Safety and Prevention

People of any age can become sick with COVID-19, but some are at higher risk of severe illness, including people who...

  • are 65 years of age or older
  • live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • are pregnant or were recently pregnant
  • smoke
  • live with a high-risk medical condition, including
    • cancer
    • chronic kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, or lung disease, including COPD and asthma
    • dementia or other neurological conditions
    • diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2)
    • down syndrome
    • high blood pressure
    • HIV infection
    • immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
    • mental health conditions and substance use disorders
    • overweight (body mass index [BMI] of 25 or higher but less than 30) and obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
    • sickle cell disease or thalassemia
    • solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
    • stroke or cerebrovascular disease
    • tuberculosis

Learn more about factors that can affect your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus by knowing your risk and taking the best prevention steps.

1. Keep track of the COVID-19 Hospital Admissions Levels on our COVID-19 homepage and follow the recommended prevention steps listed there.

2. Understand your risk of exposure and make choices that protect yourself and your family using the table below.

Factors That Impact Your Risk of Exposure
ScenarioLeast RiskModerate RiskMost Risk
Length of time: How long are you near people?Shorter amount of time (e.g., grocery shopping)Moderate amount of time (e.g., working out at the gym)Longer amount of time (e.g., spending a full day)
Cough or heavy breathing: Are people near you coughing, singing, shouting, or breathing heavily?​Less exhalation (e.g., not talking)​Moderate exhalation (e.g., having a conversation)​Elevated exhalation (e.g., singing together)
Symptoms: Do the people near you show any symptoms?No symptoms Symptoms
Masks: Are you or the people near you wearing a respirator (for example, N95) or high-quality mask?​You and the people near you are wearing masks​Only some people are wearing masksNo one is wearing a mask

​Ventilation and filtration: How well-ventilated is the area where you are near people?

OutdoorsWell-ventilated indoors (e.g., fans are running, windows are open, air purifiers are in use)​Poorly ventilated indoors (fans and air purifiers are off, windows are closed)
Distance: How close are you to other people?​Distant (e.g., six feet apart)Moderately close​Very close or touching

Understand your risk of exposure and make choices that protect yourself and your family.