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, do your part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in NYC by taking a few steps every day. Most importantly, wear a mask in all public settings, outdoors and indoors. 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.

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.

Prevention Tips

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Wear a Mask

Everyone should wear a mask in certain settings, including those who are vaccinated and those who have had COVID-19. A mask protects people around you in case you are infected but do not know it. A mask can also help protect you from infection.

People who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask in all public settings, indoors and outdoors.

People who are fully 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.

People who are at increased risk of severe illness or are unvaccinated should consider wearing two masks. Using a cloth mask over a disposable mask improves the fit and adds layers. Also consider using a single higher-grade mask, such as a KN95 or KF94.

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

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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. People who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should get tested more often.

Learn more about testing in NYC, including where to find a free test near you.

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Stay Home If Sick or Recently Exposed

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or were recently exposed to someone who tested positive, stay home. 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 in all public settings.

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Avoid Travel

Travel is safer for vaccinated people, but unvaccinated people should avoid it when possible. If you do travel, take the recommended precautions.

You are not required to quarantine after travel, but it is still recommended for travelers who are not fully vaccinated. All travelers should follow CDC travel requirements.


People at Increased Risk of Severe Illness

People at increased risk of severe illness — who are more likely to require hospitalization if they get COVID-19 — need to be especially careful about monitoring their health.

People can protect themselves by staying home as much as possible, working from home if they can, avoiding crowds and gatherings, and keeping physical distance from others.

Older Adults

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.

Underlying Conditions for Adults

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

  • Cancer (current or a history of cancer)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension
  • Dementia and other neurological conditions
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • 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)
  • Overweight and obesity (body mass index of 25 or higher)
  • Pregnancy and recently pregnant
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking (current or former)
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke and cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
  • Substance use disorders (such as alcohol or drugs)
  • Tuberculosis

Underlying Conditions for Children

There is currently limited information about which conditions in children can lead to increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Evidence suggests that children with the following conditions are at increased risk :

  • 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

Racial/Ethnic Groups

Long-standing systemic health and social inequities — such as in education, employment, housing and health care access — have put people from some racial and ethnic groups (including Black, Latino and Indigenous people) 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.


Additional Resources