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 these 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 after exposure may reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.
    • 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.
  • Continue wearing a mask around others inside your home or indoors in public through day 10.

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

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For more information:

Page Last Reviewed June 2, 2023

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