Pandemic Preparedness: What to do if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19!

Labor Day weekend is now just behind us, and with all of the swimming, barbecues, camping and picnics that go along with this end-of-summer holiday comes increased risk for potential exposure to COVID-19. Even if you were staying physically distanced, while also socializing and enjoying yourself, you may be wondering what to do if you find out that someone in your group had COVID-19 but was not showing any symptoms and did not know. Are you a teacher or a student returning to school right now? (If you are, see the articles below in this Update for a lot more guidance!)  Are you participating in or coaching a summer sports or youth activity program? Are you experiencing a sore throat and cough, and are wondering if you have allergies, the flu, or if you should seriously consider self-quarantining just in case? 

Even with daily safety precautions, it is possible to be exposed to COVID-19 so it is a good idea to plan ahead, just in case:

Confirmed Exposure, but feeling healthy:Confirmed Exposure, but feeling symptoms:Confirmed Exposure within your household:
A confirmed exposure means that someone you have recently had close contact with (closer than 6 feet for 15 or more minutes or were within a small enclosed location (like a car, room, etc.) for longer durations of time, regardless of mask wearing) tested positive for COVID-19 or had COVID-19 symptoms.A confirmed exposure means that someone you have recently had close contact with (closer than 6 feet for 15 or more minutes or were within a small enclosed location (like a car, room, etc.) for longer durations of time, regardless of mask wearing) tested positive for COVID-19 or had COVID-19 symptoms.A confirmed exposure means that someone you have recently had close contact with (closer than 6 feet for 15 or more minutes or were within a small enclosed location (like a car, room, etc.) for longer durations of time, regardless of mask wearing) tested positive for COVID-19 or had COVID-19 symptoms.
If it has been confirmed that you have been exposed to COVID-19 but you are still feeling healthy:

You will need to self-quarantine (stay at home and avoid contact with people) for 14 days.

To maximize your chance of an accurate test, wait to get tested until 5-7 days after your known exposure, or if you begin showing symptoms. 

Notify any individuals that you have had close contact with of their possible exposure.
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms during your self-quarantine:
You will need to self-isolate to protect others from the virus. 

You may come out of self-isolation 10 days after your symptoms first appeared AND you’ve had no fever for 24 hours AND if your symptoms are improving. 

If you have symptoms, a virus (diagnostic/ PCR) test will be the most accurate.

Notify any individuals that you have had close contact with two days before you began feeling sick.

Answer the phone when the contact tracers call to allow them to identify and contact other people who may have been exposed (keep in mind contact tracing is completely confidential). 
If the person with COVID-19 is in your household:

The sick individual(s) will need to self-isolate 
You will still need to self-quarantine for 14 days starting from the day that the sick individuals developed symptoms or tested positive for the virus. 

Make sure the sick individual wears a mask as much as possible during their illness, has their own sleeping space with a door if possible, uses their own bathroom if possible. 

Consider opening the windows at least at night when it is cool to allow fresh air into the home.

If you are re-exposed during the household members illness, for example if you sleep in the same room, care for them without PPE (a KN95 mask, etc.), or share utensils, your 14 days must restart from the most recent exposure.

You should avoid all close contact with the sick person until after they have been isolated for 10 days since their symptoms began or since their positive test, or they are cleared by their doctor to come out of self-isolation.

Whether you have been exposed or not, there are some things you can do to prepare your household and yourselves in advance:

In addition to preparing your household, your active participation is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you have been exposed, it can be days before you find out if you are infected or begin showing symptoms. During this critical period, you may have come into contact with dozens of people. Make a list of people you might have come into contact with, and if possible, reach out to those people to let them know they may need to self-quarantine if you test positive or start showing signs of illness. This has an added benefit: if you receive a positive test and are contacted by a contact tracer, you will have already prepared the information they will ask you for! To learn more about contact tracing: 

Additional Resources on recognizing COVID-19

Additional Resources on reducing risk of COVID-19

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