Dr. Fauci's Top 10 Tips to Keep You Safe From COVID-19
Take these preventive measures to slash your risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.
Protecting yourself and others from contracting COVID-19 means taking a number of important precautions—especially until a vaccine is available. Luckily, it's pretty clear what these safety measurers entail, thanks to Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. And in light of his recent vocal cord surgery, which will keep Fauci quiet for the time being, we've gathered his most important tips for staying safe from COVID-19.
Some of these things you've heard before but forgotten about over the many months of this pandemic, while others are more recent—for instance, you're still washing your hands repeatedly, but are you cracking open your car windows? In either case, following Fauci's top tips for preventing coronavirus is as important as ever right now. COVID-19 is still spreading throughout the United States and colder fall weather may make things worse by bringing more people indoors, potentially furthering the spread. With that, here are 10 important precautions to take from the nation's top health expert. For more of his insights on the coronavirus, check out Dr. Fauci's 10 COVID Predictions You Need to Know.
Take advantage of this tip while the weather is still nice: Fauci says you should get outdoors as much as you possibly can right now—and in some situations you don't even have to wear a mask, he says. "Outdoors is always better than indoors," Fauci told Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo in a Facebook Live interview on Aug. 13.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indoor spaces pose a higher risk than outdoor spaces because they often have poor ventilation and don't provide the opportunity for social distancing. "If you look at the super-spreader events that have occurred… they're almost always inside," Fauci told Raimondo.
Soak up some sun.
Another reason Fauci wants you to go outside is because sunshine inactivates COVID-19. "That's one of the reasons why outside in the sun when you are interacting… That is much, much better than being inside," Fauci said during a recent Instagram Live interview with Matthew McConaughey.
Fauci went as far as to say that "it's quite conceivable" ample sunshine could be why certain island countries have experienced far fewer COVID cases overall. And according to a May 2020 study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, simulated sunshine was shown to quickly inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a lab setting. And for more on the importance of getting some sun, check out This Vitamin Deficiency Makes Your COVID Death Risk Soar, Study Says.
Avoid poorly ventilated places.
If you do need to spend time indoors with others, it's best to avoid spaces with little air-flow or poor ventilation. "We need to pay a little bit more attention now to the recirculation of air indoors," said Fauci while speaking with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in August. He also noted that while he believes there "certainly is a degree of aerosolization," it's something we're still learning more about.
A May 2020 study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine found that respiratory droplets, which can contain viral particles that remain infectious in aerosols, stay airborne for a substantially smaller amount of time in better ventilated spaces. And even more recently, researchers found "unambiguous evidence" that the virus can be transmitted via aerosols.
Keep the windows down when sharing a car.
Maintaining air flow is just as important when you're driving. "When I'm in a car now, I keep the window open," Fauci said during the Facebook Live chat with Raimondo. "Even though the person who's driving the car and me both have masks on, I keep the masks on and keep the windows open."
While car sharing is still considered a higher-risk activity, airing out the vehicle can help. In a USA Today opinion piece, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Joseph Allen and Jack Spegler, and Portland State University's Richard Corsi warned that "when the windows are closed, SARS-CoV-2 (in fine aerosol particles) accumulates in the car cabin. With each new cough, the concentration builds up with no significant dilution happening. But even cracking one window open just 3 inches can keep this at bay."
If you're using air conditioning, make sure the car is not in the "recirculating air" mode, the authors added. For more on protecting yourself and passengers from COVID-19, check out This Is the Worst Thing You Can Do With Your Mask in a Car, Experts Warn.
Protect your eyes.
It may feel a little funny at first, but wearing protection over your eyes can further guard you from coronavirus. "If you have goggles or a face shield, you should use it," Fauci said during a July 29 interview with ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Jennifer Ashton, MD.
Fauci noted that wearing eye protection is "not universally recommended, but if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can." That's because there are mucosal surfaces, moist tissues that are susceptible to viruses, in your eyes—just like there are in your nose and mouth, he says.
This is a coronavirus precaution Fauci has specifically addressed in terms of being in a high-risk group for COVID-19 complications, but it's good advice for all age groups.
"I'm 79 years old. I am not getting on a plane," Fauci said in an interview with The Washington Post. "I have been on flights where I've been seated near people who were sneezing and coughing, and then three days later, I've got it. So, no chance. […] I'm in a high risk group, and I don't want to play around."
Travel bumps up your risk of getting and transmitting COVID-19, and the best way to protect yourself and others is to stay home, the CDC says. Although most viruses don't spread easily on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered, it's difficult to practice social distancing on a plane and traveling through the airport also presents its own unique risks. For more precautions to take while traveling, here are The 4 Biggest Mistakes You're Making When Visiting Relatives Amid COVID.
Don't share food.
This may seem obvious, but it can be an easy safety measure to forget when you're catching up with friends or loved ones. When Fauci occasionally has friends over for an outdoor, socially-distanced dinner, everyone uses their own dishes and food is separated, he said in the interview with The Washington Post.
"We don't share anything. There are no common bowls," Fauci said. "Each person has his or her own receptacle. Some people even bring their own glasses. We always do takeout and I tell the takeout people that I want the food in four separate plastic containers, so no one has to touch anyone else's food. Everyone's food is self-contained." Fauci also noted that he never has more than two people over at a time, and everyone wears masks unless they are eating.
Wash your hands.
In the Instagram Live interview with Matthew McConaughey, Fauci said spreading coronavirus via inanimate objects "can occur, but it is [a] very minor component of transmission." However, the CDC still recommends regular hand washing, combined with social distancing and wearing a face covering, as a primary way to stop the spread of coronavirus—and it's recommendation Fauci endorses.
When asked how he handles grocery shopping by The Washington, Fauci said: "I will take the materials out of the bags [once I'm home], then wash my hands with soap and water, and then use Purell, and let everything sit for a day." He also said he washes his hands after picking up mail.
Continue social distancing.
Staying six feet apart from those outside your household or immediate social circle can be difficult, but it's a key way to avoid becoming infected—or infecting others—with COVID-19. This is particularly important to remember now that states have reopened and an increasing amount of people are out and about in public. However, Fauci says that continuing to social distance doesn't mean you have to continue to live in isolation.
"You don't have to lock down again, but everybody has got to be on board for doing these five or six fundamental public health measures," Fauci said during an appearance on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast on Aug. 5, adding that the country will get back to normal faster if everyone can get on board with doing things like social distancing and wearing masks.
Wear a mask.
COVID-19 is largely spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks, and the resulting respiratory droplets are inhaled by a nearby individual, says the CDC. So, by covering your nose and mouth, you put a barrier up against any droplets you may personally expel, as well as those expelled by people around you. And by wearing your mask, you may just encourage others to do so as well.
"That this can be very helpful as part of a multifaceted way to get these cases down and to diminish the transmissibility and acquisition is very clear," Fauci said in a July 21 interview with NPR. "I have trust in the American people that if we put a strong emphasis on the importance of wearing masks, that we will come around and do that." And for more helpful information, sign up for our daily newsletter.