What to Do if You are Sick or Possibly Exposed
Updated 2/15/2020 at 3:30pm
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
- I'm not sure if I have the flu or 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.
- Review our Release from Isolation and Quarantine Guidance to know when you and your contacts can stop isolating.
- 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:
- Living with or caring for a person with confirmed COVID-19, OR
- Being within six feet of a person with confirmed COVID-19 for about 15 minutes (with or without a mask), OR
- Someone with COVID-19 coughing on you, kissing you, sharing utensils with you or you had direct contact with their body secretions.
You can develop COVID-19 anytime during the 14 days after your last close contact with someone who has COVID-19. In order to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others, you must quarantine, which means you must stay home from work, school, and other activities.
When quarantining, you should always:
- Monitor your symptoms for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19
- Stay home from school, work, and other activities and get tested as soon as possible if you develop symptoms. If positive, follow isolation guidance for people who test positive; if negative, continue quarantining.
It is safest if you quarantine for 14 days after your last exposure. No test is required to end quarantine.
You do have other options for quarantine. These options are to:
- Quarantine for 10 days after your last exposure. No test is required to end quarantine. Monitor yourself for symptoms until 14 days after your last exposure.
- Quarantine and get tested for COVID-19 6 or 7 days after last exposure. If your test is negative, you could end quarantine after 7 days of quarantine. You must have your negative test result before ending quarantine and the test cannot be before day 6. Monitor yourself for symptoms until 14 days after your last exposure.
I had close contact with someone with COVID-19 but am not sick
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. See quarantine guidance above.
I had close contact with someone and have been vaccinated
See our guidance if you have been vaccinated.
- 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.
- Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.
- Call your health care provider to get a test for the flu and for COVID-19. You can also get tested for COVID-19 at a community site.
- Stay home while you wait for your test results. If you have the flu, follow the guidance from your health care provider to determine how long to stay home. If you have COVID-19, follow guidance from your health care provider or the guidance above.
- For schools or child care centers, reference Guidance for When a Child/Youth or Staff Member Can Return to School or Child Care and The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s COVID-19 and the Flu Q&A on page 15 and 16 of the October 15th School Nurse Update.
- Review our fact sheet and quarantine calculator to see our recommendations and calculate quarantine for the members of your household.
- 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.
See our webpage, "What to Do If an Employee is Sick or was Possibly Exposed" for more information.