Minimize the spread of COVID-19

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus. This means:

  • Wear a mask when out in public.
  • Practice physical distancing.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Minimize time spent with people outside of your household.

State restrictions on activities, gatherings, and travel change often. Before reading the guidance below, check the state website to see restrictions where you live.

How can I stay safe while resuming more activities in public?
Before you decide to resume more activities in public, consider:

  • Whether COVID-19 cases are increasing or decreasing in your area
  • How vulnerable you and your loved ones are to illness
  • Whether you can maintain a safe distance from others

Remember: The more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The State of California has a tool that shows what activities are allowed in each county. These restrictions change from week to week. They are based on a color-coded system.

You can search by your ZIP code to find out what color tier your county is currently in.

California uses several factors to decide when businesses or activities can reopen or resume. These include the current number of COVID-19 cases in an area.

Is it safe to host or attend a small gathering?

If you’re allowed to hold small gatherings in your area, follow the State of California’s guidelines for small gatherings. These include:

Attendance – Keep it small
Gatherings that include more than three households are prohibited. This includes everyone present, including hosts and guests. Remember, the smaller the number of people, the safer.

Location – Outside is better
Gatherings that occur outdoors are much safer than indoor gatherings. All gatherings must be held outside in the Purple Tier. Indoor gatherings are strongly discouraged in Red, Orange, and Yellow Tiers. If gathering indoors, increase fresh air circulation by opening windows or doors. This is most important in the rooms where people are gathering. When indoors, it’s safer for household pods to eat together.

Don’t attend or host if you feel sick
Anyone with any COVID-19-like symptoms must stay home and not come into contact with anyone. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Loss of sense of taste/smell

High-risk groups should go virtual
People at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 are strongly urged not to attend any gatherings, especially indoor gatherings. This includes older adults and people with chronic medical conditions. Connect with families over the phone or online.

If you do go in person:

  • Keep your visit short.
  • Stay at least six feet from others.
  • Wear a surgical or N95 mask (not cloth).
  • Spend more time outside rather than indoors.

Physical distancing and hand hygiene required
For any gatherings allowed under this guidance, the space must be large enough so that everyone at a gathering can maintain at least a 6-foot physical distance from others (not including their own household) at all times. Everyone should wash their hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Don’t share utensils, food, or drinks.

Wear a mask at all times
When gathering, masks must be worn around anyone you don’t live with. Masks should:

  • Fit snugly
  • Have more than one layer

People should limit removal of their masks to when they are actively eating or drinking.

Length – Keep it short
Gatherings should be two hours or less. The longer the duration, the bigger the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Is it safe to travel?
Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

The State of California recommends limiting travel to no farther than 2-3 hours by car. If you must travel out of the state or country, you should quarantine for 14 days upon your return.

Effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on all forms of public transport traveling into, within, or out of the United States. This also applies to airports and stations.

You can get COVID-19 during your travels. Remember: You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others.

Don't travel:

  • If you are sick
  • If you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • If someone you were planning to travel with is sick

Before you decide to travel, check the latest info with the local health department:

  • Where you are starting from
  • Along your route
  • At your planned destination

Consider these four factors:

  • Is COVID-19 is spreading at your destination?
  • Does your destination have restrictions on travelers including mandatory quarantine?
  • Is anyone in your household is especially vulnerable to illness if they get COVID-19?
  • Will you be able to keep 6 feet of physical distance from others during or after your trip?

Learn more about the risk factors associated with different kinds of travel.

How can I minimize my risk if I do go outside?
If you must go out in public, follow the four steps below to protect yourself and others.

1. Wear a mask
It is now required that everyone in California must wear a mask when outside of their home, with limited exceptions.

Choose a mask that:

  • Has two or more layers of washable, breathable (tightly woven) fabrics (cotton or cotton blends)
  • Completely covers your nose and mouth, and goes under your chin
  • Fits snugly against the sides of your face

You should also follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands before putting on a mask and after taking it off
  • Do not touch the mask when wearing it
  • Carefully remove the mask by holding the strings/ear loops
  • Wash your cloth masks regularly

Two masks may do a better job of blocking any droplets and spray containing viral particles from entering your airways. However, layers and fit are the most important thing – whether you wear one mask or two.

2. Practice social distancing

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Reduce close contact (less than 6 feet) for prolonged periods with others outside of your immediate household
  • Avoid gatherings, large crowds, and indoor spaces with poor ventilation
  • Keep at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) apart from others outside your household

Under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away, according to the CDC.

These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had poor ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.

3. Wash hands often
Keeping hands clean is very important to help prevent the virus from spreading. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

4. Minimize mixing
In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer the time spent together, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

It’s important to remember:

  • Mixing with more people outside of your household raises your risk.
  • Spending longer amounts of time with people outside of your household also increases risk.


How can I stay healthy while at home and lower my risk of getting sick?
Stress, lack of movement, and poor eating choices can easily erode your health. Healthy eating and self-care can be a great way to lower your risk of getting sick.

Our virtual Wellvolution® programs can help you:

  • Eat better
  • Manage stress
  • Treat chronic conditions like diabetes

Programs are available to most Blue Shield of California and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan members at no extra cost.

Learn more at

Please note: Medi-Cal and some self-funded employer-sponsored plans may not have access to Wellvolution. Please contact the customer service number on your ID card if you’re not sure if you have access to Wellvolution.

Last updated: Feb 26, 2021

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