How to Protect from COVID

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the strategy was to try and prevent infection through policy and practice. When vaccines became available in 2021, they became another tool in that strategy.

It is essential to implement a multifaceted, layered approach to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, the Swiss cheese model is key to keeping you safe from COVID-19.

What is the Swiss Cheese Model? The key is layers. While there are holes in slices of Swiss cheese, by combining the slices, we get a layered approach that leads to fewer holes. The same is true for COVID-19 prevention strategies.

The strongest protection comes from getting vaccinated and/or a boosted as soon as you’re eligible. You also protect yourself by wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and washing your hands often. Each of these are important ways to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, but they become even more effective when you combine them. 

So, when heading out to work, to the store, or when around others, remember stacking slices of Swiss cheese decreases the holes, just like stacking your COVID-19 prevention methods, like wearing a mask, physical distancing and getting your booster.


  • By their very nature, viruses change, and this can change effectiveness. Early on, vaccines were well over 90% effective at preventing severe illness in the real world. 
  • Best estimates suggest vaccines are around 30%-40% effective at preventing infections and 70% effective at preventing severe disease.
  • Initial data reinforces that a third dose (“booster”) helps boost immune response and protection against Omicron, with estimates of 70%-75% effectiveness. (To put this into perspective, the annual influenza vaccine is usually 40%-60% effective and prevents illness in millions of people and hospitalizations in more than 100,000 people in the U.S. annually.)


  • COVID-19 is transmitted predominately by inhalation of respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk or breathe.
  • Studies show that masks and face coverings block the release of respiratory droplets into the environment and can also reduce the wearer’s exposure to droplets.
  • Many people with COVID-19 are unaware they are carrying the virus. It is estimated that 40% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but able to transmit the virus to others. This is especially true of the omicron variant of COVID-19, which is spread even easier.

Who should wear a mask? 

  • Anyone over 2 years of age.

Who should NOT wear a mask?

  • Children under 2 years of age
  • Anyone who has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a face covering.
  • Anyone who has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a face covering.
  • When people need to see mouth and tongue motions in order to communicate (e.g., for communicating with children in certain developmental stages or people hard of hearing). Note: Consider clear/transparent face mask alternatives and accommodations.

When should I wear a mask?

  • Indoor: All indoor spaces, K-12 schools, and medical settings. (Oregon Requirement.)
  • Outdoor: In crowded areas or large gatherings, where you might encounter individuals who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, who are at risk for severe COVID-19 disease or live with someone in one of these categories, and/or where physical distancing of at least six (6) feet from other individuals cannot be maintained. 

How should I wear a mask?

  • Masks must cover both your nose and mouth and prevent air leakage.

What kind of mask should I wear?

  • With the Omicron variant, single-layer cloth masks are no longer enough. Wear N95, KN95, or KF94 masks.
  • An OHA article dated December 30, 2021, states: Everyone should wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings to protect themselves and those around them. Wearing two masks, in fact, is even better. Start with a disposable surgical mask next to the face, followed by a cloth mask on top that fits snugly so that less breath (and particles) escapes. Do not wear two disposable masks. You can also consider a single high-filtration efficiency mask designed for a tight fit to the face. These include N95, KN95, and KF94 respirators from trusted sources.”

Rights to Supports

People with disabilities have the right to have access to support people if they are admitted to a hospital or visit the emergency room. Read the Hospital Support Persons flyer to understand these rights, and download and print the document in the event a hospital visit is necessary.