Prevention Tips

Do Your Part to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19 by Staying at Home As Much As Possible.

  • We are all safer at home, especially those who are at higher risk of severe illness. As stay at home orders are lifted and businesses are reopening, it is important that we keep ourselves safe as we go back out to start up some of our normal activities. While we can’t remove all risk of getting COVID-19, there are things we can do to lessen that risk.   
  • It is important to maintain good social distance (at least 6 feet) between yourself and others. Wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick, and disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a face mask when around others in public places. Make sure that your mask fits and be sure to wear your mask properly; it 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.
  • Remember that if you have COVID-19, have any signs or symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should stay home and away from other people to prevent spreading illness to others.

These all are very important ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.   

Understand how COVID-19 spreads.

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily between people. In general, the more closely a person interacts with others,and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The virus spreads most easily between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
  • 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 the new coronavirus.

Be prepared when you do go out.

  • Before going out, check the VDH website to find out if cases are going up in your community and if there are any new stay at home orders.
  • Face masks are required in indoor public spaces. Make sure that you remember your mask when you leave your home.  
  • Face masks do not have to be worn during outdoor activities. You should think about wearing a face mask in outdoor settings if you will be in a crowd of people and can’t stay six feet away from others, or if a group activity includes chanting or singing. 
  • Will you be able to wash your hands often when you are out?  If not, make sure you plan ahead and 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 six feet apart from others in line.
  • Make sure the businesses you are visiting are disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and that employees are wearing cloth face masks. While in restaurants, wear your face mask when you are not eating and drinking, and don’t forget to wash or sanitize your hands after touching the menu.
  • When you get home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds right away.

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.

Be aware of the risks. 

Ask yourself important questions before you go out - 

  • How many people will be there? Will you be spending time with people you do not live with? How much time will you be spending with other people?
    • The more people you spend time 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 and increase the risk of others potentially getting COVID-19 from you if you have the virus, but don’t feel sick and don’t have any symptoms.
  • Will people be wearing cloth face masks? Will you be able to stay at least six feet away from others?
    • Staying at least six feet away from others and properly wearing a face mask when in public are important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These precautions are especially important for people at risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, such as older adults and those with other medical conditions.  
  • Is the activity indoors or outdoors? 
    • Outdoor spaces are safer than indoor settings because it is easier to stay at least six feet apart and there is more ventilation (fresh air).
  •  Am I at risk for serious illness or do I live with someone at risk for serious illness?
  • Can I take time off work if I do get COVID-19?
    • 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, see Deciding to Go Out.

Practice Social Distancing.

  • If you have to go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others. 
  • Do not gather in groups. Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. If you are in a crowded place or large gathering, make sure to wear a cloth face mask and try to keep some space between you and other people.
  • Limit close contact with others outside your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.  
  • As stay at home orders are lifted, we all want to get together with friends and family members whom we’ve missed; however, the more time we spend with people we don’t live with, the greater the chance that someone could pass on COVID-19. Keep your visits short, stay six feet apart and wear a cloth face covering. If you or the person you want to see is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, think about putting off your visit for a little bit longer.

For additional information see Practicing Social Distancing During COVID-19

Wash Your Hands Frequently to Limit the Spread of Germs. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 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 often, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose; and after removing your cloth face mask.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

For additional information see: How Can I Avoid Getting COVID-19?

Wear Cloth Face Masks in the Community. 

  • The most important way to protect others and yourself from getting COVID-19 is by staying home as much as possible and staying at least 6 feet apart from others, especially when you visit indoor public places.
  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Be sure to wear a cloth face mask when you are in public places. This is very important in places where it may be difficult to keep at least 6 feet apart from others, for example, in grocery stores.
  • Face masks are not needed for going outside by yourself, for example to take a walk or work in your garden when others aren’t around. If you are likely to come into close contact with people from outside your home while outdoors, you should wear a face mask.
  • Cloth face 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 Cloth Masks and Cloth Face Covers.

Know the Signs and Symptoms.

  • People with COVID-19 usually have mild to severe respiratory illness. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
  • 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 transmit COVID-19. Talk to your 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 911. Notify the operator that you have or might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before medical help arrives.

For additional information see What to Do if You Are Sick

Avoid Contact With People Who Are Sick.

  • If you are caring for someone at home who is sick, have the person stay in one room, away from other people and pets, as much as possible.

For additional information see Exposure to COVID-19

Prepare Your Home and Family for 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 additional information see Daily Life and Coping

Clean and Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces.

  • Now that businesses are reopening and more people are going back to work, it’s easy to forget that we still need to take extra care to protect ourselves from COVID-19. 
  • Keep up the good habits you developed over the past few months by continuing to 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. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. 

Using Cleaning Products Safely.

  • Many people are protecting themselves and their families by doing extra cleaning and disinfecting but it’s important to do so safely. Calls to Poison Control Centers have gone up since the start of COVID-19.
  • Use household cleaners on surfaces that are frequently touched, such as countertops, doorknobs, phones, faucets, light switches, etc.
  • 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 additional information see  Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home

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Page last reviewed: September 16, 2020