Preventing COVID-19

COVID-19 is highly contagious. People with COVID-19 who don't have any symptoms can spread the virus to other people. There are things we can all do to protect ourselves and the people around us from getting or spreading COVID-19.  Click on a prevention measure to find out more.

Prevention STEPS

See Frequently Asked Questions
Find information on symptoms, sickness and contact tracing

Before You Visit

As life picks up again, Vermonters want to know the risk when making plans or going out. It is possible to live your life and minimize your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.

A quick and easy way to measure the risk is to look for these three things when you go out. Any of these will lower the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 but the more you have, the better!

  1. Six-Foot Spaces - Are people staying at least 6 feet away from each other?
  2. Masks on Faces – Are people wearing face masks when they cannot keep a 6-foot distance?
  3. Uncrowded Places – Is there enough space to spread out? Is it outside or is there good air flow (open windows or doors)?
Meeting up with friends or family? Let them know what you need to feel comfortable so you can see them and keep your risk low. Get creative! Can you move the visit outside or go during a time when it’s less crowded? See if you can get everyone on the same page ahead of time. If that's not possible, it may not be worth doing.

Learn about keeping your social circle small

"COVID Talk" Conversation Tips

As life picks up again, we are learning there is a lot to discuss before seeing friends and family to feel comfortable and stay safe. Here are four tips to help have the “COVID Talk” – a conversation to negotiate boundaries and establish expectations ahead of time. 

Ask questions.

Before you get together, start with an open and honest conversation about what everyone has been doing to stay healthy and how they have been socializing. Consider everyone’s worries, boundaries and possible COVID-19 exposure risk so you can all get on the same page.  

Try this: 

  • Would you be up for a walk this weekend? Let’s bring our masks just in case we need them. 
  • Would you be comfortable coming inside if we wear masks and keep at least 6-ft apart? 
  • Is it OK if my neighbor stops by while you’re over? I can also see them after you leave.  
  • I recently got together with family/friends. We were pretty safe but weren’t able to stay six feet apart the whole time. Do you still want to get together or wait for a couple of weeks to be safe?  
  • I really want to see you, but I’m nervous because I’m high risk for getting really sick from COVID-19. Can you tell me who else you been getting together with?
Focus on what you need.

Using “I” instead of “you” statements help avoid people feeling defensive or judged. In fact, blaming and shaming may actually increase push back and the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors. We recommend sharing what you’re comfortable with based on your own perspective instead of making demands of others. 

Try this: 

  • I’d feel better if we all keep our masks on if we need to go inside. 
  • I feel more comfortable meeting up with friends outside. 
  • I’ve only been visiting places without a lot of people to keep my risk lower. 
  • I would feel safer if we brought our own food, so we don’t have to touch the same serving utensils.
Share why it is important to you.

Share what level of risk works for you and why. It might be different for others. Some people feel comfortable taking on a moderate amount of risk in their lives. Others may not feel comfortable taking on any risk. Focusing on your own reasons for staying safe can help people to better understand and get on board.  

Try this:  

  • I have asthma so I’m not taking any chances getting COVID-19. I would love to see you, but I’m only comfortable getting together outside and keeping a distance. 
  • My kids are back in school. I don’t want to do anything that could increase our risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 and shutting down the classroom. 
  • I want to do everything I can to help keep COVID-19 cases low in Vermont so businesses can stay open.  
  • can’t afford to get sick and not be able to work, I need to keep my risk low. 
  • Someone I know got COVID-19 and it was scary. That’s why I feel more comfortable with us wearing masks and keeping a distance. 
  • I’m visiting my grandparents next week and I can’t risk giving them COVID-19. Let’s wait until I come back to see each other. 
Set boundaries and stick to them!

We are all for keeping it friendly, open and non-judgmental – but that doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your safety! It’s OK to be clear and straightforward with what you need to feel safe and comfortable. It’s also okay to decline invitations or leave situations that feel too risky. You should  never have to feel bad or apologize for prioritizing your safety. Lead by example by sticking to what works for you and avoiding judgment. 

Try this: 

  • Thanks for the invite, but I’m going to pass this time. I not comfortable being around groups of people right now.  
  • I know you don’t want to hang out outside today and that’s OK, but I don’t feel safe getting together indoors. Let’s try again another day! 
  • Whoops! This is a little too crowded for me. I’ll come back. 

People At Higher Risk For More Severe Illness

The risk for more severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age and is higher for people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions. People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility are also at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

If you are in one of these groups, take these extra precautions in addition to general prevention measures:

  • Continue your medications and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your health care provider. 
  • Have at least a two-week supply of prescription and non-prescription medications. Consider having your medications delivered.
  • Talk to your health care provider about whether your vaccinations are up-to-date. 
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for any underlying medical condition because of COVID-19. 
  • Call your health care provider if you have concerns about underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19.

Find support if you are affected by asthma, lung disease, diabetes, smoking or tobacco or heart disease.


There are things you can do to prevent getting or spreading COVID-19.

Stay home if you are sick

Why –  Staying home keeps illness from spreading to others. Rest also helps you get better.

How – Cancel your plans and stay home from work. Let your friends, family or neighbors know you are not feeling well. Ask if they are willing to drop off food, prescription or other things you need while you recover.

When – Do this any time you have symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses.

TIP Make a plan now for what to do if you or someone in your house gets sick.

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Wash your hands

Why – Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer rinses off or kills any germs you may have on them. This lowers your risk of getting infected with a virus if you touch your face, nose or eyes. If you are sick (even if you don’t know yet), washing your hands lowers the risk of spreading your germs to others when touching shared surfaces, such as doorknobs.

How – Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

When – Any time, but it is especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Also wash your hands any times they are visibly dirty.

TIP Keep hand sanitizer in your car, bag or attach a travel-sized, clip-on sanitizer to your key chain so you always have it with you.

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Keep your social circle small

Why – Limiting the number of people you are in close contact with lowers your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. It also helps contain the virus more quickly if someone in your social circle gets sick. Close contact means less than 6 feet (2 meters) apart and not wearing a mask for a total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period. Keep your social circle small and choose other trusted households that are also taking health and safety precautions.

How – Before you invite people into your social circle, have an open and honest conversation about what you are doing to stay healthy day-to-day. Focus on what you are comfortable with and why. Try not to judge – your comfort level and reasons may be different than others. This is an ongoing conversation since situations may change over time.

Be sure to share about:

  • Other people you are in close contact with.
  • Whether you have traveled recently, or if you plan to be traveling soon.
  • What your work, school, home and recreational settings are like. For example, if you have a job where you are around a lot of other people or if you play team sports.

When – Until there is a vaccine and COVID-19 is no longer a threat public health.

TIP Record activities with close contacts in a calendar or journal, with names, dates and phone numbers. This will help with contact tracing if someone in your group gets COVID-19.

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Stay at least 6 feet apart

Why – COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets of a person infected with the virus. These droplets can land about 6 feet (2 meters) away. Keeping a physical distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) lowers the risk of these droplets reaching you and others when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks. It is possible for a person who is infected with COVID-19 to not know they are infected and spread the virus. It can take as many as 14 days to have symptoms and some people never develop symptoms at all.

How –  Choose open areas where there is room to spread out. This is typically easier if there are fewer people and you are outdoors. Learn how to do this if you live in shared housing.

When – Any time you are with people you don’t live with or who are outside of your trusted and small social circle. Even when other people around you are wearing masks, it is important to keep a distance as much as possible.

TIP Add visual and physical clues to remind yourself to keep 6 feet (2 meters) apart. For example, arrange seating to be farther apart, or use a garden hose to divide your backyard (this works great for kids, too!).

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Wear a mask

Why –  A mask helps contain your respiratory droplets and can keep them from reaching other people. COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms. Wearing a mask helps protect people around you if you are infected with COVID-19 and don’t know it.

How –  Bring a mask with you when you leave home. The State of Vermont is offering a limited number of free cloth face masks to the public. Find out if free cloth face masks are available in your area.

Face Masks FAQs
Face mask how-tos and make your own
How to Select, Clean and Wear Your Face Mask

When – In Vermont you are required to wear a face mask or covering in public spaces any time it is not possible to keep 6 feet apart from others who are not part of your household. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces and group living settings (for example, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, apartment and condo complexes).

Examples of when a face mask is required:

  • Trips to any store, pharmacy, doctor, or hospital
  • At a gathering in the park with friends and family who do not live in your household
  • At any indoor or outdoor public event, such as a rally, protest, farmer’s market, or campaign event
  • Riding the bus, taxi, or ride share
  • Walking on a busy and crowded street
  • Before and after a yoga or exercise class

TIP Store your face masks with your keys, phone or wallet so it's easier to remember, keep an extra in your coat pocket, bag or car just in case.

Face Masks Frequently Asked Questions

Wear a Face Mask to Keep COVID-19 from Spreading
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Face Coverings for Children
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