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Learn what we can all do to stay healthy. Find out how we can protect ourselves and others from infection. Understand who is at risk and what to do. Find the rules for your state.
The virus is very infectious (easy to catch). Everyone is in danger of being infected and infecting other people.
- When an infected person sneezes or coughs, they release a droplet (a tiny drop of moisture) with the virus in it.
- Droplets can land in the mouth, eyes, or nose of person nearby and go into the lungs. This is the main way the virus spreads.
- The virus can be in the aerosols (microscopic particles) we breathe out. Another person can breathe in aerosols from an infected person and get the virus.
- The droplets can also land on clothing or another surface. It is possible a person can get infected from a surface if there is a very large amount of the virus present.
Across the USA, a pattern shows us who is most at risk from COVID-19. Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans are much more likely to get the virus.
Why are these groups more at risk?
In the USA, low-income people are more exposed to the virus than high-income people. Non-white Americans are much more likely than white Americans to be low-income. Low-income workers have to leave their homes to go to work. They work in service and production jobs where they are exposed to other people. Many travel to work by bus or subway, which means more exposure.
Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans are also more likely to die if they get the disease. Like other low-income Americans, they have more health problems and less access to health care than high-income Americans.
All these high-risk factors apply to immigrants in the USA. If you are an immigrant, asylum seeker or refugee, you may be more at risk than other Americans because of these reasons.
Older people and sick people are more at risk, too.
The CDC says, “Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.” Medical conditions include:
- cancer, lung or kidney disease, heart conditions, and diabetes
- immune deficiencies or HIV
- being very overweight or being a smoker
Do any of these apply to you? Make sure to avoid other people as much as possible. For example, some grocery stores have special shopping hours for people at higher risk. And if people bring food for you, they should leave it outside the door.
Watch a video about staying safe from COVID-19
- See this video in Arabic, Arakanese, Burmese, French, Karen, Karenni, Nepali, Pashto, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Swahili. Thank you to Refugee Response for these videos.
- Watch a video in Bosnian, Dinka, Kirundi, Maay Maay, Vietnamese and American sign language. Thank you to the Vermont Multilingual Coronavirus Task Force for these videos.
- Watch a video in Amharic or in Hindi. Thank you to Kentucky’s Office of Globalization for these videos.
- Watch a video in Cantonese/traditional Chinese, Mandarin/simplified Chinese, or Tigrinya. Thank you to Multnomah County for these videos.
How to stay healthy
The two best things you can do to protect ourselves and others are to wash your hands and keep your distance from others. If we all work to stay healthy, we are helping everyone else too. Here is some more information about how to stay healthy.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Wash your hands after you touch surfaces or things touched by other people.
- Keep washing for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash the backs of your hands and under your nails too.
- If you cannot use soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
- Find hand washing information in many languages.
- Stay home and keep children at home if anyone in your household is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19.
- If you do need to go out, practice “social distancing” by keeping 6 feet (2 meters) away from any person you do not live with. Do it in the grocery store and when you are walking in the street.
- Avoid social visits with friends or neighbors. Stay away from public gatherings and try to keep your shopping trips to once per week or less.
- Do not travel unless absolutely necessary.
- Avoid public transportation as much as you can.
- Do not visit elderly people or sick people, who are more at risk.
- Find social distancing information in many languages.
Your nose, mouth, and eyes are where the virus most often enters the body. You can protect yourself with some simple rules:
- Do not touch your face when you are out of your home.
- If you have touched objects outside of your home, do not touch your face at home until you have washed your hands.
- Do not use your hand to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Use a tissue and then throw it away. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm instead of your hand.
- Wearing a mask will help remind you not to touch your face.
Wearing a mask can help slow the spread of the virus.
The CDC says if people cover their nose and mouths with a cloth face cover or mask when they are in public places, it can help slow down the spread of the virus. This is because the virus is spread when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes and a face cover will help make sure the infected droplets cannot travel very far.
There are different kinds of masks.
The masks that most of us will wear during the coronavirus emergency are made from cotton or other fibers. They are not the medical masks that doctors and nurses need to stay safe.
It is hard to find masks to buy.
If you cannot buy masks, you can make them yourself. If you cannot make a mask, you can use a piece of cloth that covers your mouth and nose.
Wearing a mask will not stop you from getting COVID-19.
You still need to keep your distance. But masks do help to stop people spreading the virus before they know they are infected. They can be especially helpful in places where it is difficult to stay far away from other people, like at the grocery store.
COVID-19 can be spread by people who have no symptoms.
It can take some people up to two weeks to have symptoms and some people never have any symptoms at all, but they are still able to spread the virus. Wearing a mask helps to stop the spread of the virus by reducing the amount of germs we share.
Keep your mask clean.
Your mask should be washed after every time you wear it if you can.
Do not put a mask on someone who cannot take it off.
CDC says masks should not be put on children under 2 years old or on people who cannot remove a mask by themselves if they need to.
- Don’t invite guests to your home. If someone comes to your door, keep 6 feet away from them.
- As much as possible, open windows and doors to let in fresh air.
- If someone gets sick in your household, keep them apart from everyone else. Wear a mask if you have to get close to them.
- If someone is sick, clean with disinfectants. If you do not have any disinfectant, you can make your own. Mix 4 teaspoons of bleach with 1 quart of water.
- Keep your pets away from people who are sick with coronavirus.
- Make an emergency contact list. Include your local health department, your doctor or health center, your work, and your children’s school. Add any important community support or friends you may need to contact if you get sick.
People often give us information they have seen or heard because they want to help! During times of panic, incorrect information – also known as misinformation or myths – can spread very quickly through social media. Watch a video about some of the common myths about coronavirus and learn how to stay safe with good information.
It is dangerous to pass on wrong information about cures and protection against COVID-19. If you want to give advice, give people information from your local health department or from CDC.
At the beginning of the coronavirus emergency, a lot of people got scared and bought too many things. Shops ran out of basic supplies. While it is important not to take more than we need, it is good to be prepared. If possible, make sure you have enough household items and groceries in place to last for two weeks. Then you will be ready if you get sick or if stores are closed.
Here are some things you might want to buy:
- Dried beans, lentils, pasta, and grains
- Canned fruits, vegetables, and beans
- Bread (you can freeze bread to keep it fresh)
- Frozen meat, fish, vegetables and fruit
All of these foods will keep for a long time.
Take care of yourself and your feelings
The coronavirus crisis is affecting everyone. Most people feel afraid, and many people feel alone. If you are new in the USA, it is even more difficult. You have to learn a different language and understand a different culture. Maybe your family is far away.
But refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers are also strong because of their experiences. Your close relationships can give you strength and support. Your spirituality or other things you care about can also keep you strong.
1. Stay positive
It is natural to feel worried or depressed, but try to think positively. Remind yourself that you have overcome many challenges and that you will make it through future difficult times. Find the positive things happening in the news and in your community.
2. Don’t read or watch too much bad news
Limit news to about 20 minutes per day. This will keep you up to date on how to stay safe without making you feel overwhelmed or scared.
3. Get some exercise
You can go for a fast walk if it is safe to do so in your area. Maybe you have a garden to work in. To get exercise inside, follow a free exercise video on YouTube. Exercise will give your body and your mind a boost of positive energy.
4. Get enough sleep
You will feel better and stay healthy if you make sleep an important part of your life. Many of us find it difficult to sleep when we are anxious. Others may sleep too much. Set a schedule for 7-8 hours of good sleep a night. Sleep improves your mood, your thinking, and your patience.
5. Stay connected
You can talk to your friends and family by chat app, video, phone or social media. Tell them how you are feeling and listen to how they are feeling. Talk about things you are interested in. Make plans for the future. Find the support and resources you need to keep your mind and body healthy!
Are you afraid or in distress?
The CDC says that if you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety, or if you or they feel like you want to harm yourself or others, you should seek immediate help:
- If you need immediate emergency help, call 911
- Visit the Disaster Distress Helpline or call 1-800-985-5990 and TTY 1-800-846-8517 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Domestic violence and abuse
Domestic violence is violence done by a partner or a member of the family, at home. This violence has increased during the COVD-19 pandemic because people and families are spending more time at home. Most violence is against wives and partners. But children often see this violence, and they can be victims too.
Are you afraid of someone you live with?
It is difficult to get away to get help because everyone is together at home. But there are services to help you:
- Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224
- Text the Crisis Text Line on 741741
- If you are afraid for your life and for the life of a family member, call 911
This information comes from trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. USAHello does not give legal advice or medical advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal or medical advice. Our health information has been reviewed by USAHello board member Tej Mishra, a US public health professional and epidemiologist.