Life at home during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated on

This advice is based on our medical staff and CDC guidelines about COVID-19. We update this site when new information is available. New information may also be available from the CDC.

Is this an emergency?

If you’re suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

Living day to day during COVID-19

Should I wear a mask or face covering when I leave my house?

Yes.

  • You and others in your home should wear a mask when you will be going to public spaces like the grocery store, gas station, or work.
  • Wear a cloth face covering like a bandana, scarf, or home-sewn mask if you can’t find a mask. Use a cotton or cotton-blend cloth.
  • Clean your mask or cloth face covering every day.

If you are going outdoors or in your car, it is not necessary to cover your face when you are isolated from others.

There is currently a lot of discussion about whether we should only be wearing a mask when experiencing signs of illness. We have recently learned that people can spread COVID-19 via exhaling or talking without having any signs of illness.

Wearing a mask or face covering is a step everyone should take to stay safe from being exposed to COVID-19.

Are there any good items to keep in my home in case I catch COVID-19

  • A working thermometer is an important tool to have at home to monitor your temperature and check for fever.  
  • Another device that may be useful is a pulse oximeter.  This small, portable device helps to measure your oxygen level simply by placing it on the tip of your finger and can provide more information to your doctor if you are feeling short of breath.   
  • Some basic medications to keep on-hand include Tylenol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen (Motrin).  
  • Maintain a 30-day supply of your prescription medications in the event you do become ill so as not to have to travel out of the house for refills. 

Is COVID-19 transmitted by food or packaging

No.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence of getting COVID-19 from food, treated drinking water, or food packaging.

The risk of getting COVID-19 from food you cook yourself, or from handling and consuming food from restaurants via takeout, curbside pick-up, or drive-thru is thought to be very low. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.

Although some people who work in food production and processing facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, there is no evidence of the virus spreading to consumers through the food or packaging that workers in these facilities may have handled.

See our webinar Healthy, Fit, and Sound at Home for ways to keep yourself, your family, and local restaurant workers safe and supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deciding to go out

If you have been diagnosed with, have symptoms of, or have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you should stay home.

While staying home poses the least risk for contracting COVID-19, leaving the house may be necessary for many. Understanding risky behaviors can help you to protect yourself. In general:

Your risk for COVID-19 increases when you:

  • See more faces (are around more people)
  • Are indoors
  • Linger in places
  • Can not stay 6 feet away from others

You can reduce your risk for COVID-19 by

  • Avoiding crowds
  • Limiting close contact with people who do not live with you
  • Choosing outdoor spaces
  • Maintaining social distancing from others

When leaving the house, take measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19 including wearing a mask or cloth face covering. 

Additionally, following community guidance and knowing your community transmission rates may help you decide why and for how long you may choose to leave home. 

If you or someone in your household are at higher risk for complications, consider limiting your exposure to others even more so as to prevent infection. 

Understanding Risky Behaviors

We’ve compiled a list using eight different sources, whose research includes input from hundreds of epidemiologists, doctors, task forces, and health
experts. The activities are ranked on a zero to ten scale from least to most risky—read through and refer back often as you make (or break) your plans
in an effort to maintain good health.

What are some workplace practices that can decrease the spread of COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends 10 steps to reduce risk for COVID-19 transmission in the workplace:

  1. Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  2. Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezed.
  3. Provide a place to wash hands or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  4. Limit worksite access to only essential workers, if possible. 
  5. Establish flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), if feasible.
  6. Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, or other work tools and equipment. 
  7. Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
  8. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved cleaning chemicals with label clams against the coronavirus.
  9. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products.
  10. Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns. 

Can I visit an elderly family member

Yes, you can visit elderly family members.

Protect them by

  • washing your hands before and after, and by using hand sanitizer
  • keeping at least 6 feet away when you can
  • coughing or sneezing into a tissue
  • covering your face with a mask or cloth face covering.

Checking in daily by phone or video helps reduce everyone’s feelings of loneliness.

Do your best to keep grandchildren away from Grandma and Grandpa until the outbreak is over, even if they are staying in the same house.

Can I help by donating blood during COVID-19

Yes.

You can help by donating blood.

The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future.” Both the FDA and the CDC also released statements encouraging healthy individuals to donate blood if they can. 

How can I donate plasma after COVID-19 infection

Individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19 may be able to donate blood to provide convalescent plasma to help others who are currently infected. Contact the American Red Cross for more information on plasma donation.

Is dining at restaurants safe during COVID-19

A recent study from the CDC has linked transmission of COVID-19 to dining at restaurants.  The CDC study looked at people with confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 and assessed their activities in the two weeks prior to symptom onset.  They identified activities such as dining out, going to salons, shopping, going to an office, taking public transportation, attending a religious service, etc.  The study compared the activities of the COVID-19 positive patients to a control group of patients who tested negative.  Patients with positive test results were more than twice as likely to have dined at restaurants in the two weeks prior to symptom onset.

This was a small study with possible limitations, but there are other reports of exposures in restaurants that have been linked to air circulation.  Virus transmission may be dependent on direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow indoors.  

Masks cannot be worn during eating and drinking, so these studies help to emphasize the importance of avoiding crowded spaces and close contact while not wearing masks.   The CDC recommends wearing your face covering at restaurants at all times, except when you are eating and drinking.  This recommendation includes both indoor and outdoor dining.  And you should certainly not dine out if you are feeling sick.  

Safety at home

Tornado season and COVID-19

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Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from getting to a safe place during a tornado warning

Make a severe weather plan now

  • Decide if there is a good place in your home to take shelter, like a basement, or an inside room without windows on the lowest level.
  • If there isn’t a good place in your home, check with a neighbor who has a basement or shelter
  • If you are sheltering with a neighbor, make a plan together to protect yourselves, like social distancing and wearing masks or face coverings
  • If you normally use a public or community shelter, check now and often with your local officials to see if it will be open

We’re now heading into the most active months for tornadoes in the U.S. 

Now is a good time to decide how and where you’re going to take shelter if you need to.

Read the American Meteorological Society’s tornado sheltering guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more information about preparing for tornados at ready.gov.

Hurricane season and COVID-19

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Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from getting to a safe place during a hurricane

Make a severe weather plan now

  • Our team of medical experts recognize that hurricane planning may be different this year in order for you to protect yourself and others against COVID 19.
  • Make plans early. During COVID-19, many are using home delivery services to obtain the everyday basics, as a hurricane approaches, these services may become overwhelmed. Ensure enough time between time of order and the hurricane arrival. Purchase non-perishable items well in advance and stock your “go-kit” with additional items such as hand sanitizer, extra facial coverings for each member of your family, soap, and disinfectant wipes.
  • Ensure a 30 day supply of medications in advance of any storm. Once again, delivery services and mail order may be impacted by increased demand just before a storm; plan ahead for trips to the pharmacy, if needed, to obtain medications and utilize drive-through service as available to maintain social distancing.
  • Tune to local media and local government websites for updates about shelters in your area. It is possible that due to COVID-19 shelter locations and “pet friendly” shelters may have changed.
  • Some organizations are dramatically reducing shelter capacity to provide more space for social distancing between families. As a result, consider allowing for extra time to evacuate because shelters might be farther away.
  • If using mass transit to evacuate, follow safety precautions for use of public transportation to protect you and your family.
  • When possible, you are better off locating shelter with family or friends outside the expected danger zone or stay at an accommodation of your choice. If you plan on staying with friends or family outside of your household, talk to the people you plan to stay with in advance as to social distancing strategies and care/prevention plans for those who may be at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 when you arrive at the shelter or become sick while sheltering, notify the shelter staff immediately.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to maintain social distancing and facial covering recommendations to protect yourself and others.

Hurricane season for the Atlantic ocean spans from June 1 to November 30 and for Eastern Pacific from May 15 to November 30.

Now is a good time to decide how and where you’re going to take shelter if you need to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added a COVID-19 annex to its usual preparation materials for hurricane season.

Wildfire season during COVID-19

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Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from getting to a safe place during a wildfire

Steps to minimize your risk from wildfire smoke

  • Stock up on your routine medications and essential supplies. Use home delivery when possible.
  • When running essential errands, follow the precautions recommended by your state and local health authorities.
  • Create a clean air space at home with use of portable air cleaners, HEPA filters, or DIY filtration units. If necessary, seek the safety of clean air shelters.
  • Know your community’s evacuation plans and create a strategy with multiple escape routes. Keep track of fires near you, so you can be ready.
  • Limit your outdoor exercise and activities when it’s smokey outside.  Common face masks like surgical or cotton masks won’t filter out the harmful air particles.  Other than N95 or P100 respirators, masks will not protect you against wildfire smoke. 

As we enter this wildfire season in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, the public health threat is amplified. Exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to respiratory tract inflammation and infection, eye irritation and can worsen chronic health conditions. People with compromised immune systems, children under 18, pregnant women, outdoor workers and adults 65 and over are more vulnerable to COVID 19 when exposed to wildfire smoke.

Now is a good time to decide how and where you’re going to take shelter if you need to.

If you think someone has been poisoned or exposed to chemicals

Is this an emergency?

If you’re suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

If you have been exposed to, have ingested harmful chemicals, or have questions about being exposed to chemicals

  • call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222; or
  • text poision to 484848; or
  • use the Poison Control Center online tool for advice.

Ingesting a poison is when it is swallowed, absorbed through the skin, injected, inhaled, or splashed into the eyes.

During COVID-19, there may be a higher risk for unintentional poisoning at home due to the increase of hand sanitizers and cleaning products within close reach of children, or using them to clean foods, mixing different cleaners together to form toxic fumes, and using or confusing different medications and doses. 

Chemicals are good at killing bacteria and germs on surfaces, but they can have serious consequences when exposed to a person.

You can prevent chemical exposure and poisoning by safely storing products and medications away from children and always read the labels before use. 

Help for parents

Is this an emergency?

If you think your child is suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

COVID-19 and pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, stay safe by

  • practicing good hand hygiene
  • staying home as much as possible
  • self-isolating for 12 weeks, if you’re able.

To best answer your questions about pregnancy and COVID-19, stay connected with your OB/GYN (obstetrician / gynecologist) or primary care provider (PCP).

Pregnant women, by nature, have a weakened immune system. This means they are more at-risk for complications of respiratory infections, like COVID-19.

Scientists are learning more about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women.

Here’s what we know about COVID-19 and pregnancies right now:

  • Pregnant women are not more likely to get infected with COVID-19.
  • Pregnant women who get respiratory viruses, like COVID-19, are at a higher risk for serious health conditions.
  • Health experts recommend following good hand hygiene and social distancing. Some doctors suggest 12 weeks of self-isolation as an added precaution, if you are able. Learn how to protect yourself.
  • A small study of pregnant women in China with confirmed COVID-19 found no evidence of it in their breast milk, cord blood, or amniotic fluid.
  • Women are at low risk for passing COVID-19 to their newborns when using proper precautions (such as cloth face coverings, hand washing, and breast hygiene). A recent study of 80 newborns, who roomed with their mother who was COVID-19 positive showed that over a 14 period, none of the babies tested positive when being cared for by the mother.  

What to do if my child gets sick

Contact your provider if your child has

  • a fever
  • a cough
  • fast breathing
  • signs of dehydration, such as not peeing for 8-12 hours, or no tears when crying
  • been less active than usual

With the nonstop news coverage, it’s easy to think that COVID-19 symptoms are an emergency, but it’s important not to go to the ER at the first sign of fever.

Your provider will let you know if you can care for your child at home or if you need to go to the doctor’s office or the ER. 

What if my child needs medical attention for non-COVID-19 illnesses and emergencies (rashes, vomiting, injuries)?

Contact your provider to find out if you need to be seen in person, unless it’s a life-threatening emergency.

Doing this can help limit unnecessary potential spread of COVID-19.

What to do if a child licks hand sanitizer

A lick of hand sanitizer will not be fatal to a child or anyone else.

If a child drinks hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizers do contain alcohol and should be stored, like other potential poisons, out of sight and out of reach of children

Can my kids still have play dates during COVID-19 social distancing?

No.

For social distancing to work in preventing the spread of COVID-19, don’t have playdates.

For kids to have fun and get exercise, choose outdoor activities that require distance. Something like going for a bike ride allows them to be together without coming into contact with each other (bringing and using hand sanitizer is still a good idea). Backyard games, like cornhole or badminton are also fun ways to get outside.

Can I use a babysitter for child care during COVID-19 social distancing?

If you need to.

The fewer people you and your children are exposed to, the better. However, we know that not every family will be able to have a parent at home at all times.

Do your best to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 by

  • using fewer babysitters and choosing a babysitter who isn’t around many other people besides your family
  • making sure the babysitter understands they need to practice social distancing, and let you know (and not come to your house!) if feeling at all sick or have been near someone with COVID-19
  • having the babysitter limit closeness by keeping a safe distance with your children, as much as they can
  • making sure everyone washes their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating.

Can my child go to school if they are sick with mild cold symptoms even if they wear a mask

No

If your child shows any signs of illness, then keep them at home.  COVID-19 can cause symptoms that mimic a simple cold, and the best way to prevent transmission of the virus is to keep your child at home if they are ill.  This rule is especially important during a pandemic.

How to talk to children about COVID-19

Given all the information and talking about COVID-19, your children might have questions for you. 

Try to strike a balance between answering questions well enough without fueling the flame of anxiety

  • Provide just enough information
  • Be calm around children about COVID-19
  • Limit watching news
  • Give reassurance, especially when they are seeking it

Remember, everyone is working hard to manage COVID-19. You can show your children that you, too, can continue to do what is important to you while practicing healthy behaviors.

Questions children may have about COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a kind of germ that can make people feel sick. Remember how the flu made (you/your classmate/anyone your child knows) feel? It can be a lot like getting the flu. Some people feel just a little bit sick. Some people get a fever and a cough. 

How do you catch COVID-19?

COVID-19 spreads like the flu, or a cold or cough. If a person who has COVID-19 sneezes or coughs, germs that are inside the body come out of the body. That’s because sneezes and coughs can send germs into the air. That’s why it’s important to stand six feet apart from people other than your family. You don’t want to breathe in air with germs. To keep germs on hands from getting inside the body, wash your hands with soap and water and count to 20 slowly or sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Try not to touch your mouth, eyes, or inside your nose because those are places where the germs can get inside the body.

Why are some people wearing masks?

Masks are for people who are sick to wear so that they don’t share germs. The masks also are for medical staff, like doctors and nurses, to wear so they can help people who have COVID-19. For now, when we go out we will wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose (like a bandana or scarf) to be sure we don’t breathe in germs. If we do this, COVID-19 will go away and we won’t have to cover our faces.

Can you die from COVID-19?

Most people who have caught COVID-19 have not died, just like with the flu. Doctors are working really hard to keep an eye on anyone who is feeling sick. They want to make sure everyone gets the help they need and to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

If you’re doing healthy things like sneezing into your elbow and washing your hands after you go to the bathroom, then you’re showing COVID-19 who’s boss instead!

Activities for children during COVID-19

You can go anywhere in the world! Take this time to visit the Louvre in Paris, the San Diego zoo, a marine biology center, or the moon. Our Health Coaches have put together a handout for families to stay healthy while at home, including activities for children.

What are the benefits of children returning to school during COVID-19

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children learn best when they are physically present in the classroom.  They are able to develop their social and emotional skills when interacting with others.  Another benefit provided by schools is access to meals and regular healthy exercise.  Mental health support and other vital services are often easier to access within schools than through online learning.