Skip to main content

Social Distancing Guidelines for Covid-19

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What do I need to know about COVID-19 and social distancing?

Social distancing means avoiding close physical contact so the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 cannot spread between people. Close personal contact means being within 6 feet (2 meters) of another person for at least 15 minutes over 24 hours. It is important to follow worldwide, national, and local social distancing guidelines. The guidelines help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

How does the 2019 coronavirus spread?

The virus spreads quickly and easily. The virus has also changed into new forms, called variants. Some variants may spread even more easily than the original virus. The virus can be passed starting 2 to 3 days before symptoms begin or before a positive test if symptoms never begin.

  • Droplets are the main way all coronaviruses spread. The virus travels in droplets that form when a person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The droplets can also float in the air for minutes or hours. Infection happens when you breathe in the droplets or get them in your eyes or nose. Close personal contact with an infected person increases your risk for infection.
  • Person-to-person contact can spread the virus. For example, a person with the virus on his or her hands can spread it by shaking hands with someone.
  • The virus can stay on objects and surfaces for up to 3 days. You may become infected by touching the object or surface and then touching your eyes or mouth.

What do I need to know about COVID-19 vaccines?

Healthcare providers recommend a COVID-19 vaccine, even if you have already had COVID-19. You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. Let your healthcare provider know when you have received the final dose of the vaccine. Make a copy of your vaccination card. Keep the original with you in case you need to show it. Keep the copy in a safe place.

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine as directed. Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended for everyone 5 years or older. COVID-19 vaccines are given as a shot, usually in 1 or 2 doses. This depends on the age of the person receiving it. A booster (additional) dose is recommended for everyone 12 years or older. A second booster is recommended for all adults 50 or older and for immunocompromised adolescents. The second booster is also recommended for anyone who got the 1-dose brand of vaccine for the first dose and a booster. Your provider can give you more information on boosters. Immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 years get 3 doses as part of the primary series.
    COVID-19 Immunization Schedule
  • Continue social distancing and other measures, even after you get the vaccine. Although rare, you can become infected after you get the vaccine. You may also be able to pass the virus to others without knowing you are infected.
  • After you get the vaccine, check local, national, and international travel rules. You may need to be tested before you travel. Some countries require proof of a negative test before you travel. You may also need to quarantine after you return.

How do I follow social distancing guidelines to help lower the risk for COVID-19?

National and local social distancing rules vary. Rules may change over time as restrictions are lifted. The following are general guidelines:

  • Wear a face covering (mask) when needed. Use a cloth covering with at least 2 layers. You can also create layers by putting a cloth covering over a disposable non-medical mask. Cover your mouth and your nose. You may need to wear the covering on mass transit, such as a bus or the subway. You may also need to wear it while you travel on an airplane.
    How to Wear a Face Covering (Mask)
  • Plan trips out of your home. This will help you make the fewest stops possible.
  • Do not have close physical contact with anyone who does not live in your home. Do not shake hands with, hug, or kiss a person as a greeting. Stand or walk as far from others as possible. If you must use public transportation (such as a bus or subway), try to sit or stand away from others.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings and crowds. Attend virtually if possible.

What else can I do to lower the risk for COVID-19?

  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use soap and water whenever possible. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Teach children how to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs. Turn your face away and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw the tissue away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Then wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. Teach children how to cover a cough or sneeze.
  • Stay home if you are sick or think you may have COVID-19. It is important to stay home if you are waiting for a testing appointment or for test results. Even if you do not have symptoms, you can pass the virus to others.
  • Try not to touch your face. If you get the virus on your hands, you can transfer it to your eyes, nose, or mouth and become infected. You can also transfer it to objects, surfaces, or people.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects often. Use disinfecting wipes or make a solution of 4 teaspoons of bleach in 1 quart (4 cups) of water.
  • Ask about other vaccines you may need. Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year, usually starting in September or October. Get the pneumonia vaccine if recommended. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you should also get other vaccines, and when to get them.
Prevent COVID-19 Infection

Where can I find more information?

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.