What You Should Do if You’ve Been Exposed to Coronavirus
May 15, 2020 | COVID-19 Resources
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues to evolve and new guidance to prevent being exposed to coronavirus is coming out frequently. This blog was updated on May 15, 2020.
As many businesses in certain parts of the country begin to, or have plans to, reopen, COVID-19 still remains active in the community, posing a great health risk. Public health guidelines still advise physical distancing for most Americans, especially seniors or those with weakened immune systems.
The risk of COVID-19 exposure remains especially high for anyone over the age of 60 or with pre-existing health conditions. These include: diabetes, asthma, COPD, hypertension, congestive heart failure, heart disease or a suppressed immune system.
Iora’s care teams continue to take the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. We, therefore, want to share guidance on what to do if you believe you have been exposed to coronavirus.
How do I know if I was exposed to coronavirus?
COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. You can become infected by being in close contact (about 6 feet or two arm lengths) with someone who has the virus. Although less common, it is also possible to get it by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Close contact includes living with or caring for someone who has COVID-19, as well as being in close proximity of an infected person for an extended period of time. Direct contact includes coughing, kissing, sharing a water bottle, etc.
If I may have been exposed to COVID-19, but do not have any symptoms, what action should I take?
If you’ve been exposed to coronavirus, public health guidelines recommend monitoring your symptoms for two weeks. The coronavirus incubation period is thought to extend to 14 days, with symptoms appearing anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure to the virus per the CDC.
Coronavirus symptoms include fever, dry cough, breathing difficulties, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, as well as other less common symptoms. There have also been people, however, who have tested positive and remained asymptomatic.
If you have been in close or direct contact with someone with the virus, you should avoid travel, work, school, and public places in general for two weeks after contact.
Additionally, continue to adhere to public health guidelines to protect yourself and others:
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, to help reduce the spread of germs. (If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
- Avoid close contact with other people outside of your home. Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
What action should I take if I think I may have COVID-19?
If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, please call your primary care provider (PCP) first. Calling in advance will ensure you get the right care without risking the health of other patients and staff. Your PCP will likely recommend home isolation (except to get medical care) unless your symptoms are severe.
There are some emergency symptoms that folks should be aware of. If someone is showing any of these signs, you should seek medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Blush lips or face.
If you experience trouble breathing or are in need of emergency assistance, call 911. Notify the dispatcher that you may have COVID-19.
What is home isolation for COVID-19?
Home isolation is the act of staying home (except to get medical care). This includes avoiding public places such as school, work, public transportation, etc. Home isolation is intended to prevent exposure and the spreading of the virus. It involves limiting contact with anyone you live with, including pets. Those who live with others should limit the area they occupy, including using a separate bathroom if possible.
When is home isolation necessary?
Home isolation is necessary for anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone else who’s tested positive. It is also recommended for those with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they don’t believe they have been in close contact with anyone who was sick.
Face masks and cloth face coverings are recommended for all, regardless of whether required by law in your state or region. These are also advised even inside if you live with others or will have someone in the same room as you (e.g. family members, visitors, caregivers, etc.). It is also best not to share household items such as towels, kitchen utensils, etc. A list of states requiring face masks to be worn in public places can be found here.
How long should I stay in home isolation?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, public health guidelines recommend staying in home isolation for:
- 10 full days since testing positive;
- And 72 hours after improving symptoms
If you have symptoms but don’t believe to have been exposed to coronavirus (and have not tested positive), you should still isolate in your home until 72 hours after symptoms improve.
How can I stay up-to-date about the evolving COVID-19 situation?
For the most up-to-date information, please consult the CDC for the full and latest Situation Summary. We will also be sharing updated information on our Coronavirus FAQ page.