What to do if you were potentially exposed to coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is still spreading in communities across Virginia. VDH strongly advises all Virginians to stay home as much as possible, especially if you are at higher risk of serious illness. Keep at least 6 feet apart from  others. Wear a cloth face covering when you are in public spaces where keeping 6 feet apart is difficult, such as in stores. Wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick, and disinfect high-touch surfaces. These all are very important ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Check out VDH's Prevention Tips to learn more.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person. Spread occurs between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) with one another through respiratory droplets, that come from the mouth or nose  when an infected person coughs,sneezes, or speaks. COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms or before their symptoms start. Everyone can limit their exposure by staying home as much as possible. If you decide to go out, follow these tips to stay safe.

You are at a higher risk of getting sick if you are:

  • Living with a person who has COVID-19,
  • Providing care for a person who has COVID-19,
  • Within 6 feet (or 2 meters) of a person who hasCOVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, or
  • In direct contact with secretions from a person who has COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed or sneezed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).

If you had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, self-quarantine (stay home) and monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after your last contact.

  • Answer the call. Your local health department will reach out to you with more recommendations if you are identified as a close contact during contact tracing
  • Get tested. Contact your healthcare provider to ask about getting tested because of your exposure. There are many test sampling sites available throughout the state to get yourself tested. Call ahead and wear a cloth face covering when you leave home. If you test negative during your quarantine period, you will still need to complete your full 14-day quarantine before it is safe to go back to work or be around others.
  • Stay home and away from others (“self-quarantine”). Avoid contact with others to avoid spreading the infection to others. Do not go to work* or school. Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares, if possible. Your local health department can assist you with making sure that your basic needs (for example, food and medication) are being met.
  • Monitor your health. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day (once in the morning, once at night) and watch for fever. Also, watch for other signs and symptoms of COVID-19  such as cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. You can download VDH’s Daily Symptom Monitoring Log to help keep track of your symptoms.
  • How long do I need to stay home? It may take up to 14 days from exposure for you to develop COVID-19. Self-quarantine and monitor your health for 14 days from when you last had contact with the infected person. View the VDH When to End Home Isolation and Quarantine Infographic for more.

If you live with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, self-quarantine (stay home) and monitor your health.

  • Answer the call. Your local health department will contact you with instructions for what you should do when you are identified as a close contact during contact tracing.
  • Get tested. Contact your healthcare provider to ask about getting tested because of your exposure. There are many test sampling sites available throughout the state to get yourself tested. Call ahead and wear a cloth face covering when you leave home. If you test negative during your quarantine period, you will still need to complete your full quarantine before it is safe to go back to work or be around others.
  • Stay home and away from others (“self-quarantine”). Avoid contact with others to avoid spreading the infection to others. Do not go to work* or school. Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares, if possible. Your local health department can assist you with making sure that your basic needs (for example, food and medication) are being met.
  • Monitor your health. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day (once in the morning, once at night) and watch for fever. Also, watch for other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell.   You can download VDH’s Daily Symptom Monitoring Log to help keep track of your symptoms.
  • How long do I need to stay home? It may take up to 14 days from exposure for you to develop COVID-19. Self-quarantine and monitor your health for 14 days from:

*People with certain jobs (e.g., critical infrastructure workers) may be allowed to go to work after being exposed to COVID-19. Before you go to work, please work with your supervisor or occupational health staff to arrange ways for you to check for symptoms before you go to work. Learn more about VDH's recommendations for potential exposures for critical infrastructure workers.

If you start to feel sick or test positive, isolate yourself at home.

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other common symptoms include chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. Not everyone with COVID-19 will have all symptoms and fever might not be present.  If you do have symptoms and want to get tested for COVID-19, please reach out to your healthcare provider. Your provider may collect samples to test you or help you to find sampling sites in your area. Learn more about what to do if you feel sick.

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Page last reviewed: June 22, 2020