and staff in public and private schools, childcare providers, people aged 65 years and older, people aged 16-64 years with underlying health conditions, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps.
- This will be followed by Phase 1c, which includes other essential workers.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia, visit the VDH COVID-19 Vaccine website.
People with COVID-19 usually have mild to severe respiratory illness. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Not everyone with COVID-19 will have all symptoms and fever might not be present. If you don’t feel well, it is important that you quickly isolate yourself from others to avoid spreading the virus. Even those with mild illness might be able to spread COVID-19. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for COVID-19. If your illness gets worse, or if you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical care right away.
Emergency warning signs may include: trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away, new confusion or inability to arouse (wake up or be alert), bluish lips or face.
If you have a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. Tell the operator that you have or might have COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before medical help arrives.
For more information, see What to Do if You Are Sick.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily between people who are in close contact with one another. The longer you spend with someone the greater this risk for spreading the virus.
- COVID-19 can be spread by people who don’t feel sick or have any symptoms.
- The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be inhaled into the lungs.
- Sometimes, COVID-19 can spread through smaller respiratory droplets and particles that contain the virus and become suspended in the air. These smaller droplets can remain in the air for minutes to hours. The virus may infect others who are more than six feet away from an infected person, or after the infected person has left the space. This is called airborne transmission. Airborne transmission seems more likely to occur in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation (not a lot of fresh air coming in). It can also occur when the infected person is breathing heavily, for example, when exercising or singing, increasing the amount of virus released into the air space.
- 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 possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still continuing to learn about this virus.
- If you are caring for someone who is sick, have that person stay in one room, away from other people and pets, as much as possible. Avoid using the same bathroom as the person who is sick, if you can. Try to keep at least six feet of distance between the sick person and other members of the household, if possible, and wear a mask if you need to be in the same room.
For more information, see Exposure to COVID-19
- Create a household plan of action with your household members, relatives, and friends. Make plans to be able to telework, discuss what to do about childcare needs, and make plans for pet care should you get sick.
- Create an emergency contact list and identify aid organizations in your community.
- Plan ways to care for people in your life that are at a higher risk of getting very sick from this illness, such as older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions.
- Get extra supplies such as soap, tissues, cleaning supplies, non-perishable (shelf stable) food items, and pet food so you don't have to make as many trips to the store as you used to. If you or a household member has a chronic condition and regularly takes prescription drugs, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, and insurance provider about keeping an emergency supply of medications at home. Look to helpful resources, such as this VDH Pandemic Preparedness Checklist.
- Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Identify a separate bathroom for the sick person to use, if possible.
- Talk with your family about COVID-19. Fear and anxiety about a disease are overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both children and adults. Learn more about things you can do to support yourself and your family here.
For more information, see Daily Life and Coping.
- Check the COVID-19 in Virginia webpage to find out if cases are going up in your community and if there are any new stay at home orders.
- Masks must be worn in indoor public spaces. Make sure that you remember your mask when you leave your home.
- Masks do not have to be worn during all outdoor activities but you should wear a mask outdoors if you will be in a crowd of people and can’t stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you, or if participating in a group activity that includes chanting or singing. Certain outdoor settings do require the use of masks. It’s always a good idea to take a mask with you just in case.
- If you won’t be able to wash your hands, bring hand sanitizer with you. Pack some tissues to cover your coughs and sneezes. Bring your own pen if you need to sign anything. When possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad).
- Follow signs for one-way traffic down store aisles, stay behind any shields or barriers, and look for markings on the floor to show you where to stand to stay at least six feet apart from others in line.
- Make sure the businesses you are visiting are disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and that employees are wearing masks. While in restaurants, wear your mask when you are not eating and drinking, and don’t forget to wash or sanitize your hands after touching the menu.
- As soon as you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Get more tips for staying safe when using public transportation and ride sharing services, traveling, and when visiting banks, libraries, gyms, restaurants, salons and other businesses here.
For more information, see Deciding to Go Out.
- Visit CDC’s COVID-19 website "Prevent Getting Sick"
- Visit the VDH’s Social Gatherings and Public Indoor Spaces as well as the Public Outdoor Spaces websites
- Read VDH's FAQs
- Call VDH COVID-19 hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343)
- Printable flyer: VDH What You Need To Know (Full Sheet: English) (Half Sheet: English)
Updated January 27, 2021