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What are the two tiers of precautions to prevent the transmission?

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing transmission remains a top priority. Health organizations have laid out precautions that can be taken at both the individual and community level. These precautions generally fall into two main tiers: personal protective measures and community mitigation strategies.

Personal Protective Measures

Personal protective measures are actions individuals can take to lower their risk of infection. These include:

  • Wearing a well-fitted mask in public settings and when around those outside your household
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from others who don’t live with you
  • Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces
  • Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available
  • Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow
  • Staying home if feeling unwell

These measures create barriers to help prevent respiratory droplets from an infected individual from reaching others. Masks limit the spread of droplets that are released when breathing, talking, sneezing, or coughing. Physical distancing decreases the chances that those droplets immediately reach another person. Frequent handwashing reduces virus particles that may be picked up from contaminated surfaces. Vaccination primes the immune system to fight off infection if exposed to the virus.

Choosing Masks

Not all masks provide equal protection. Well-fitting disposable surgical masks or respirators (N95/KN95/KF94) offer better filtration of virus particles than cloth masks. A mask should fit snugly against the sides of the face and not have gaps. With safe materials and good fit, surgical masks can filter out over 95% of particles in lab testing, while cloth masks vary greatly in effectiveness depending on material and construction. Multilayer cloth masks with a filter pocket are recommended if surgical masks are unavailable. Avoid masks with exhalation valves or vents, which allow unfiltered breath to escape.

Physical Distancing

Maintaining distance from those outside your household reduces risk by keeping away from where droplets quickly disperse after someone coughs, sneezes, shouts, or sings. COVID-19 spreads easier when people are in close contact. While 6 feet is a general guideline, more distance is better, especially indoors with poor ventilation. Wearing a mask is still important with distancing. Follow any capacity limits posted for indoor spaces.

Improving Ventilation

Good ventilation dilutes any viral particles accumulating indoors. When gathering inside, open windows to increase air flow. Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters can also reduce airborne virus. Avoid crowded enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. Outdoors is safest for gatherings.


COVID-19 vaccines prepare the body’s immune system to recognize and fight off the virus. They provide powerful protection against severe illness. However, breakthrough infections are still possible in vaccinated people. Everyone eligible should stay up-to-date with recommended vaccine doses based on age and health status. Boosters enhance waning immunity. Vaccination also reduces the chance of transmission to others.

Staying Home When Sick

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or loss of taste and smell, it’s important to isolate at home to avoid spreading infection. Let close contacts know so they can monitor themselves for symptoms. Follow recommendations on isolating until fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms have improved. Testing is recommended to confirm infection.

Community Mitigation Strategies

In addition to personal precautions, community-wide strategies can limit virus transmission. Recommendations may vary by location and phase of the pandemic. Generally, the following are important:

  • Promoting vaccination, including boosters when eligible
  • Requiring masks in schools and high-risk congregate settings like healthcare facilities
  • Improving access to testing and treatment
  • Installing portable air cleaners in schools, care facilities, etc.
  • Enabling accommodations for medical vulnerability, disabilities
  • Supporting work from home when possible

Masking Recommendations

Requiring masks in schools reduces transmission among students, teachers, and staff. Universal masking is recommended when a community has substantial or high transmission. Masks may continue to be necessary in high-risk settings like healthcare even when transmission decreases. Selective masking requires assessing local conditions.

Improving Ventilation

Improving air exchange rates with outdoor air, using HEPA filters, and installing upper room UV germicidal irradiation are strategies to reduce contagious respiratory droplets in indoor spaces like schools and businesses. These enhancements improve safety at current occupancy, rather than reducing density.

Promoting Vaccination

Increasing COVID-19 vaccination coverage protects individual immunity while reducing spread on a community level through herd effects. Promoting primary vaccination and boosters through public awareness campaigns, providing paid time off for vaccination, offering vaccines at pharmacies and doctors’ offices, and establishing school-based vaccine drives can improve rates.

Enabling Work Accommodations

To protect medically vulnerable workers, accommodations like telework options, modified job duties, and reassignment need to be available. Disability accommodations should also be provided as needed to enable those at high risk to work safely. Paid sick leave policies allow employees to stay home when ill.

Expanding Testing Access

Easy community access to rapid COVID-19 testing lets individuals check infection status. This facilitates safer school attendance, work policies, travel, and isolation decisions. Over-the-counter tests, free public testing sites, and insurance coverage for tests are ways to improve access.

Adopting Data-Driven Policies

Using key metrics like community transmission levels, hospitalizations, and healthcare capacity can guide responses. Mask policies, event guidance, and high-risk setting protections should adapt according to local conditions. Data-driven flexibility is needed.


A layered approach using both personal precautions and community mitigation measures offers the best protection against COVID-19. Promoting strategies like masking, distancing, ventilation, vaccination, accommodation, testing access, and flexible data-driven policies work together to reduce transmission risks. Some combination of measures is likely to remain necessary until treatments improve or transmission diminishes to very low levels through vaccination and lasting immunity.

Ongoing research continues to refine guidance on preventing COVID-19 spread. But following current recommendations from health authorities provides a way forward in protecting health while resuming activities. Hygiene, masks, distancing, and getting vaccinated and boosted remain key individual actions. Schools, businesses, and communities play vital roles as well. Multifaceted prevention allows a safer transition out of crisis mode while managing risks, uncertainties, and challenges that lie ahead.