November 4, 2020/Infectious Disease

If I Live With Someone Who Has COVID-19, Am I Bound to Get It Too?

The short answer from a family medicine physician

Woman taking her child's temperature.

Q: My roommate tested positive for COVID-19. Does that mean I will get the virus too?

A: It’s not 100% guaranteed that just because one person in the household gets the virus that everybody else is going to. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen, but it’s not universal that everybody is going to get sick when COVID-19 is in your house.

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However I do think it comes down to basic conscientiousness. I think people who are observing appropriate protection measures outside of their home are also probably doing the same at home, especially if someone is already sick. These are things like washing your hands, wearing a mask and being aware of physical distance (like not talking right in someone’s face). It’s also important to clean high-touch surfaces with disinfectants and limit physical (not emotional) interaction with the person who is sick.

If somebody in your house does test positive for the virus, we encourage them to stay in a separate room and use a different bathroom if they can, but we also know that not everybody’s household is set up for that. In those cases, do your best to stay away from the person who is sick and everyone should wear a face mask when they interact.

It’s also worth noting that if someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19 (or is suspected to have it), to make sure that vulnerable and high-risk house members avoid caring for whoever is sick. Everyone in the home should also quarantine (even if you don’t have symptoms) to avoid spreading the virus to school, work or the store.

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— Family medicine physician Donald Ford, MD, MBA.

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