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How COVID-19 spreads and why it’s important to wear a face mask in public
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How COVID-19 spreads and why it’s important to wear a face mask in public

By Your Health staff
Posted: May 22, 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) mainly spreads through close contact from person-to-person.

The CDC says this likely happens between people who are within close contact (about six-feet) of one another — through ‘respiratory droplets’ produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks. The droplets can land in the mouth or nose of people who are nearby, or they can be inhaled into the lungs.

It's important to remember that COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic). Even people who are pre-symptomatic (will eventually develop symptoms) can transmit the virus before showing any signs of it, according to the CDC.

That means people who don’t look or feel sick can transmit the coronavirus — and that information led to the CDC’s recommendation that people where cloth face masks or coverings in public settings.

The recommendation covers most adults. Those who should not where face coverings include children younger than 2 years of age — or anyone who has trouble breathing or would be unable to remove the cover without assistance.


Want to make sure you’re wearing your mask correctly? Read this story from Your Health.


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It is possible for the virus to spread by other means, but the CDC has emphasized person-to-person spread is the most common way.

The agency previously stated COVID-19 could be spread if someone touches a surface or object — like a countertop or doorknob— that has the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes. That is still true, but it IS NOT thought to be one of the main ways the virus spreads.

Here's an excerpt from the CDC's website:

From touching surfaces or objects. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.

The CDC has also addressed spread from animals to humans and from humans to animals. These were labeled under methods that are "not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads." You can read more here.

Some have asked if COVID-19 can be spread through food. The CDC says there is no evidence to suggest it does, but it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing or eating food.

Coronavirus Resource Center

For updates from MLH facilities, community resources, COVID-19 FAQs and much more, visit our Coronavirus Resource Center

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