What You Need to Know Now About COVID-19
COVID-19 and its variants are circulating widely throughout New York City. To fight the spread and protect ourselves and each other, the city’s Health Department advises that everyone should act on the assumption that they are exposed to the virus and susceptible to getting sick and spreading it further.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness with symptoms that can range from mild (a sore throat or fatigue) to a severe condition such as pneumonia. Most people will not need medical attention for their symptoms, and some will have no symptoms at all. But that doesn’t mean they can’t spread the virus. All New Yorkers need to monitor their health carefully so that together we can slow the spread and protect those at higher risk, along with our health care workers who are at the front lines of our battle against the virus.
If you are sick, you must stay home. Only seek health care if you are very sick. Even if you are not sick, stay home as much as you can: work from home, study from home, avoid all unnecessary interactions.
How it spreads
- COVID-19 is transmitted mainly between people who are in close contact with each other (within about 6 feet). The virus is commonly spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be inhaled into the lungs. The symptoms may appear as soon as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
- Public health experts are still learning about the mechanisms and rates of spread but it is believed that people who are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, high fever and difficulty breathing are most likely to transmit the virus to others. However, even asymptomatic people – who may account for nearly one in five cases – can transmit the virus. That helps explain why it is known to be spreading between people with no link to another positive case.
- The virus can also live on surfaces as long as several days and be transmitted when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes without washing or sanitizing their hands thoroughly.
Who is most at risk
- People at most risk for severe cases of COVID-19 are those over 50 or who have other health conditions, including chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system. However, public health officials stress that anyone, including young people in perfect health, can get the virus and become severely ill—and spread it to more vulnerable family members and contacts.
- People with regular close contact with someone who has or could have COVID-19 are also at higher risk. This includes people who live in the same home, caretakers who work in the home or sexual partners.
How to protect yourself—and everyone else
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help stop the spread of germs and protect yourself against other infections.
- Get the flu vaccine; it will not protect you from coronavirus but will help protect you against the flu which has similar symptoms to this coronavirus.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing --- do not use your hands.
- Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
- Stay home. Even if you are healthy and have no sign of illness, go out only for essential tasks, such as getting groceries or supplies for medical care. Use delivery services when possible.
- When you do go out, practice “social distancing” and take it seriously. Try to stay at least 6 feet from others in public spaces. Avoid crowded areas of stores. And of course, don’t shake hands or hug. Try waving.
- Sanitize frequently touched surfaces and objects, particularly your cell phone. When you go out, be careful about touching public surfaces like doorknobs and shopping baskets—and sanitize frequently when you do. The science varies on how long COVID-19 lives on various kinds of surfaces but the risk of becoming infected from packages at the grocery store or from delivered packages is, in general, thought to be relatively low. Here’s one expert’s assessment.
- LATEST ON MASKS — EFFECTIVE FRIDAY, APRIL 17: Gov. Cuomo has issued an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public when social distancing isn’t possible. The order is intended to reduce the spread of infection on public transit, in stores, on crowded sidewalks and anyplace else where you are likely to encounter others. In addition to manufactured or homemade masks, acceptable coverings include scarves and bandannas. Wearing a face covering was previously a recommendation from city, state and federal health authorities, both to reduce the chances of being infected and to protect others if you are infected and don’t know it. However, they continue to stress that a face mask does not make you invincible and is no substitute for the primary precautions: staying at home, especially if you are sick; social distancing if you must go out; washing your hands frequently. For more on face masks and instructions for making your own at home, visit this CDC page.
What to do if you were in close contact with someone who has or may have the virus
- If you were in direct contact with someone who is a confirmed case or is waiting for confirmation, you should self-quarantine for 14 days from the last day of your contact. Self-quarantine means staying inside and isolating yourself as much as possible. Use food delivery services, which now offer grocery and food orders left on doorsteps to avoid physical contact between delivery workers and customers.
- Other requirements of self-quarantining: No visitors, including housekeepers and dog walkers; avoid sharing household items; sanitize “high-touch” surfaces—countertops, toilets, keyboards, doorknobs—every day.
- If you have symptoms during the quarantine period, seek medical advice.
- If you learn of or come in contact with a colleague who suspects exposure to coronavirus or displays symptoms, ask them to contact their health care provider.