A-Z Index
More Resources

COVID-19: Reducing Risk

Keeping Safe & Preventing Spread


Which situations are riskier?

Understanding how the COVID-19 virus is spread is important. It will help you to assess your risk and take steps to protect yourself in different situations.

The virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets and tiny particles that are released into the air from the mouth and nose of a person who has COVID-19. These droplets/particles are then breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, nose, or mouth. A person’s risk of getting infected increases the closer they are to someone infected with COVID-19. This is especially true if the infected person is speaking, singing, coughing, shouting, sneezing, or breathing heavily. Their risk is also higher if they are in an enclosed space with poor air flow. This is because the tiny particles that have the virus can concentrate and spread in the air. They can even stay floating in the air for several hours after an infected person has left the room if there is poor air flow.

This is why masks are important. They lower the number of respiratory droplets people release into the air AND also the number that they breathe in. A well-fitting N95, KN95, and KF94 respirator should block at least 94% of these particles.

It is also possible, but less common, for the COVID virus to spread by touching a surface with droplets on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is another reason why it is important to wash your hands regularly.

There are certain places where COVID-19 spreads more easily

  • Closed spaces with poor air flow
  • Crowded places with many people nearby
  • Close contact settings especially where people are talking (or breathing heavily) close together

Knowing the level of spread in your area can help you decide what protective measures to take. Everyone needs to take extra precautions when the risk is high. When the risk is low, you can make decisions based on personal preference and comfort level. You should also consider your own level of risk and the level of risk to others in your household or workplace. Consider the following:

  • Do you live with others who have a health condition that puts them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID?
  • Do you live with anyone who is unvaccinated?
  • Does anyone in the home work in a setting with vulnerable people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID?

To learn about the current situation in LA County, see COVID-19 community risk level.

How to reduce the risks of COVID-19

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Get all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses including your updated booster. It is the best way to protect yourself from getting seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. Vaccination also reduces the risk of long COVID.
    See Vaccination below for more information.
  • Wear a mask that fits and filters well. See ph.lacounty.gov/masks for more information on the types of masks and mask wearing rules and recommendations in Los Angeles County. If you are at high risk for severe disease or if you are around people who are at high risk, it is very important to wear a highly effective mask (such as a well-fitting N95, KN95, KF94, or double mask) in indoor public spaces. Children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask.
  • Improve air flow. Avoid indoor spaces with poor air flow as much as possible. Open windows and doors, use fans and portable air cleaners, run heating and air, and upgrade filters. (See CDC Improving Ventilation in Your Home and the California Department of Public Health flyer Tips for Reducing Risk Indoors).
  • Choose outdoor spaces for social and fitness activities when possible.
  • Stay home when sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay away from others and get tested. To learn about symptoms and what to do if you are sick see ph.lacounty.gov/covidcare. If you test positive for COVID-19, ask for treatment right away, even if your symptoms are mild. Many adults and some children qualify for COVID-19 medicines. See ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines for more information.
  • Take a rapid COVID-19 viral test before gathering indoors with others who are not in your household. To be especially safe, plan to get at least two negative tests over 48 hours before you gather indoors as recommended by the FDA. This is especially important if you will be with people who are at high risk of severe illness. If you test positive, cancel your plans and isolate at home away from others even if you feel well. Visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests to learn more about when to get a test, self-tests, and understanding your test results.
  • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often - especially after being in public spaces where surfaces are touched by many people. Avoid eating and touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to change your plans or leave if you find yourself in a place where COVID-19 can spread more easily. For example, indoors in a loud crowded restaurant with a lot of people who are not wearing masks.
  • Delay travel until you and the people you are traveling with are up to date with their vaccines, including boosters. Be sure to review and follow the CDC domestic and international travel guidance.


Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from getting very sick from COVID-19, ending up in the hospital, or dying. It also lowers your risk of getting long COVID. You need to get all recommended doses (including an updated booster) to get the best protection.

  • If you are already up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, encourage your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to get vaccinated, including getting their updated (bivalent) booster. Everyone ages 6 months and older should get vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidvaccineschedules.
  • If you are not yet vaccinated or have not yet gotten your updated booster, consider getting vaccinated now. Vaccines are safe, effective, and free to everyone regardless of immigration status. Talk with your doctor about any concerns.
Vaccines are widely available across LA without an appointment. Visit ph.lacounty.gov/howtogetvaccinated to find a location near you. Call 1-833-540-0473 if you need help making an appointment, need transportation to a vaccination site, or are homebound. Phone lines are open from 8am to 8:30pm 7 days a week. Information is also available in many languages 24/7 by calling 2-1-1.

People at higher risk of serious illness

Some people are more likely to get very sick if they get COVID-19. This includes people who are not vaccinated, older, or have certain medical conditions. If you are higher risk, you and the people you spend time with should be extra careful. Follow the steps listed above to reduce your risk and learn about medicines to prevent or treat infection.

Remember to:

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines
  • Have a supply of COVID-19 tests or know where to get tested. Test for COVID if you have symptoms or are a close contact.
  • Be prepared and have a COVID-19 treatment plan. Medicines to treat COVID work best when they are given as soon as possible. Plan ahead to avoid delays.
  • Ask for treatment right away if you test positive, even if your symptoms are mild.
  • Wear a highly protective mask such as a well-fitting N95, KN95, KF95, FP94 or double mask when indoors around others, especially in public places.
  • Encourage the people that you spend time with to help protect you. They should stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines including getting their updated booster, wear a highly protective mask in indoor public places, and should take other steps to reduce their risk of getting and passing COVID-19 to you.
Medication to treat COVID-19

If you get COVID-19, there are medicines that you can take that will help keep you from getting very sick. They may also help you test negative sooner and may lower the risk of long COVID. These medicines must be started within the first few days of symptoms to be effective (within 5 days for the oral medicines and within 7 days for the intravenous treatment). Treatment is free. Many adults and some children qualify for treatment. See ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines for more information.

Be prepared and have a plan for getting COVID-19 treatment:

  • Your doctor or urgent care center can write a prescription. If you need intravenous treatment, your doctor can refer you to a treatment location.
    To fill your prescription, click here, enter your address or zip code, and click on the box “Locations to fill a prescription”.
  • You can use a Test to Treat site
    To find a location, click here, enter your address or zip code, and click on the box “Locations with testing, medical visits, and medication (Test-to-Treat).
  • You can go to certain pharmacies
    Some pharmacies, including some CVS and Walgreens, can prescribe oral medicine to treat COVID. Call your pharmacy to see if they offer this service.
  • You can use the Public Health Tele-Health Service
    Call 1-833-540-0473 (7 days a week, 8:00 am – 8:30 pm). This is a good option for people who don’t have a doctor or health insurance or can't get an appointment.

See ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines for more information.

TIP! Make a list of all the medicines you are taking, including over the counter medicines and supplements. The doctor will need to know what medicines you are taking before they can prescribe treatment. They may tell you to stop or lower the dose of your regular medicines while you take your COVID treatment.

Icon: Get Adobe Reader
Adobe Reader

Note: PDF documents on this site were created using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or later. Document functionality may be reduced if you are using an earlier version (4.x or less). Get the latest version of Adobe Acrobat.

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

Los Angeles County Seal: Enriching lives through effective and caring services