What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Ask Media Editors
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Many countries around the world have successfully managed and slowed outbreaks of the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. However, this virus is still impacting countries and communities in an unpredictable way as infections continue spreading. It's more essential than ever to take action to protect yourself. Heeding the most up-to-date warnings from trustworthy groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can help you do so.

In addition to regularly checking for updates from those organizations, follow these recommendations to continue protecting yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Recommendations for Protecting Yourself and Others

Taking a few key steps and following some simple guidelines can help you limit your exposure to the COVID-19 virus. It's important to remember that recommendations can change frequently, and new information can emerge quickly. Check with the CDC and WHO periodically to receive updates to guidelines and find out the latest details.

  • Remain alert and proactive about your health. While older people and people with preexisting medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable, anyone can be impacted by the virus. The best way to keep yourself from getting sick is to avoid exposure in whatever way you can.
  • Maintain social distancing. When you're in public spaces, stay at least 6 feet away from other people who aren't members of your household.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when you're around others in public or people who aren't members of your household. This should cover your mouth and nose. Children under age 2 and anyone who is unable to remove a face covering without assistance should not wear one but should still practice social distancing.
  • If possible, plan to work from home. Avoid large social gatherings and follow your state's restrictions about maximum gathering sizes if they exist.
  • Avoid touching your face, as your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds every time. If you don't have immediate access to soap and water, clean your hands using a coin-sized amount of hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow to avoid spreading germs into your hands. Immediately wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it away immediately.
  • If you notice respiratory problems or are experiencing a fever, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Follow all current state and local directives regarding the pandemic, such as wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing. You may face legal consequences — and expose yourself to the virus — if you neglect to do so.
Sf Social Distancing
People sit on the grass in circles drawn to promote social distancing at Alamo Square during the COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco, California on June 11, 2020. Photo Courtesy: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

If you're fully vaccinated — meaning you've received both doses of either the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or you've received the single-dose Janssen vaccine — and it's been at least two weeks since you received your final dose, the CDC has provided updated recommendations you can follow as a fully vaccinated person. Some, but not all, of these guidelines include the following:

  • You may visit and gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing a protective face covering or practicing physical distancing.
  • You don't need to quarantine or get a COVID-19 test if you've been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 and you're asymptomatic.
  • Continue to wear a well-fitting mask and practicing social distancing in public settings.
  • Continue to avoid attending medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
  • If you're visiting people in person who are unvaccinated and at high risk for developing severe COVID-19, wear a mask, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and practice other key prevention measures around them.

To review the full list of updated guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated, visit the CDC website.


What to Do If You're Sick or Think You Might Be

If you currently have COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, the CDC suggests following these steps to take care of yourself and limit the spread of the virus to others in your household and your community:

  • Stay at home unless you need to receive medical care. This means not leaving your house.
  • Stay out of public areas as much as possible when you do need to leave. Don't use public transportation such as buses and subways. Also avoid taxis and ride-share vehicles.
  • If possible, sequester yourself in a specific room in your home away from other people and pets and use a separate bathroom.
  • Whenever you're around other people in your home or in public, wear a cloth face covering. 
  • Monitor your symptoms and contact your doctor immediately if they worsen.
  • Seek emergency medical attention if you experience emergency warning signs of COVID-19. These include trouble breathing, a blue tint to your lips or face, lasting pain or pressure in your chest, and trouble waking or staying awake. 
  • When seeking medical care, whether from your primary care provider or emergency services, notify them ahead of time that you have COVID-19 or believe you might have it. This helps them better prepare for your visit and protect their staff members.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your personal room and bathroom daily. These include phones, keyboards, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures and bedside tables.
  • Someone in your home who isn't sick should disinfect high-touch surfaces in common areas of your home daily.
  • Continue to cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
Covid Test
A medical worker performs a nasal swab on a person at a rapid COVID-19 test site in Orlando, Florida on December 8, 2020. Photo Courtesy: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images


Learn More About COVID-19

These articles and resources can help you learn more about a variety of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covid Vaccine 1
Pastor Brenda Barnes is vaccinated by nurse Marie St. Jean at Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut on February 26, 2021. Photo Courtesy: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

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