There has been a lot of talk about the increasing cases and what to do to stay healthy during COVID-19. People are still questioning how COVID-19 spreads. How far do you need to distance yourself from another person? Can you get the virus from touching a doorknob or other surface? How often should you get tested?
Even the CDC has updated its definition of “close contact” with someone with the virus. They state, “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to testing specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”
Here is the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to protect yourself as COVID-19 cases surge.
Do we still need to wear a mask?
Yes. Wear a mask every time you leave your home. Universal masking is 85% effective, but it’s a team effort. We all need to wear them. Masks are especially important when social distancing is not possible, like on public transportation.
Your home should be a safe zone where masks aren’t necessary. However, the spread of Covid-19 among family members after one person is infected occurs quickly, according to a new study from the CDC. Over half of the people who lived with someone battling Covid-19 became infected within a week, researchers found. In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, it states that the family member exposed or suspected of having Covid-19 should be isolated before getting tested and before test results come back to protect others in the home.
When we social distance, is 6 feet enough?
According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, while interacting with others, the farther apart, the better. The CDC has always recommended at least six feet of distance. Besides distance, limiting the amount of time in contact is important.
Social distancing and wearing a mask is the best guard against the coronavirus. Doctors have also emphasized that the amount of time in contact with someone else affects transmission. Experts still recommend avoiding indoor spaces with groups of people when possible.
Does handwashing make a difference?
Frequent handwashing is still one of the best ways to prevent contracting COVID-19, experts said. Washing your hands every time you go home is a good habit to stick with. While you are away from home use hand sanitizer if you cannot access a sink to wash your hands.
Do we still need to wipe down surfaces?
According to the CDC, COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces. However, the CDC still recommends regularly disinfecting frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, kitchen counters, and surfaces in the bathroom. It is possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes, according to CDC guidance. But we know now that transmission through surfaces is not the primary way the virus spreads.
Instead, the virus often spreads through close contact with other people. People are generally exposed through inhaling respiratory droplets produced by infected people when they cough, sneeze and talk.
How often should we get tested?
Different types of COVID-19 tests have evolved throughout the pandemic. This summer, the CDC revised its guidance on when people should consult with a doctor or be tested. Previously, a person who tested positive for COVID was to be tested a second time to see if they were still contagious, but that’s no longer the protocol.
It is possible to have a negative test if you are tested too early. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should quarantine and see how you feel. If no symptoms appear, you should get tested after five days. If you have symptoms, you should call a doctor and follow the recommendations about whether and when to test.
The coronavirus has a long incubation time. You need to consider what you were doing a week before you showed symptoms. That has affected contact tracing because people don’t always remember every interaction from a week ago.
For more information about COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 updates page.