Adapting with the seasons – staying safe in the age of COVID-19

As fall arrives, learn how to keep you and your family safe and healthy
Man wearing a mask shopping for produce

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shaped how we will live our lives for the foreseeable future. While sheltering in place, wearing masks, and becoming homeschool teachers overnight – in addition to the harsh economic impact of the pandemic – is taking its toll emotionally and mentally, we are learning to adapt for the health and protection of ourselves and our community.

While it can be tempting to simply return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, the risk of spreading COVID-19 still remains present. With recent surges in the number of cases, it is time to apply what we have learned about the virus, and for each one of us to do our part to help reduce infection rates especially as cooler weather arrives and we spend more time indoors, which tend to be less ventilated.

Your risk not only varies based on your location; it also depends on the activity you are doing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has considerations and guidance for those participating in gatherings, as well as best practices for staying safe as you venture out of the house. It’s also important to stay informed about COVID-19 infection rates in your community as well as updated community ordinances. Read on to learn more about staying safe during the new normal.

6 feet is still the standard

While certain businesses have opened since the initial shelter-in-place ordinance went into effect, such as retail stores, it’s important to still maintain at least 6 feet of distance between each other. Physical distancing is one of the best ways to reduce exposure risk, according to the CDC.

Some other aspects to consider when assessing the risk of certain activities include:

  • Density: risk increases as the number of people increases
  • Duration: risk increases as length of time interacting with others increases
  • Distance: risk increases as the ability to physically distance decreases, i.e. indoor settings are usually harder to maintain distance than  outdoor ones

Understanding the potential risks of certain activities can help you make an informed decision about which events you want to attend. In general, virtual events pose the lowest risk, followed by outdoor in-person events with few local attendees. Next come larger events with more people coming from out of the area, and lastly, large in-person indoor events with many out-of-town attendees pose the highest risk.

Masks save lives

Wearing a covering over your mouth and nose -- such as a mask or other face covering -- is key to helping curb the spread of COVID-19, especially if you cannot maintain a safe physical distance of 6 feet. Masks can reduce the spread of respiratory droplets and are linked with helping to reduce the spread of the virus to others. This is especially true if you are participating in an event where you are shouting or singing, which can increase risk of spreading COVID-19 more than simply talking or breathing. So when you wear a mask, you are doing your part to protect your community – especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19. So mask up!

Note that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as N95 respirators and surgical masks – should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. Also, children under age 2, people with severe respiratory diseases, and anyone unconscious or unable to respond should not wear masks.

Protect your community

As mentioned, wearing a mask or oter face covering and physical distancing are major keys for curbing the spread of COVID-19 while in public spaces. This becomes especially important when protecting those most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus. These populations include:

  • Older adults, especially those age 85 or older, but those above age 50 are at greater risk as well
  • People with underlying health conditions, especially cancer, kidney disease, COPD, HIV, and other conditions that compromise the immune system, heart disease, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes

Additionally, other factors might require that certain populations receive extra precautions against the spread of COVID-19. These factors can include:

  • Homelessness
  • Poverty or lack of healthcare access
  • Breastfeeding or pregnancy
  • Disability
  • Behavioral or developmental disorders
  • Dementia
  • Living in a long-term care facility

The level of risk in your community can affect your local shelter-in-place restrictions. It’s important to stay up to date on local ordinances and follow the guidelines.

Should I get tested?

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 – which the CDC says can include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath – it’s important to contact your primary care physician (PCP) immediately. He or she can help diagnose your condition and offer guidance on where to get tested, if necessary, within your plan’s network. Using a virtual care service, like Teladoc, to consult with a doctor also helps you maintain physical distancing while you get care.

If your doctor determines that testing is necessary, he or she will likely recommend a test to determine whether you are currently infected with COVID-19, also known as a viral test. This will let your doctor know what your next steps for treatment should be. Viral tests usually require a nasal swab or saliva sample and results can come back between a few hours to several days, depending on the testing site and the demand for testing. If you test positive, your doctor will provide next steps for care. If you test negative, it means you weren't infected or you might have been too early in your infection for detection. Always defer to your doctor for questions related to testing, self-quarantine, and treatment. 

As we learn to navigate life in the age of COVID-19, information is key for protecting our health and the health of our communities. Stay informed on the current risk and current ordinances.

Want to know more about Blue Shield’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency? Learn more about coverage, care, and prevention on our dedicated COVID-19 website.

With a global pandemic, school closures, national protests over racial injustice, major job losses, and wildfires has made 2020 a hard year for everyone. This is especially true for youth in communities of color who are navigating what these challenges may mean for their future.

Even before COVID-19, mental disorders affected up to 1 in 5 U.S. children each year, costing an estimated $247 billion annually To address this sobering statistic, in 2019 Blue Shield of California launched the BlueSky initiative to support youth mental health throughout the state. BlueSky is a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort to enhance awareness, advocacy, and access to mental health support for middle and high school students statewide.

Providing mental health services at school increases kids’ access to care and improves school performance. Addressing mental health concerns early (PDF, 5MB) is vital. Fifty percent of mental illness onset occurs before the age of 14, and 75 percent occurs by age 24.

Youth Support

BlueSky funds school-based programs with one-on-one therapy sessions for students most in need in Alameda and San Diego counties. BlueSky partners with Wellness Together and its team of mental health specialists. This partnership helps maintain a robust schedule of online counseling sessions with youth, offering support to hundreds of students.

Results in the first year:
  • 3,855 counseling sessions completed at 19 schools in the 2019-20 year, including individual, group, family, and crisis counseling
  • The program pivoted to videoconference and phone sessions during school closures


BlueSky’s collaboration with led to a first-of-its-kind mental health guide created for students, by students. This unique guide, which helps parents and educators understand the complexities of youth stress, gives voice to students who are coping with stress and anxiety during these difficult times. For example, pre-teens and teens are continuing to deal firsthand with the effects of distance learning, stress, and isolation.

Results in the first year:
  • 48,533 youth signed up for the campaign and submitted 74,000+ tips in three months
  • The guide published at the start of the new school year on September 1, 2020.


With the help of NAMI California, high school students formed clubs that raise mental health awareness, educate the campus community, and promote services and support vehicles that empower youth advocates.

Results in the first year:
  • In June 2020, NAMI CA hosted an online Youth Symposium involving hundreds of youth, adult partners, and advocates. The Symposium was entitled “Empowering Youth to Change Conversations Around Metal Health.”
  • 49 active clubs operate throughout the state, with three of them formed since January 2020. NAMI CA is actively working to shift to online clubs and trainings.


Teacher Support

Because teachers are vital to youth growth and development, BlueSky partnered with the California Department of Education to expand access to Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). YMHFA is a training program for thousands of public school teachers and caring adults to identify mental health warning signs in youth. The program offers practical steps for supporting youth in in need of help.

Results in the first year:
  • Conducted 34 Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings in the 2019-20 year
  • Trained 867 adults, primarily teachers
  • Adapted in-person training for virtual and hybrid formats


Community Support

With the onset of COVID-19, it became clear that youth would need deeper community support to maintain healthy minds. BlueSky reached out to trusted community-based organizations that serve youth in San Diego and Alameda Counties, funding youth programs in the arts, sports, music,  leadership, and tele-counseling areas. This mini-grant program helped youth access support outside of school.

Results in the first year:
  • BlueSky provided $300,000 across 18 organizations, with mini-grants of $10,000-15,000 each
  • Programming reached vulnerable populations and helped communities support youth needs

Building awareness and mental health literacy helps Californians connect to resources and support, and removes the stigma that exists for many around seeking mental health support.

This work can’t be done alone. The heart of the BlueSky initiative rests with community partners that lead the youth mental health movement and make healthy minds a reality for California’s youth.

We offer many different ways to access care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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