What to do if you were exposed to COVID-19


Protect Your Health

What to do if you were exposed to COVID-19

How you can be exposed to COVID-19

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 spreads by breathing in air that has small droplets and particles that contain the virus. It can also be spread by droplets and particles landing in someone’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Sometimes the infected person may contaminate surfaces they touch, but this is uncommon.

Exposure risks

Certain factors can increase or decrease your risk of being exposed to COVID-19. These include:

  • Length of time can increase risk: How long were you around the infected person?
  • Coughing or heavy breathing can increase risk: Was the infected person coughing, singing, shouting, or breathing heavily?
  • Symptoms can increase risk: Did the infected person have symptoms at the time?
  • Masks can decrease risk: Were you or the infected person wearing a respirator (for example, N95) or high-quality mask?
  • Ventilation and filtration can decrease risk: How well-ventilated was the space?
  • Distance can decrease risk: How close was the infected person to you?

What to do if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19

  • Wearing a mask for 10 days around others inside your home or indoors in public may reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others after exposure. You can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed.
    • Day 0 is the day of your last exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Day 1 is the first full day after your last exposure.
  • If you have no symptoms and want to get tested, wait until at least Day 6.  
  • Check for symptoms of COVID-19 [Español]. Symptoms typically appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms. If they do have symptoms, symptoms can range from mild to severe.

If you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, immediately isolate (stay home). Learn about what to do on VDH’s If you are sick webpage. If you are at increased risk for severe illness, talk with your healthcare provider right away to see if you can get treatment. Visit VDH’s COVID-19 treatment webpage for more information. 

This guidance may not apply to healthcare or high-risk congregate settings. Please refer to the following sites for more information:

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Page last Updated February 15, 2024

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