What should I do?

There are three critical things everyone needs to do: wash our hands, wear a mask, and limit our potential for exposure to the virus.


Be sure you are using proper handwashing technique.  Be sure to scrub your hands together for a full 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice).

Use the inside of your elbow to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.  Use tissues and throw them away immediately in a lined trash can.  Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or handling tissues.

As much as possible, avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.  For healthy and/or self-isolated people who are not caring for someone sick, medical masks are not recommended.

Keep your surroundings clean.  Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces like cell phones, do laundry regularly, and avoid sharing household items as much as possible.


The CDC recommends that everyone wear a mask or face covering when around other people.  Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth traps any respiratory droplets (believed to spread the virus) that you expel while breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing.  This protects the people around you from contracting the virus through these droplets.

It is important to wear a mask in public even if you are not sick.  There is significant evidence that some people who contract the virus never show symptoms, but still spread the virus to others – who sometimes become seriously ill or die.

Remember to wear and remove your mask correctly.  Mishandling your mask can undo the good of wearing it.  Additionally, people who are not healthcare workers or caring for a sick person should not use N95 masks, as those are still in short supply and badly needed on the front lines.

In our union, we know our well-being is interconnected.  Wearing a mask in public is just another way we show care and respect for one another.


Social distancing means putting physical space between yourself and other people.  Ideally, people would stay home entirely.  If you must be around other people, maintain at least 6 feet of distance. For scale, this means that if both of you reached your arm towards each other, your fingertips should not touch.

New York has closed all schools and non-essential businesses, so most people should only go into public for essentials like food and medicine, and limit trips to once a week or less.  It is advisable to go outside for fresh air often, but remember to maintain 6 feet of distance. Some parks and other public areas have reported overcrowding, so choose your location wisely and leave if it is crowded.

If you are an essential worker who must continue going out, practice social distancing as much as possible and alert your employer immediately if you start showing symptoms or believe you have been exposed to COVID-19. It is important that people who are sick not go to work.


Unfortunately, testing capacity in the United States is currently very limited.  This shortage could have been avoided, and when the crisis is over, we will organize to ensure it never happens again.  In the meantime, New York State, New York City, and Vermont have issued guidelines for who can be tested.  In general:

  • If you (1) are able to stay home, AND (2) do not think you were exposed, do not have symptoms, OR have mild symptoms that can be managed at home    stay home and do not seek testing or treatment.
  • If you must continue working outside your home, and (1) think you may have been exposed OR have symptoms, BUT (2) do not feel that you need medical treatment  →  consult your employer’s policies and ask to be allowed to stay home. Obtaining a precautionary or mandatory order of quarantine will likely entitle you to paid leave. Seek testing only if your employer requires it for your absence.
  • If you have severe symptoms that require medical intervention  →  follow the doctor’s recommendation for testing.

If you do require testing or treatment, contact the health facility before coming in. This will allow them to take precautions to limit other people’s exposure.  Read more about testing: New York, Vermont.

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