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What is SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a new strain of coronavirus that had not been previously identified in humans before 2019. This novel virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

How is COVID-19 Spread?

COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person when someone who has the virus is in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with another person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are exhaled from the body when someone coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings, or talks and cause infection when they are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes, such as those that line the inside of the nose and mouth. Someone can spread the virus without knowing they have it.

Less common ways COVID-19 can spread
  • Under certain circumstances (for example, when people are in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation), COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.
  • COVID-19 spreads less commonly when someone touches a surface, like a doorknob, that has the virus on it.

Prevent COVID-19 Transmission

Wash your hands often

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

It’s especially important to wash:

  • Before eating or preparing food
  • Before touching your face
  • After using the restroom
  • After leaving a public place
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After handling your mask
  • After changing a diaper
  • After caring for someone sick
  • After touching animals or pets

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.

Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.

Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The mask is meant to protect other people in case you have the virus and don't know it.
  • Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Do NOT use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
  • Continue to keep 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.

Monitor Your Health Daily

  • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
    • Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
  • Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

Before Participating in Activities

Activities are safer if you can maintain at least 6 feet of space between you and others because COVID-19 spreads easier between people who are within 6 feet of each other. Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are more risky than outdoor spaces. Interacting without wearing cloth face coverings also increases your risk. When deciding to participate in various activities, consider the level of risk that activity may carry for being exposed to COVID-19 or exposing others.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area. Small, indoor get-together's in someone's home where distancing may be harder to maintain, ventilation is reduced, and individuals may not wear masks.
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

Before participating in an activity consider:

  • How many other people will be participating in this activity?
  • Is the activity outside?
  • Can I put distance between myself and others?
  • How long will the activity take?
  • Do I feel 100% healthy?
  • How will I get there? Biking, walking, and driving in a car are all safer than public transportation.
  • Do I live with someone who is more vulnerable to COVID-19, and would be at high risk if I happened to bring the virus home?
  • What is the value of this activity to me versus the risk I am taking?