COVID-19 FAQ: For Communities


Hygienic face coverings are recommended in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19, in addition to regular hygiene and handwashing. You should wear a face mask when seeking medical care, going to the store, or going back to work, while practicing a social distance of six feet. For additional face covering resources check out the FAQ for personal face coverings provided by the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

The CDC recommends a reusable cotton cloth face covering which should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. The covering should include multiple layers of fabric, allow breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without losing shape.  It should be washed routinely depending on its frequency of use, especially in areas where there may be an increased risk of exposure. The CDC link includes an ASL video series on DIY Cloth Face Coverings, How to Wash Cloth Face Coverings and an instructional video from US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams on how to make your own Face Covering.

COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets from an infected person entering mucus membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). It was previously believed that virus-carrying airborne droplets can remain in the air and land on surfaces, however, the CDC has noted in a recent update that COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person. It remains strongly recommended to practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face and physically distancing from others to reduce your risk for transmission. According to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, droplets can travel up to six feet, and practicing social distancing has been essential in reducing transmission.

Harvard University projects that if there are no interventions to stop the spread, one infected person could infect two to three (2 – 3) people. Preventing one case can have a long-term impact on reducing the total number of cases.

We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness that COVID-19 causes. The CDC recommends taking steps to slow the spread, including maintaining good social distance (at least 6 feet), washing hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and routinely cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

According to the CDC, the purpose of isolation is separating infected people from others as a means to reduce transmission. Quarantine is the separation of healthy people who may have had exposure to the virus. This is intended to reduce their number of contacts during a time when they may be infectious. Both isolation and quarantine include separating people to protect the public by limiting further spread of COVID-19. The CDC also has a guide to help people determine if they need to be in isolation or quarantine. Johns Hopkins University reports that COVID-19 patients have the highest rate of transmission two (2) days before they develop symptoms. Although some patients may be asymptomatic, many will experience symptoms within two to fourteen (2 – 14) days of being infected.

Social distancing or physical distancing is one of the CDC’s everyday steps to prevent COVID-19. This includes staying at least six (6) feet from other people, not gathering in groups and avoiding crowded places like mass gatherings.

We can empower community members by reaching out to local religious organizations, community leaders and organizations, news stations, politicians, and locals with established platforms, in order to spread the most recent updates. This should include low-cost and accessible ways for people to gather information and share feedback, such as radio, “live” social media streaming platforms, virtual townhalls, and text messages. Community leaders may coordinate with Indigenous-led groups or partner organizations that work with Indigenous people to ensure information reaches these and other marginalized communities.

The CDC has released specific guides for correctional and detention centers, essential workers, and meat packing plants, as well as first responders and law enforcement. These guides include proper planning, preparation, and response. For a complete list of all of their community resources, including those for schools, faith-based organizations, and tribal communities, visit this site. Importantly, for professionals in heavy aerosol environments, PPE-style masks (N95) are recommended.

People have a right to feel safe and empowered, no matter their immigration status. The Informed Immigrant has a resource library with materials from respected organizations such as the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). With these and other community partners, the Informed Immigrant compiled state-by-state resources for housing, health care, and other advocacy needs. The Informed Immigrant COVID-19 Resource Guide is updated on a weekly basis, and they are also accepting submissions for resources to support communities throughout the US.

Avoiding public spaces and working remotely can reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, for many survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence, staying home may not be the safest option. Financial and/or family ties may prevent survivors from seeking shelter outside the home where they face this violence. For support and resources for dealing with domestic or intimate partner violence during COVID-19, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline here.

Community leaders should identify situations like these that reduce a person’s ability to practice social distancing. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has several other online resources, trainings, and tools to identify healthy relationships.


Healthcare Ready has created an interactive map (#MapYourMeds) where you can find a state-by-state guide to getting refills. There is also an FAQ for COVID-19 Patient Resources and Medications. Since the supply of prescriptions may vary from state to state on refills, it is important to know the best way to receive your medications in times of emergency. This may include refilling prescriptions early or getting prescriptions mailed to you.

Telehealth (or telemonitoring) is the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision, and other medical information when not face-to-face. There may be additional restrictions to receive a prescription for a controlled substance, such as a prior relationship with the prescriber. The availability of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic limits exposure for both patients and healthcare providers. For additional information regarding telehealth and medications please see our COVID-19 FAQ for Patients.  


Use the CDC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Checker if you suspect you may have a possible COVID-19 infection. If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. Most COVID-19 testing sites around the country require a referral from a physician. You can use the CDC Testing Directory on the CDC’s website if you are unsure where you can get a COVID-19 diagnostic test.

Two kinds of tests exist for COVID-19: diagnostic viral tests and antibody tests. The most common test used to diagnose an active case of COVID-19 involves a nasal or oral swab used to look for viral particles. A viral test indicates that you have a current infection while an antibody test could indicate if you had a previous infection.

The CDC has a directory by state, city, or zip code indicating where you can get a COVID-19 test. Here you can find your state or territorial health department as well as resources for Tribal organizations and leaders.

Since testing and recommendations vary by state, you should check out the latest testing sites from your local health department. Knowing what is needed prior to your testing appointment can reduce wait times and ensure that you have access to service. Many testing sites may require a referral from a health care provider or a representative from your local health department. If you find yourself in need of a reasonable accommodation, check out the COVID-19 resources from the ACLU or your local health department.

Communities at Greater Risk

Disability alone may not be related to higher risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness. However, some people with disabilities might be at a higher risk of severe illness due to underlying conditions like chronic lung disease, a serious heart condition, or a weakened immune system. Adults with disabilities are three times more likely than adults without disabilities to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. Disability groups who have an increased risk of illness include those with limited mobility who can’t avoid contact with care-givers, people who have difficulty understanding information or practicing preventative measures, and people who may not be able to communicate symptoms of illness.

Knowing how COVID-19 is spread and how to prevent it is a major step in protecting the community from the disease. In addition to practicing proper hygiene, it is important to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. There should be a plan for care if a direct service provider gets sick, including creating an emergency notebook.

COVID-19 has brought to light current health inequities within communities of color, particularly connections to health information and resources. Some communities of color are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to higher risks of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and lung disease, and immunocompromising conditions (e.g., poorly controlled HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment). These communities also face increased financial and health risks associated with COVID-19 due to economic and social circumstances. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports nearly a quarter of Blacks and Hispanics (24%) are employed in service industries compared to 16% of Whites, putting them at increased risk for job loss or loss of income or for exposure if they maintain their jobs. View our infographic on the impact of COVID-19 in Black and Latinx communities for more information on COVID-19 in communities of color.

Congregate housing includes facilities where individuals live in close proximity and share common areas which put them at an increased risk for infection from COVID-19. These facilities may include but are not limited to: assisted living facilities, college dorms, detention centers, and homeless shelters. Facilities can do their part in hosting trainings on topics such as healthy habits in the kitchen, posting fliers on best hygiene practices in high traffic areas, and educating staff members on ways to limit contamination in their facilities. The CDC has a planning and preparation guide for administrators of congregate housing as well as for residents of congregate (shared) housing.

The CDC has released a COVID-19 Guide for Homeless Service Providers and Local Officials to offer best practices and intervention methods to protect people who are unable to quarantine at home. Some of these tips include:

  • Posting signs in strategic places (e.g. near handwashing facilities) providing instructions on hand washing and cough etiquette.
  • Providing educational materials about COVID-19 for non-English speakers, those with low literacy levels or intellectual disabilities, and those who are hearing or vision impaired.
  • Identifying and addressing potential language, cultural and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to workers, volunteers, and those you serve

As businesses re-open many customers may choose to patronize businesses that adhere to CDC safety guidelines. The CDC offers a Workplace Decision Tool to assist businesses in making reopening decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially to protect vulnerable workers. We recommended that organizations follow guidelines on safe behavioral and hygiene practices, local and state-level orders, and take steps to protect vulnerable employees and customers. The US Chamber of Commerce has also released a state-by-state reopening guide. This guide includes situational updates as well as educational resources for small businesses and employees returning to work.

Healthcare Ready has put together a training for Navigating COVID-19 with Dementia for Patients and Caregivers. It includes information on:

  • Health risks for elderly people and people with dementia
  • Infection control basics for caretakers and patients
  • Interacting with the healthcare system during COVID-19

Encourage organizations to understand existing gender power dynamics and address them through having diverse teams. Gender non-conforming individuals are at an increased risk for homelessness, violence, and disproportionately lack adequate healthcare. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, one in five transgender people have at least one chronic health condition including asthma, diabetes, or HIV, which puts them at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The National Resource Center for LGBT Aging offers Tips and Resources for LGBT Elders and those living with HIV who are less likely to seek out resources and community networks due to fear of discrimination and harassment.