COVID-19COVID-19 Prevention

Let’s Talk About COVID-19 Prevention

With treatments still experimental and hospital beds limited, protecting yourself against the novel coronavirus is imperative. You can’t control everything—but here’s what you can.

    Our Pro PanelCOVID-19 Prevention

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in infectious disease to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Amesh A. Adalja, M.D.

    Amesh A. Adalja, M.D.Internist specializing in infectious diseases and critical care

    University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Jeanne D. Breen, M.D.

    Jeanne D. Breen, M.D.Infectious disease specialist, Assistant Clinical Professor, Laboratory Medicine

    Yale School of Medicine
    New Haven, CT
    John Swartzberg, M.D.

    John Swartzberg, M.D.Clinical Professor, Emeritus

    UC Berkeley - UCSF Joint Medical Program, Infectious Diseases & Vaccinology Division, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
    Berkeley, CA

    Frequently Asked QuestionsCOVID-19 Prevention

    How is coronavirus spread?

    Experts believe COVID-19 is mainly spread through person-to-person transmission—someone sneezes, coughs, or talks within 6 feet of you, you inhale the droplets they expel doing so, and voila. Other less common ways it may spread include through the air, on contaminated surfaces, and through contact with the feces of someone who is sick. The main take-home message here is wash your hands and stay 6 feet away from people you don't live with.

    Do face masks protect against coronavirus?

    Yes, they can, especially properly fitted N95 masks, which filter out at least 95% of airborne particles—but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials have asked the general public to avoid using these masks, leaving the limited supply to healthcare workers. Instead, the CDC has advised people to wear cloth masks when they must be in public to help prevent asymptomatic transmission of the disease.

    How long does coronavirus live on surfaces?

    Here’s what we know so far: A recent New England Journal of Medicine article found that COVID-19 stays on stuff for varied amounts of time, with various levels of contamination, including copper (4 hours), plastic (3 days), stainless steel (3 days). Other studies have looked at the larger class of coronaviruses and found they lived on paper for 4 to 5 days and fabric up to 4 days. This is likely true of the novel coronavirus as well.

    How can I protect my home against coronavirus?

    Spray away. Use alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol and common EPA-registered household disinfectants to clean surfaces. If you can't find ready-made disinfectant sprays, make your own diluted household disinfectant wipes: mix 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water and spray this mixture on paper towels. Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters, door handles, remote controls, light switches, devices, and cell phones.

    Erin L. Boyle

    Erin L. Boyle


    Erin L. Boyle, the senior editor at HealthCentral from 2016-2018, is a freelance medical writer and editor.