Learn What to Do

Last content update:  10/13/2020

If You Think You are Sick

Please refer to sccstayhome.org​ for information on what to do if you think you are sick.

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People Who Need Extra Precautions

We now know that some people are at higher risk for serious COVID-19 illness than others. Specifically, older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more likely to develop more serious symptoms and to require more intensive medical care.

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • People aged 50 years and older

  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:

    • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

    • Serious heart conditions

    • Compromised immunities

      • Many conditions can cause a person to have compromised immunities, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening medications

    • Severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)

    • Diabetes

    • Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

    • Liver disease

  • People who are pregnant.

The County Public Health Department strongly urges that persons at higher risk of severe illness to stay home.

In addition, follow this general guidance:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, cough into a tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are ill.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like phones, tablets, doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Even if you are not ill, do not visit hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes, or other settings with vulnerable populations. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there and keep 6 feet away from all patients and employees of the facility at all times.
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms such as cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first for instructions.
  • If you are sick, stay home and away from others in your household to the degree you are able.

We also recognize that the spread of COVID-19 could be particularly dangerous for those experiencing homelessness. Individuals without stable housing not only face greater difficulty taking preventative actions, but they are often in poorer health than other residents. The County of Santa Clara is working hard with its partners to address the needs of homeless individuals, and you can read more about our response on this page.

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People Living and Working in Multi-Unit Housing Communities

What Should Property Managers Do?​

Encourage Residents and Staff to Practice Social Distancing.

  • Support staff in practicing social distancing and following the Revised Risk Reduction Order. Maximize telework and encourage the use of flexible leave time wherever possible.
  • If any personnel are stationed onsite (such as a front desk worker) or perform work onsite (such as a maintenance crew), you must complete, submit, and implement a Revised Social Distancing Protocol for your operations.
  • Cancel all gatherings that do not comply with State and County gatherings restrictions.  Visit the County’s Gatherings FAQs for more information on the kinds of gatherings that are currently allowed.
  • Swimming pools and gyms in multi-unit housing complexes must operate in compliance with the Revised Risk Reduction Order, the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, and the State’s COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Gyms and Fitness Centers.
  • Laundry rooms may remain open for laundry purposes only and must be sanitized frequently. Signs should be posted in the laundry room to remind residents to practice social distancing while inside.
  • Require your staff to wear face coverings in compliance with current face covering rules.
  • Require or strongly encourage your residents to wear face coverings when they are in common areas such as laundry rooms, parking lots, walkways, or hallways. Note: If you choose to require face coverings, do not require them for very young children or people who cannot wear a face covering for a medical or disability-related reason.
  • Post information in staff areas, common spaces, and points of entry about actions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Share information about COVID-19 with residents in multiple languages. Find available signs and resources on the CDC website and also here on the County’s Public Health Department’s website.

Manage Visitors

  • Encourage residents to connect with family and friends by phone and/or online, and to postpone all non-essential visits.
  • If possible, limit visitor access to a single point of entry in your building that staff can easily monitor.
  • Post signs at entrances instructing visitors to refrain from entering if they are sick or if they have had close contact with a person who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.​
  • Require visitors to wear face coverings in compliance with current face covering rules and your facility’s Revised Social Distancing Protocol.

If there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the building, do not share protected health information relating to the sick person with other residents. The identity of a suspected or confirmed case is protected health information, and staff may not disclose it.

For information about what to do in a situation where an employee tests positive for COVID-19, please visit www.sccsafeworkplace.org.

If the identity of a case is known, visitors and staff should not enter the unit where the person with COVID-19 resides.

What Should Maintenance Staff Do?

Frequently Clean and Disinfect

  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces in common areas several times each day. This includes doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, railings, laundry machines, and other surfaces that many people touch.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage for more information on cleaning methods and products.
  • Make sure garbage cans are readily available for used tissues and paper towels.
  • Follow all other cleaning and disinfection procedures listed in the facility’s Revised Social Distancing Protocol.

Work Safely in Residential Units

  • Limit maintenance work in units as much as feasible. Staff who need to enter a resident's unit should follow basic hygiene principles including:
    • Wash hands or use sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content) before entering. Wear clean gloves if possible.
    • Keep at least 6 feet of distance from residents.
    • Disinfect all work surfaces before leaving the unit.
    • Wear a face covering.

What Should Residents Do?

Practice Social Distancing

  • It is safest to stay at home in your residential unit as much as possible and to avoid all non-essential contact with others. In particular, avoid contact with people who are sick, and stay home and away from others when you are sick.
  • When you leave your residential unit, stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible and wear a face covering. This includes when you are outside your unit but still inside your building or complex (in hallways, walkways, the laundry room, the parking lot, etc.).
  • Support and respect the building management’s decisions about limited use or temporary closure of common areas in your building.
  • Consider creative ways to connect with others from a distance. Where possible, use phone calls, conference calls, and online video conferencing for work, meetings, and to stay in touch with friends and family. 

Practice Good Respiratory Hygiene

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If handwashing facilities are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, then throw out the used tissue.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like drinking glasses, eating utensils, and towels with other people.

Frequently Clean High-Touch Surfaces in Your Household

  • Frequently disinfect and clean high touch surfaces including phones, keyboards, kitchen countertops, toilets, faucets and doorknobs.

Make a Plan

  • Plan how you will meet your essential needs if you become sick.
  • Plan how you might help others in your building if they become sick. For example, you might offer to leave food and other items outside a neighbor's door or check on them with a daily phone call.

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How To

Face Coverings: An Overview

Not all members of our community are vaccinated, and face coverings remain a critical tool in protecting our community against the spread of COVID-19. However, as more community members get vaccinated, the CDC and California Department of Public Health have updated their guidance about the use of face coverings. You must wear a face covering whenever required to do so by the State’s face covering rules. This includes:

*Remember: You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a completed vaccination series, which is two doses for Pfizer or Moderna and one dose for Johnson & Johnson.


  • Unvaccinated people are required to wear face coverings outdoors any time physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Fully vaccinated people are not required to wear face coverings outdoors except when attending crowded outdoor events.



In indoor settings outside of your home, including public transportation, face coverings are still required regardless of vaccination status with limited exceptions: 

  • Fully vaccinated people can spend time with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing; and
  • Fully vaccinated people can spend time with unvaccinated people from a single household (including children) who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing.
  • These exceptions do not apply in workplace settings.

When in doubt, you are encouraged to wear a face covering.

Businesses must post signs stating that a face covering is required when you are at their facilities. They must also require their employees to wear face coverings while working.

Who Is Exempt from Wearing a Face Covering

The following people do not have to wear face coverings:

  • Children under age 2.
  • People with a medical condition that would make wearing a face covering dangerous.*
  • People who cannot put on or take off a face covering without assistance.
  • People who are hearing impaired or people who are communicating with someone else who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Workers who must remove their face covering to comply with local, state, or federal rules relating to job safety.
  • People who must take off their face covering to eat or drink.
  • Fully vaccinated people who are outdoors, unless attending a crowded outdoor event.
  • Fully vaccinated people visiting with other fully vaccinated individuals or unvaccinated people from a single household (including children) who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease. This exception does not apply in workplace settings.
  • Unvaccinated people who are outdoors and can maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing from others not in their household.
  • As specified in the County’s industry-specific and activity-specific directives.

* You do not need a doctor’s note to enter a business without a face covering if you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from wearing one. But because businesses are required to stop non-exempt people from entering their facilities without a face covering on, you should be prepared to tell the business that you are exempt when they stop you.

The Role of Face Coverings

Wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community and reduce the number of people infected.

We know that people may be infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms. Wearing a face covering can help to reduce the chance that those who may not know they are sick will spread the infection to others. If everyone wears face coverings in public, we can reduce the spread of infection.

Covering your face is not a substitute for minimizing your physical interactions with people from other households. Staying home is still the best way to slow the spread of the virus in our community and save lives.

Please also remember that wearing a face covering must be combined with maintaining social distancing, frequently washing your hands, and avoiding all contact with others when you are sick. Wearing a face covering does not mean that people can come in closer contact with each other; while face coverings can help reduce the spread of the virus, they do not completely stop it.

When a Face Covering is Not Required

You are not required to wear a face covering when you are:
  • At home (although you must wear one in common areas of your apartment or condo complex, like the laundry room, elevator, lobby, and mailbox area).
  • In your car alone or solely with members of your own household.
  • Working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Outdoors if you are fully vaccinated, unless attending a crowded outdoor event.
  • Outdoors if you are unvaccinated and able to maintain six feet of distance from anyone outside your household. However, you must take a face covering with you to put back on as soon as it’s needed again.
  • Fully vaccinated and visiting with other fully vaccinated individuals or unvaccinated people from a single household (including children) who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease. This exception does not apply in workplace settings.

Face Covering Information for Businesses and Transportation

  • All businesses in the County are required to ensure that their employees wear a face covering when they are at work in most settings. This is to avoid the spreading of respiratory droplets in areas where others may be exposed at some point.
  • Businesses must inform customers about the requirement to wear a face covering at their facilities, including posting the County's required Social Distancing Protocol Visitor Information and COVID-19 Prepared signs (both available to print here after a business completes and submits its Revised Social Distancing Protocol to the County) at every entrance to the store or facility.
  • All workers operating public transportation or other types of shared transportation are required to wear a face covering when at work in most settings.

Workers at businesses should wear face coverings when speaking or presenting to others—in fact, speaking is one of the key times when people spread respiratory droplets and aerosols. People speaking or presenting can remove their face covering if they are alone in a room (speaking to others via telephone or videoconference), if they are not close in proximity to any of their coworkers, or if needed for disability accommodation to allow others to understand the presentation. Otherwise, face coverings should stay on even though it may feel inconvenient to speak through one.

Please see the State’s face covering requirements​ for more information.

Making Your Own Face Covering

There are several options for face coverings, as long as they cover the nose and mouth. Face coverings can be made of a variety of cloth materials, such as bandanas, scarves, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

A face covering can be made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, but it should not have holes around the nose or mouth.

The CDC has provided simple instructions on how to make your own face covering.

Cleaning Your Face Covering

Face coverings should be washed frequently. Ideally, wash them after each use and have a dedicated laundry bag or bin. Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before and after touching your face or face coverings.

The CDC also has easy instruction on how to wear and clean your face covering.

Save Masks for Health Care Workers

N-95 and surgical masks are in short supply and need to be conserved for health workers on the frontlines. We are managing our supply levels closely and ensuring that health workers and first responders have medical-grade personal protective equipment that is aligned with the latest evidence-based science, and appropriate for their work duties.

If you are currently using a medical mask, keep using it as long as possible – until it becomes dirty or damaged due to the limited supply.

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If I have COVID-19, can I still breastfeed my child?

Breastfeeding has been shown to have many benefits to both infants and breastfeeding parents, but because in most circumstances breastfeeding requires the parent and child to be less than 6 feet apart, if a parent has COVID-19, there is a significant risk of COVID-19 transmission from the parent to the infant.

The decision whether to breastfeed is a complex and personal one, and there are multiple options to reduce the risk of COVID for the infant while continuing to breastfeed:

  • A parent may choose to continue breastfeeding during the period they are contagious with COVID-19 and reduce risk to the infant by consistently wearing a face covering, performing frequent hand hygiene before and after breastfeeding, and reducing total amount of time spent within 6 feet of the infant where possible.
  • A breastfeeding parent may choose to pump and have another adult bottle-feed expressed breastmilk to the infant during the period the COVID+ parent is instructed to isolate. Hand hygiene and following cleaning instructions for pump parts, bottles, and other feeding supplies may further reduce risk.
  • Another option is to pump to maintain lactation during the period the COVID+ parent is instructed to isolate and have another adult bottle-feed formula to the infant (“pump and dump.”)
  • Finally, a parent may choose to stop breastfeeding during the period they are in isolation for COVID-19 in order to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission, even though they may not be able to breastfeed afterwards.

Some additional considerations for breastfeeding when the parent has been diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • Infants and children generally have been shown to have milder illness when sick with COVID-19 and have the lowest risk of death of any age group.
  • There is NO evidence that breastmilk itself can transmit COVID-19.
  • Masks and face coverings have been shown to significantly reduce respiratory droplets

Talk to a doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant if you have specific questions about your circumstances and breastfeeding during COVID-19 infection.

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Healthcare Providers

Providers have a responsibility to report confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases to the Public Health Department. Please refer to the Healthcare Provider’s page for more detailed information and resources.

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