COVID-19: Prevention and Groups at Higher Risk

The best way to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, you may not need to follow all of the guidance below to stay safe. Learn more about the benefits of vaccination.

If you are not vaccinated, you can do your part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in NYC by taking a few steps every day. Remember, people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 need all of us to help keep them safe, even after they are vaccinated.

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Stay home if sick or recently exposed to COVID-19
Only leave for a COVID-19 test, essential medical care or other essential errands.

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Keep physical distance
If you are not vaccinated, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

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Keep your hands clean
Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

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Wear a mask
When you wear a mask, you protect people around you in case you are infected but do not know it. A mask can also help protect you from infection.

Masks are required for everyone in public transit, health care settings, schools and congregate settings, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters.

People who are unvaccinated must wear a mask in all public settings, indoors and outdoors.

People who are vaccinated are urged to wear masks in all public indoor settings, as well as in any setting when they do not know the vaccination status of those around them.

If you are at higher risk of severe illness, and particularly if you are unvaccinated, consider wearing two masks (a cloth mask over a disposable mask), which improves the fit and adds layers. You can also consider using a single higher-grade mask, such as a KN95 or KF94. This is especially important with the spread of the delta variant, which is much more contagious and may be more likely to lead to severe COVID-19 illness.

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Get Tested

New Yorkers should get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. How often you should get tested depends on whether or not you are vaccinated against COVID-19. People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested more often. Learn more about testing in NYC, including how to find a free site near you.

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Avoid Travel

If you are not vaccinated, traveling puts you and those around you at risk of getting sick and spreading the virus. If you must travel, plan ahead by reviewing our guidance and taking all recommended precautions. You are not required to quarantine after travel, but it is still recommended for most travelers. All travelers — domestic and international — should follow CDC travel requirements.

COVID-19: Prevent the Spread Palm Card (PDF)
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People at Increased Risk of Severe Illness

Severe illness means that the person with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe, or that they may even die. People at increased risk of severe illness need to be especially careful about monitoring their health.

Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.

Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put people from some racial and ethnic groups (including Black, Latino and Indigenous groups) at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. Studies have shown that people from some racial and ethnic groups are dying from COVID-19 at younger ages. People of color are often younger when they develop chronic medical conditions and may be more likely to have more than one condition.

Adults of any age with the following underlying health conditions can be more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies and hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight or obesity (body mass index of 25 or higher)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
  • Substance use disorders (such as alcohol or drugs)

We are still learning about COVID-19, and there may be other health conditions that increase the risk of severe illness. If you have one of the above underlying health conditions or are 65 or older, consider staying home to protect yourself. Work from home if you can, avoid crowds and gatherings, and be sure to practice physical distancing and other precautions if you go out.


Children with underlying medical conditions are also at increased risk for severe illness compared to other children. There is currently limited evidence about which specific conditions can lead to increased risk for children. Current evidence suggests that children with the following conditions can be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Asthma or other chronic lung conditions
  • Congenital (since birth) heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic conditions
  • Immunosuppression
  • Medical complexity
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Neurologic conditions
  • Obesity
  • Sickle cell disease

CDC: People Who Are at Increased Risk for Severe Illness

Additional Guidance