What to Do if You are Sick or Possibly Exposed
Updated 9/9/2020 at 3:15pm
There are many possible symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Here is guidance on what to do:
- I tested positive for COVID-19
- I was exposed to someone with COVID-19
- I have symptoms but wasn’t around anyone with COVID-19
- Someone in my home has COVID-19
- I’m a healthcare worker
- I’m a business owner or manager
- Restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home as much as possible.
- Do not go to work, school or public areas.
- Avoid using public transportation, taxis, or ride-share.
- Monitor your symptoms and call before visiting your doctor. If you have an appointment, be sure you tell them you have or may have COVID-19.
- Tell your employer, school, or child care center about your diagnosis.
- If you have to be around other people or pets, such as sharing a room or vehicle, or before entering a healthcare provider's office, wear a face covering or mask
- If you can't wear a mask because it's hard for you to breathe while wearing one, then keep people who live with you out of your room, and have them wear a mask if they come in your room.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw away in a lined trashcan. Wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Soap and water is best.
- Avoid sharing personal household items like dishes and glasses, or bedding.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If you can't wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Rub hands together until dry.
- Clean all "high touch" surfaces every day, such as counters, tables, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, and keyboards.
- Use a household cleaning product to clean, following the manufacturer's recommendations.
- If you are having a medical emergency, call 911. Notify dispatch that you have or may have COVID-19.
- Public Health will tell you when to stop isolating. In general, people can stop isolating 10 days after their symptoms started if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours and their symptoms are improving. The last day for isolation for someone who never had symptoms is 10 days after their positive test.
- You don’t need to get tested again if you’ve recently had a positive test, your test is likely to be positive for many weeks after you recover. You don’t need a negative test to stop isolating.
First, know that you generally need to be in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to get infected. Close contact includes scenarios like living with or caring for a person with confirmed COVID-19, being within six feet of a person with confirmed COVID-19 for about 15 minutes (with or without a mask), or if someone with COVID-19 coughed on you, kissed you, shared utensils with you or you had direct contact with their body secretions.
I had close contact with someone with COVID-19 but am not sick
- Monitor your health for fever, cough, and shortness of breath for 14 days after your last contact with the sick person.
- Stay home; do not go to work, school, or childcare. Avoid public places for 14 days.
- Except for health care personnel, home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of last contact or exposure with the ill individual is required.
- Consider being tested for COVID-19 3-5 days after exposure and again 12-14 days after exposure. Some people have the virus but don’t have symptoms, so they only way to know for sure is to test. Even if you have a negative test, you still need to stay home for 14 days.
I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and am sick
- If you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms, even if your symptoms are mild, isolate yourself.
- You should be tested. Call your health care provider and tell them you have symptoms of COVID-19 and were exposed to someone with a positive test. If you aren’t able to get tested by your health care provider or don’t have a health care provider, you should go to the community test site.
- Stay home while you are waiting for your test results. Even if you have a negative test, you still need to stay home for 14 days.
- There are many possible symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, and loss of taste or smell.
- If you have these symptoms, call your health care provider to request testing or get tested at the community testing site. Stay home while you wait for your test results.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Do not share personal household items. Clean your hands often. Clean all "high-touch" surfaces like doorknobs often.
- Monitor your symptoms and call your health care provider if symptoms worsen.
- The sick person should be in their own room and should have their own bathroom, if possible. They should have the door closed, and food and other needs should be left outside their door for them to pick up.
- The CDC has additional guidance for how to clean and disinfect your home if someone is sick, including how to clean surfaces, linens, dishes, and trash.
- The CDC also has information about how to minimize risk if you live in a house with close quarters (e.g., small apartment with more than one person or a house with multiple generations).
Health care workers are subject to different recommendations due to widespread exposure to COVID-19 and their critical role.
- Health care workers may follow CDC guidelines for critical workers if their employers want them to return to work.
- See our factsheet on Guidelines for Health Care Workers.
If you have an employee who has been exposed to COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19
Read common questions and answers about an employee testing positive or being exposed to COVID-19. Below are a few popular questions from this fact sheet:
- Do I need to shut down my facility if an employee who tested positive was at the facility while contagious?No, you do not need to shut down, but you do need to clean which might mean closing areas of the workplace for about 24 hours. See “How do I need to clean my facility…” for more information.
- Should I require my employees to be tested for COVID-19 before they can work? No, Public Health Madison & Dane County recommends against requiring employees to be tested before being able to work. A test only tells us if a person has COVID-19 on the day they are tested. Furthermore, Public Health Madison & Dane County does NOT require negative COVID-19 test result(s) to return to work after testing positive. This is because people with COVID-19 may have positive test results for weeks after they recover but are not contagious after they meet the isolation criteria. Requiring documentation or proof of a test puts an unnecessary burden on staff and delays when an employee is able to start work. As always, any employee who is sick or has symptoms should not be at work.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 among staff and the community