The CDC Says This Will Give You the "Most Protection" From COVID Now

This simple checklist will streamline your COVID safety regimen.

If it feels like no corner of your life has been left untouched by the pandemic, you're hardly alone. From celebrations to hugs to working with real, live colleagues, so many of the joys of our pre-pandemic lives are a faint and distant memory. But there's some good news, and it may help unburden you of the feeling that safety precautions have overtaken your every move. The CDC says that by changing just four simple behaviors, you can shift the odds of safety drastically in your favor. According to the agency, these four things offer the "most protection" without upending your other habits—and including them in your daily routine could quite literally save your life.

Seeing these COVID safety measures distilled into four bite-sized recommendations makes them not only manageable but masterable. They draw attention to all the things you still can do amid the chaos—while putting your safety front and center. Read on for the CDC's four habits that best protect you from COVID-19, and for more on recent changes, check out The White House Just Mandated Masks in These 5 Places.

Wear a mask.

Woman wearing a mask

Wearing a mask any time you leave home is one of the easiest ways to prevent catching and spreading COVID-19. The CDC recommends choosing either a cloth mask made with multiple layers of a breathable fabric, or a surgical mask. These will protect your nose and mouth from coming into contact with the virus, and will inhibit your own respiratory droplets from reaching others. And for more essential mask tips, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

Stay six feet apart.

Two friends staying 6 feet apart

According to the CDC, social distancing is an essential safety measure for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. "COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about six feet) for a prolonged period," the CDC explains. "Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs."

While isolating is especially important in the event that someone is knowingly sick, the CDC advises that even those without any symptoms should keep six feet apart in case they have a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic case of COVID. And for more on how the virus spreads, check out You're More Likely to Get COVID From Someone Doing This Than From Coughing.

Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated places.

A teenage girl wearing a dark jacket, backpack, and face mask walks down a rainy city street.

The CDC also warns against spending time in crowds or indoor locations with poor ventilation. Even if you wear a mask, the virus can still be transmitted through aerosolized particles that linger in the air under these conditions. For this reason, places like indoor bars, restaurants, gyms, concert halls, places of worship, and even people's homes can all spur super spreader events. And for more regular COVID news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Wash your hands frequently.

Mom helping her daughter wash her hands

While most of the time, COVID is spread via respiratory droplets, it can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces, the CDC warns. That's why it's so important to frequently wash your hands and avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily.

The CDC recommends scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds, with special care given to lathering the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and underneath your finger nails. Dry with a clean towel, and—if you'd like an extra dose of safety—finish the ritual off with a pump of hand sanitizer. And for more on the spread of the virus, check out The Strange New Way You Could Get COVID, Study Says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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