Everyone has a role to play to reduce and slow the transmission of COVID-19. Social distancing is an essential step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing is reducing physical interaction between people and it lowers the chances of spreading illness between people. Practice social distancing by putting space (at least 6 feet) between yourself and others. It is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. These people include older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions. People can follow social distancing by reducing how often they are physically near others, reducing the overall number of people they are physically near, and by keeping at least 6 feet away from others when they do leave their homes. Staying physically apart is important, even in places like the workplace, school, when shopping, or in other places in your community. The goal of social distancing is to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Social distancing may make some people feel socially or culturally isolated, and possibly lead to loneliness, depression and poor health. It is important to use other non-physical ways to connect with family and friends, like sending a letter, phone calls, video calls, or social media. Exercising in or around your home or yard and sitting or working outside, close to home, can also help.
Social distancing to stay healthy and safe may prevent people from following some traditional and ceremonial practices. This may be especially relevant for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, but it is very important to use social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Below are some ways to cope with social distancing and the stress COVID-19 may cause:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic continuously can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body and mind. Take deep breaths, meditate, stretch, and exercise regularly.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Connect with others online or on the phone and talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Make time to relax and do activities you enjoy that can be done while social distancing.
People who need help or know someone that needs help with stress or anxiety can contact the Disaster Distress Helpline external iconat 1-800-985-5990, or talk to a counselor or social worker that may be available in your area.
AI/AN communities with multi-generational households or those in rural or tribal areas may experience unique challenges with social distancing, access to grocery stores, water, and local and tribal health services. However, there are several steps individuals can take to keep your home and family safe.
- Wash hands often following these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands, palms, back, between fingers and around fingernails for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. If you do not have running water, make sure your water source is clean.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
- If you can’t wash with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Place a dime-sized amount in your palm and rub hands together, covering all parts of the hand, fingers and nails until they feel dry
- Remind everyone in the household to avoid touching their face and cover their coughs and sneezes with the inside of their elbow or with a tissue, and then throw the tissue away.
- Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronics (see below for special electronics cleaning and disinfection instructions)) with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectantsexternal icon that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
- It is important for people at higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization or death from COVID-19, to limit time spent away from the home. People at higher risk for severe illness include those who:
- are aged 65 years and older
- live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, including people with:
- chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- serious heart conditions
- conditions that can cause a person to be immunocompromised including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
- severe obesity
- chronic kidney disease and who are undergoing dialysis
- liver disease
- It isn’t known if pregnant women are more likely to get sick from COVID-19, or if they are at higher risk to get severely ill. Pregnant women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness with other respiratory infections. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illness.
- Lack of access to grocery stores, water and health services may require more frequent trips to the store. If possible, send individuals that are not at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to gather essentials for the home.
- Wear a cloth face covering in public settings, like grocery stores and pharmacies, where it may be more difficult to maintain social distancing.
- It is important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness (individuals at risk are included in above section) to:
- Stay at home and away from crowds.
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies so you don’t have to go out of the home.
- When you go out in public, keep at least 6 feet away from others. Do not go to places where people are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently, as described above.
- If someone in your home is sick with COVID-19
- Have everyone continue to practice good handwashing methods as described above.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces, doorknobs and other commonly touched surfaces with common household disinfectants daily.
- Remind everyone to avoid touching their face, and cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of their elbow or with a tissue, and then throw the tissue away.
- As best as possible, isolate the individual with COVID-19 in a separate bedroom and bathroom away from others.
- Take care of the emotional health of your family, including yourself.
- Avoid sharing personal items like phones, dishes, bedding, or toys.
- If caring for a sick household member
- Monitor for emergency signs, like:
- Trouble breathing.
- Continual pain or pressure in the chest.
- New confusion.
- Bluish lips or face.
- Prevent the spread of germs:
- Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding.
- Have the sick person wear a facemask (if available). If sick individuals are unable to wear a facemask, the individual caring for the sick should wear a facemask when in contact with them.
- Have them use a separate bathroom (if possible).
- Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.
- Treat symptoms:
- Make sure individual with COVID-19 drinks a lot of fluids to stay hydrated and rests at home.
- Use over-the-counter medicines to help with symptoms.
- For most people, symptoms last a few days and get better after a week.
- Monitor for emergency signs, like:
See guidance on COVID-19 for healthcare professionals.
To Request Assistance
For questions, issues, or requests, tribal leaders can contact CDC.
Other guidance dedicated to tribal members can be found through the following links: