how covid spreads

Knowing more about COVID helps you make smart choices.

COVID moves through the air in tiny airborne droplets from a contagious person. We release these droplets when we sneeze, cough, talk, or even breathe. You get COVID by breathing in these droplets, even very small ones. The more virus you breathe in, the more likely you are to get sick.

Learn more about how COVID spreads

vaccines and boosters

Vaccines reduce your risk of serious illness.

Vaccines are the most important way to protect yourself and others. Boosters increase your protection. They sharply reduce your risk of going to the hospital or dying due to COVID. They also reduce your risk of getting long COVID. Right now, no cure for COVID works for everyone, every time. Being vaccinated and boosted gives you the best chance to avoid getting infected at all.

Learn more about vaccinations


Masks help filter droplets carrying COVID from the air you breathe.

A mask that fits closely over your nose, mouth, and chin reduces the amount of virus you breathe in. If you're infected, it reduces the amount of virus you add to the air around you, where other people might breathe it in. If there’s a lot of COVID going around your area, wearing a mask will help protect you when:

  • You're indoors with people you don't live with.

  • You're outdoors in a crowd.

Any mask is better than no mask. Cloth masks give the least protection. Surgical masks are better if they fit well. KN95 or KF94 masks are really good, and N95 masks are the best.

Learn more about masks

sharing air

Social contact increases your risk of infection when COVID is spreading in your community.

If COVID infections are spreading in your community, being around people outside your household, especially indoors, is more risky. The more time you or other members of your household spend with others around other people, the higher your risk is. If fewer people in your area have COVID, then spending time with people outside your household is less of a risk.

Learn more about social contact


Testing lets you know if you're infected — so you can start treatment right away.

If you're at high risk of getting very sick from COVID, you need to know if you're infected as quickly as possible. A few medications are available to treat COVID, but they have to be started very soon after symptoms begin.

Learn more about treatment for COVID