COVID-19: Deciding When to Go Out

As communities and businesses are opening, you may be looking for ways to resume some daily activities as safely as possible. While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, it is important to understand potential risks and how to adopt different types of prevention measures to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

As a reminder, if you have COVID-19, have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it is important to stay home and away from other people. When you can leave home and be around others depends on different factors for different situations. Follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for your circumstances.

In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Some issues to think about:

What items should I have on hand if I go out?

A cloth face covering, tissues and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.

How many people will you interact with?

Interacting with more people raises your risk. Being in a group with people who aren’t social distancing (being at a distance of six feet from others) or wearing cloth face coverings increases your risk.

Engaging with new people (e.g., those who don’t live with you) also raises your risk.

Some people have the virus and don’t have any symptoms, and it is not yet known how often people without symptoms can transmit the virus to others.

Can you keep six feet of space between you and others? Will you be outdoors or indoors?

The closer you are to other people who may be infected, the greater your risk of getting sick.

Keeping distance from other people is especially important for people who have an increased risk for severe illness.

Indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces where it might be harder to keep people apart and there is less ventilation.

It’s important that you and the people around you wear a cloth face covering when around people not living in your household and particularly when it’s difficult to stay six feet away from others consistently.

Choose outdoor activities and places where it’s easy to stay six feet apart, like parks and open-air facilities. Look for physical barriers, like plexiglass screens or modified layouts, that help you keep your distance from others.

Use visual reminders—like signs, chair arrangements, markings on the floor, or arrows—to help remind you to keep your distance from others.

How long will you be interacting with people?

Spending more time with people who may be infected increases your risk of becoming infected.

Spending more time with people increases their risk of becoming infected if there is any chance that you may already be infected.


Will I have to share any items, equipment, or tools with other people?

Choose places where there is limited sharing of items and where any items that are shared are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses.  You can also choose to visit places that share, post, or announce that they have increased cleaning and disinfection to protect others from COVID-19.

Will I need to take public transportation to get to the activity?

Public transit can put you in close contact with others. When using public transportation, follow CDC’s guidance on how to protect yourself when using transportation.

Does my activity require travel to another community?

Before considering trips outside your community, consult CDC’s travel considerations.

Is COVID-19 spreading in my community?

Find out by viewing the latest COVID-19 information and a map of states with reported COVID-19 infections.

What are the local orders in my community?

Review updates from your local health department to better understand the situation in your community and what local orders are in place in your community. Also find out about school closures, business re-openings, and stay-at-home orders in your state.

Am I at risk for severe illness?

Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. While the risk for severe illness is lower for others, everyone faces some risk of illness. Some people have no symptoms, others have mild symptoms, and some get severely ill.

Do I live with someone who is at risk for severe illness?

If you live with older adults or someone with certain underlying medical conditions, then you and all family members should take extra precautions to minimize risk. Learn more about what you can do if you or any members of your family are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Do I practice everyday preventive actions?

Continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions, like monitoring yourself for symptoms, not touching your face with unwashed hands, washing your hands often, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, wearing cloth face covers, and staying home if you are sick.

If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions. If you will be running an errand, follow CDC’s running errands considerations.

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