FALLS CHURCH, Va. - By now, you’ve probably adjusted to life during COVID-19. Staying away from large gatherings and wearing a mask in public is the new normal. You’ve also learned how to safely access your TRICARE benefit. But now isn’t the time to let your guard down. These habits will be important to remember—especially as some restrictions begin to ease in your community. By continuing to take action and staying informed, you can help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Below you can find guidance on COVID-19 that may help you protect yourself and others:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask when you’re in public and when around people you don’t live with, especially if you’re in a place where social distancing is difficult. The key is to make sure you’re wearing your mask the right way.

“A face mask, when properly worn, can protect others if you’re infected but don’t have symptoms,” said Dr. John Kugler, chief of the Clinical Support Division at the Defense Health Agency. “Make sure it fully covers your mouth and nose. When those areas aren’t covered, the mask loses its effectiveness.”

Here are some tips from the CDC on how to properly wear your mask:

Wash your hands before putting on your mask.

Wear a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric (avoid vinyl).

Make sure your mask doesn’t have exhalation valves or vents, which allow virus particles to escape.

Put it on fully over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.

Fit it snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps.

Make sure you can breathe easily.

When you remove your mask, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Keep in mind, masks shouldn’t be worn by children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing or removing the mask on their own. For more on face mask do’s and don’ts, visit the CDC website.

If you do get infected with COVID-19, it’s important to understand the symptoms. The illness affects people in different ways. Some people may experience mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms. The CDC lists a wide range of symptoms that may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Some of these include:

Fever or chills

Cough

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Fatigue

Muscle or body aches

Headache

New loss of taste or smell

Sore throat

Congestion or runny nose

Nausea or vomiting

Diarrhea

The Department of Defense offers a Coronavirus Symptom Checker to help assess your symptoms. Keep in mind, this list doesn’t include all possible symptoms and may be updated as more is learned about the virus. If you experience emergency warning signs of COVID-19, like trouble breathing, chest pain, or bluish lips or face, seek emergency medical care immediately.

If you have symptoms or you’ve had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 (within 6 feet of infected person for at least 15 minutes), the CDC recommends being tested for COVID-19. Be sure to contact your health care provider. Your local military hospital or clinic may also be able to provide you with a test. If you test negative without symptoms, you should still quarantine for 14 days from the date of close contact because people can develop COVID-19 up to 14 days after exposure.

You should self-isolate for at least 10 days and monitor your symptoms.

If you live with someone, make sure you take special precautions in your home to prevent COVID-19 spread, especially if living with someone at increased risk of severe illness.

You likely don’t need a repeat test for at least three months unless you’re severely immunocompromised.

After you recover or learn you aren’t sick with COVID-19, be sure to continue to practice healthy habits. You should wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Do you have questions about COVID-19 and your Tricare benefit? If so, be sure to explore Tricare Coronavirus FAQs. You can also find COVID-19 resources on the CDC website. Take command of your health and do your part to slow the spread.

Sign up for e-mail alerts and keep up with Tricare and COVID-19 updates.

Connecticut Media Group