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Study: The Very Best Way to Avoid Catching COVID-19

Follow this essential list and protect yourself.
Two friends with protective masks greet with waving to each other.Alternative greeting during quarantine to avoid physical contact

The novel coronavirus only broke out about eight months ago. So much about it isn't understood, even by the top global infectious-disease experts. Effective treatments—not to mention a vaccine—are far off. This summer, dozens of states are experiencing surges of the virus, and the country overall keeps setting daily records for new infections. The good news: This is happening despite what we know about the virus, not because we don't know enough. Although a cure is still elusive, researchers have determined there are literally dozens of things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19. Here are the top 30—and to stay safe during this pandemic when going out, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

1

Wash Your Hands

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This is the most important thing you can do to prevent contracting the coronavirus, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top public health expert. Do it thoroughly (with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, then dry them completely) and regularly (make sure you wash up every time you come home from a public place). If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 

2

Avoid Crowds

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Staying away from large gatherings is another crucial strategy for avoiding COVID-19. Even talking and breathing can spread coronavirus—and up to 40% of people who carry and transmit the virus have no symptoms.  

3

Maintain Social Distance

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Today's rule of thumb: When you're in public, stay six feet away from people you don't live with. Experts think that's farther than the coronavirus can travel in respiratory droplets. And there's evidence this policy works: According to a June study from Johns Hopkins University, social distancing and lockdowns have cut the spread of coronavirus by half in 82% of counties in the United States.

4

Don't Go to Bars

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Heading to your local pub is one of the most dangerous things you can do right now. This month, Fauci told NPR that "congregating in bars, congregating in crowds, people getting together in a celebratory way without wearing masks" has driven this summer's surge in COVID-19 cases. 

5

Wear a Mask

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"The message should be, 'Wear a mask, period,'" Fauci said on July 7. Studies indicate it can reduce the risk of infection anywhere from 50 to 80%, he told MarketWatch. 

6

Pay Attention to Local Guidelines

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Earlier this year, many people outside the coronavirus's first hotspots thought public health advice about prevention didn't apply to them. "That's a recipe for disaster," said Fauci in June. The evidence: This month, the U.S. reached 4 million coronavirus cases, with 1 million added in just two weeks. 

7

Avoid Unnecessary Trips

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Person-to-person contact is the most likely mode of coronavirus transmission, so venturing out in public puts you at risk. It's sensible to evaluate whether you can cut down on unnecessary trips—for example, do you need to go to the grocery store every week, or can you go every two? Do you need to visit at peak hours, or can you go early in the morning or later at night?

8

Don't Get On a Plane

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This month, Fauci told the Washington Post he would not fly on an airplane right now. "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," he said. "So, no chance. No Metro, no public transportation."

9

Avoid Indoor Dining

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Fauci also will not eat indoors at restaurants. "I am not going to restaurants right now," Fauci said on July 27. "Indoors is much worse than outdoors. If you're going to go to a restaurant, try as best as you can to have outdoor seating that is properly spaced between the tables."

10

Don't Shake Hands

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Shaking hands and casual hugs are a social faux pas for now. Substitute an elbow bump or a wave.

11

Be Careful When Entertaining At Home

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Take the advice of Dr. Fauci: He still has people over to his home, but with careful guidelines. He and his wife only entertain two guests at a time, and they only socialize outdoors, wearing masks and social distancing. They'll enjoy a meal together, but of takeout food served in separate containers—no sharing of dishes or utensils.

12

Wear Your Mask Correctly

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Make sure your mask fits comfortably over your nose and mouth. Don't wear it under your nose or chin, and avoid touching the mask—you can transfer germs to your nose and mouth that way. When you take it off, remove the mask from its straps. If it's paper, discard it. If it's cloth, wash it after each use. Don't put a mask in your pocket with the intent to wear it later.

13

Use Gloves Carefully

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If you wear disposable gloves on errands, discard them before touching anything in your car, your cellphone or your doorknob at home.

14

Be Consistent

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"If you want to pick three or four or five very simple tools that could have a major impact on turning around the outbreak, wearing a mask is definitely one of them, as is physical distancing, as is avoiding crowds, as is closing bars, as is washing your hands," said Fauci on July 27. "I'm pleading with people to consider doing this consistently because if half of people don't do it, it kind of negates the overall purpose."

15

Skip the Parties

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After months of Zooming and FaceTiming, you're probably eager to see friends and family again in-person. But gathering in groups presents a serious risk of contracting the coronavirus.To be safe, take a mental raincheck on that party or family reunion. 

16

Get a Flu Shot

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Although this year's flu shot won't protect you from the coronavirus, it's absolutely worth getting. Protecting yourself against the flu and its complications will make your immune system stronger, increasing your chance of fighting off COVID-19. And guarding yourself against the flu will keep you out of doctors' offices and emergency departments, preserving critical medical resources for coronavirus patients who need them.   

17

Enjoy Movies at Home

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Just like bars and restaurants, movie theaters provide a risk of coronavirus transmission because of recirculated air. That's why many of the nation's theaters have been shut for months, with major movie releases pushed back. Just because they might be open in your area doesn't mean they're risk-free. You might want to stay home Netflixing and chilling for a while longer.

18

Don't Listen to Conspiracy Theories

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As much as we would like it not to be so, the coronavirus pandemic is very real. Anyone claiming it's a myth or a conspiracy is dead wrong. When you seek out information about the coronavirus, make sure it's being reported by reputable sources—for example, health agencies like the CDC or WHO, hospitals or medical schools, or major news organizations.

19

Don't Touch Your Face

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Germs are most often introduced into our body when we touch our eyes, nose or mouth. That's why it's especially important to wash your hands often—and avoid touching your face.

20

Don't Touch Public Screens Or Keypads (Without Washing Your Hands)

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The checkout screens at grocery stores and keypads at banks are notoriously germy. Bring a pen with you and use the non-writing end to press keys and give your signature, or you can buy a mini-stylus that will attach to your keychain and allow you to stay touch-free.

21

Clean Your Cellphone

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Even in good times, studies showed our cellphones can get ten times as dirty as a toilet seat—just from normal daily use. To protect against the coronavirus, it's a good idea to disinfect your phone regularly. Some experts recommend disinfecting your phone daily with a disinfectant wipe or a combination of rubbing alcohol and water. 

22

Exercise, But Maybe Not at the Gym

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Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post that he wouldn't work out at a gym right now. Instead, he exercises outside (walking briskly over three miles a day). Because coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, and the gym is full of people engaging in what experts call "forceful exhalation," it's a potential hotspot for infection.

23

Don't Think You're Immune

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This summer's spike in coronavirus cases proves that young people aren't immune. In June, Washington State reported that 2 out of 3 people who've contracted the disease there are younger than 29. At the same time in Florida, the median age for coronavirus patients dropped from 65 in March to 37. Young and previously healthy people are dying of COVID-19. Follow public health guidelines, no matter what your age.

24

Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces

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Clean "high-touch" surfaces with disinfectant to protect against coronavirus. The CDC advises doing this daily, including "tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks." Most EPA-registered products will work, the agency says. 

25

Don't Panic

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You are powerful in the fight against COVID-19. You can choose to practice social distancing, wear a mask in public, wash your hands frequently and avoid large gatherings—all of which have been found to drastically lower the risk of infection. Stay abreast of the latest public health guidelines: The best cure for anxiety is information. And staying informed will help you know what you don't have to do—you don't have to avoid the outdoors completely, wipe down your groceries, or disinfect your mail or packages before opening them. 

26

Don't Give In to Virus Fatigue

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It may be tempting to mentally check out of the pandemic. But the crisis is far from over, and ignoring it won't make it go away. It's important to stay vigilant and informed. To avoid burnout, limit your consumption of COVID-related news. If you feel like you're getting overwhelmed, check in with the news for 15 minutes a day instead of leaving it on in the background for hours.

27

Visit With Children Virtually, If Possible

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Although all age groups are affected by coronavirus, people who are older and have pre-existing conditions tend to be more seriously affected than people who are younger and healthier. It's still a good idea for older people to socially distance themselves from children for the time being, just to be safe.

28

Bring Hand Sanitizer Along

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Carry hand sanitizer in your car glove compartment, purse, bag or jacket, and use it at sensible times when you're out in public—for example, at a restaurant after you've touched a menu, after using a cart at the grocery store, or getting in your car and before touching the steering wheel.

29

Don't Ignore Stay-At-Home Orders

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As coronavirus spikes during the summer — and with the prospect of a second wave hitting during this flu season — some localities have instated (or reinstated) shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. Health officials recommend these for good reason. Ignore them at your peril.

30

Hang Out Outdoors

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Exercise and socialize with friends and family outside, as long as weather and local guidelines permit. Your chance of contracting coronavirus is much lower outdoors than it is inside buildings. Just remember to maintain a safe social distance and wear masks. 

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 21 Subtle Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

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