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New York City is still in the middle of a pandemic. Though we have seen a steady and steep decline in cases  and moved into phase one of reopening, we must remember that COVID-19 is still spreading, and there is the very real risk of another spike in cases if we let our vigilance lapse.

However, this moment has also represented for many an increased need and desire to participate in civic engagement. The protests for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) equality, and New York’s upcoming primary elections on June 23rd are two events where participation can drive important changes that will support improved health and equity for all.

Here are some ways to make sure you stay safe while exercising your civic duties when you protest and vote.

How to Protest Safely during COVID-19

The New York City Department of Health has issued clear guidelines on how to stay safe should you choose to protest. Here are several of their top pieces of advice:

  • Stay home if you don’t feel well to protect yourself and others. If you’re at higher risk because of an existing health condition or if you’re over 65, consider staying home to protect yourself.
  • Wear a face covering. Make sure to keep your face fully covered (nose, mouth, and chin) at all times.
  • Carry only what you need to stay safe. This can include hand sanitizer, a water bottle, snacks, an ID, and any medication you might need, such as an inhaler.
  • Go with a small group and have a plan. Have a clear plan and stick together. As a group, you should maintain as much physical distance from others as possible.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you get back home.
  • When you get back, assume you’ve been exposed and get tested. Get a test for COVID five days after a possible exposure. Testing is free and there are many testing sites across the city. Avoid contact with others until you receive your test results and can confirm that you have tested negative.

How to Vote Safely During COVID-19

A nonpartisan guide created by experts from the American Public Health Association has information on safe voting options, such as mailing in ballots, and tips for staying safe if you must vote in person.

New York’s deadline to request an absentee ballot was on June 16th.  June 23rd is New York’s Primary Election day. Absentee ballots that are mailed in must be postmarked by election day. You can also vote in person at your polling place on June 23rd or at an early voting site near you.

If you are voting in person, the following guidance can help you stay safe and make your voting experience go as smoothly as possible.

  • Try to vote early. Early voting is often less crowded than voting on Election Day. Try to go at times where the center is least likely to be busy, such as mid morning or early afternoon.
  • Wear a face covering. Make sure to keep your face fully covered (nose, mouth, and chin) at all times.
  • Before and after voting, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid sanitizing voting machines yourself. Voting machines can be sensitive and election workers are trained to sanitize equipment.
  • Try to walk or bike to your polling place, rather than taking public transportation or a cab. This will minimize your potential exposure.

A small glimmer of hope is that measures such as social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a face covering are all effective measures at slowing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus. As we start to interact with people more regularly and continue to practice civic engagement, following these precautions can help us all stay safe and healthy.

The Fund for Public Health is the nonprofit partner to the New York City Health Department. Learn more about our work fighting the coronavirus and other epidemics.