A recent court ruling ended the federal requirement that people wear masks on public transportation. It's reasonable to ask, "how do we continue to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19?"

Here are the top actions to consider.

1. Vaccines & Boosters

The best way to protect yourself and vulnerable family members from severe COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted. Boosters are especially important for people at increased risk, such as older adults, people with chronic lung diseases and those who are immunocompromised. Boosters help reduce the risk for severe illness and hospitalization. Being "up to date" on COVID-19 vaccines means you have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including a booster dose when eligible. A second booster vaccine is available for certain populations.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine or booster: Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. Learn more at our COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

2. High Quality Masks

Wearing a mask in addition to being up to date on vaccinations and boosters is another layer of protection the vulnerable have against COVID-19. No matter the type of mask, it should fit snugly against the face, covering the mouth, nose and chin. The N-95 or KN95 medical masks are recommended for the highest level of effectiveness and will provide a layer of protection even if others are maskless. Mask requirements are being lifted in many areas, including most recently airplanes and public transportation. However, it is still the current CDC guidance for everyone—especially those at-risk for severe illness—to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high COVID transmission. Check community levels using CDC's Data Tracker.

Learn more about masking and other ways to maximize protection on our Preventing COVID-19 page.

Mask Types

Cloth

  • Multiple layers of breathable fabric
  • Wash daily
  • Some protection

Surgical

  • Multiple layers of non-woven fabric
  • One-time use
  • More protection

KN95

  • Filtration is different depending on standards
  • Limited reuse
  • More protection

N95

  • NIOSH approved
  • Limited reuse
  • Highest protection

Masks should completely cover your nose and mouth and should fit snugly against your face without gaps. A nose wire is recommended to prevent air from escaping from the top of the mask.

3. Testing

COVID-19 testing, when added to vaccination and masking, can help protect vulnerable populations by reducing the spread of COVID-19. Rapid tests allow older adults and immunocompromised to socialize more confidently with friends and family who have tested negative. And, getting fast results if you are at increased risk for severe illness can mean quicker access to treatment that may reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Learn about testing and what to do if you test positive at our COVID-19 Testing & Diagnosis page.

4. Treatment & Medication

Treatments for COVID-19 are constantly evolving and now there are more options to help prevent COVID-19 from becoming severe if infected. Higher-risk individuals should speak with their doctor as soon as possible once it is confirmed they have COVID-19 to decide the best treatment. Some medications, such as monoclonal antibodies and antivirals, need to be started right away.

Preventative medication: In December, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to a drug called Evusheld, which is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies used to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 in people who are immunocompromised.

Learn more about how COVID-19 is treated on our Treatment & Recovery page.

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