'Stop Swapping Air' Campaign

What Is 'Stop Swapping Air?'

  • The phrase “Stop Swapping Air” was coined on an episode of the Osterholm Update: COVID-19 podcast, hosted by infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm. It’s based on the idea that the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to avoid swapping air, or in other words, to not spend time in enclosed spaces with people that aren’t in your pod. A “pod” is a small number of trusted people who are also not seeing others. It is most commonly immediate family.
  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread from person to person through the air. When we breathe, talk, yell, laugh, or sing, we all create aerosols, which are tiny particles that can float in the air for minutes to hours. (Picture floating dust particles that you can see in sun streaming through a window.)  If you share indoor air with someone who is infected with the virus, you risk breathing in the virus and becoming infected. Special forms of breathing protection, such as N95 respirators, can protect you from breathing in aerosols. But cloth face coverings are not designed to filter out such small particles, and they also  may enter through the gaps around  the cloth.
  • This simple practice of not swapping air is the most effective step you can take right now to protect you and your family, friends, and colleagues.

How long do we have to do this?

  • We will need to stop swapping air until most of the population is vaccinated. The exact length of this ‘COVID Year’ will depend on vaccine availability, uptake and effectiveness across all groups. It is quite likely that Summer 2021 will look very different from Summer 2020.

What does it look like to stop swapping air?

  • Not swapping air means not being in an enclosed or indoor space with someone outside of your household or ‘pod’ regardless of whether masks are worn. It is communicating and socializing virtually or outdoors at a distance.
  • Hold a virtual gathering, recipe swap or contactless food delivery. Do not host a party, dinner or other gathering in your home.
  • Visit with neighbors from afar outdoors rather than inviting them into your home.
  • Skip any indoor activities that are not absolutely essential for your work or education. Work remotely if possible.  This means not participating in or watching a choir concert, school dance, or indoor sports.
  • Shop online or use curbside pickup as much as possible. Do not go shopping for non-essential items or to browse.
  • For the holidays this means not having office parties, school concerts, and family gatherings beyond your household. Go caroling outdoors, sit across a fire pit from a friend, and hold out for next year.  

How to stay connected?

  • Physical distancing does not have to mean socially distancing. Please do not lose contact with friends or family during times that you are not physically close. Use the telephone, video chatting, email, letters, or any creative means you can find to nurture that very important aspect of the human experience.
  • For mental well-being, it may be an acceptable risk to form a “monogamous” social pod with a small number of people. Get together with these few trusted people, because all of you don’t see anyone else and therefore do not have much additional risk but receive a great emotional benefit.

What if I can’t stop swapping air?

It is a responsibility of the public to do what they can to protect essential workers, who do not have the ability to stop swapping air. Your ability to stay home and stop swapping air is made possible by essential workers, who ensure you have food, clean air and water, and safe streets. Let's help keep essential workers healthy by protecting them at work.

  • The public should wear a cloth face covering in all public indoor spaces to help limit essential workers’ exposure.
  • Members of the public should try to keep your distance and limit your time spent at public spaces and businesses, which are the workplaces of some essential workers. 
  • The public should support employers that give their workers safer work environments, processes, and supplies.

It is the responsibility of employers to do what they can to protect their workers, including frequent testing paid by the employer, paid leave for isolation and quarantine, and healthcare benefits when they get sick.

  • Learn more about ways to protect workers here.

If you are an essential worker, we know you are in a difficult position. 

  • Please know you are a vital part of society and many people are doing everything they can to keep you as safe as possible by not swapping air. Thank you for your service!
  • For essential workers, it is still important that you Stop Swapping Air outside of your household on your personal time, as you are able.

Help Spread the Stop Swapping Air Message

  • Help us share the message to Stop Swapping Air. This simple set of instructions could save lives.
  • Use the hashtag #StopSwappingAir on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to raise awareness and get the word out.

Resources for Ways to Stop Swapping Air

We recognize that maintaining physical distance from family, friends, and loved ones during this pandemic can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Here are resources for looking after your mental health and practical ways to stay connected with loved ones as we bridge the gap till vaccines are widely available.

More Ways to Help

Thank you for sharing the message to Stop Swapping Air! If you’d like to contribute further, consider supporting the work of CIDRAP, students experiencing hardship due to the pandemic, or the families of healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19.


The Stop Swapping Air campaign is in partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. Clear Channel, based in New York City, is one of the world’s largest outdoor advertising companies, with a diverse portfolio of approximately 500,000 print and digital displays in 31 countries across North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia, reaching millions of people monthly. A growing digital platform includes more than 16,000 digital displays in international markets. Read more here.


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