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Man with coronavirus blowing nose, COVID-19

How to Protect Yourself & Your Community from Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By Kristy Warren


With the new strain of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to spread across the United States, preventive health measures like hand washing, covering coughs / sneezes, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces are more important than ever. Learn how you and your family can protect yourselves and others to stop the spread of illness. 



Coronavirus COVID-19

Coronavirus refers to a group of viruses that cause respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Symptoms are typically mild, but in certain strains, coronavirus can be deadly, such as the SARS outbreak or the new COVID-19 strain. COVID-19 is the name of the new strain first identified in China toward the end of 2019. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.


While many of those infected with COVID-19 experience milder symptoms and recover, others are more at risk for serious symptoms and complications. 

The most at-risk populations are seniors, immune-compromised patients, those with cardiopulmonary diseases, and people with underlying chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes.


Since young, healthy people may have very mild symptoms, it is critical that they can engage in preventive measures like handwashing to avoid spreading the virus to more vulnerable populations.

Little girl listening to music with her grandma, grandmother, child


The best way to protect yourself is to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Follow these five steps to keep you and your family healthy.

Step 1: Wash your hands often and well. 

Cartoon man washing hands

Proper handwashing prevents infections, illness, and the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and water for a full 20 seconds several times per day and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Humming the tune “Happy Birthday” twice is an easy way to make sure your family is spending enough time at the sink.

When running errands, going out to eat, or shopping, be mindful of washing your hands after handling money, restaurant menus and tables, shopping carts, door and toilet handles, check-out touch screens, or gas pumps. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, as these are easy entry points for viruses like COVID-19.


An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative on the go when you can’t get to a sink, but make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. Rub your hands together to work in the sanitizer until they feel dry.


Questions about whether to use liquid or bar soap? Antibacterial or regular hand soap? Check out the helpful video below for a quick FAQ rundown on washing your hands thoroughly to kill germs!

Step 2: Clean and disinfect

Clean AND disinfect commonly used surfaces and items in your home, including countertops, cell phones, TV remotes, light switches, door and fridge handles, faucets / sinks, desks, toilets, and your computer keyboard / mouse.

To clean a surface, use a clean sponge or cloth with detergent or soap and warm water prior to disinfection. 


To disinfect a surface, use an approved household disinfectant. Make sure to wipe down common areas like kitchen counters and desks. 

Spraying disinfectant to clean surfaces

Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work, but make sure to use disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface you're cleaning to avoid damaging them. For a list of EPA-registered disinfectants, click here.


To make your own disinfectant solution at home, carefully mix:

5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of bleach per gallon of water


4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation, and ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser, as it can create dangerous chemical reactions and fumes. 


Step 3: Avoid Close Contact


If you or a loved one are at high-risk for complications or severe symptoms, put some distance between yourself and others, especially those who are ill. When possible, do not visit with those who are sick; if you must come into contact, stay at least six feet away. If a member of your house is ill, have them self-isolate to avoid spreading illness throughout the family.



Woman staying home

Avoid public spaces / transportation and unnecessary travelIf you need food, medicine, or supplies, ask someone who’s lower risk to run your errands then wash their hands thoroughly before handling / delivering your items.

If you must go out yourself, try to plan your trip for an off-time when there will be less people and be aware of your surroundings.


Step Four: Cover Your Cough & Sneezes


Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow to better trap germs then throw used tissues in the trash right away. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Woman blowing her nose

If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub your hands until dry. 


Step Five: Stay Home When You're Sick & Call Ahead


Do your part to protect others. Stay home if you are sick except to get urgent medical care and call ahead before going to your local health center to explain your concerns and ask for guidance. 


Spraying disinfectant to clean surfaces

Showing up with COVID-19 symptoms to your doctor's office or an urgent care clinic without forewarning can expose other vulnerable, sickly people to severe illness and spread the virus. If you suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are concerned about your symptoms, call your Laurel Health Center first

Our staff will guide you through a checklist to evaluate your risk and work with local health agencies to determine your next steps. We will make sure you get the care you need where and when you should have it!  


Stay tuned to the Laurel Health Centers' news page and social media channel for the latest updates on COVID-19 safety measures and facts.

To reach any of the Laurel Health Center sites, call 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) or click here to visit our contact page.