What Should You Do If You Come in Contact With Someone Who’s Infected With COVID-19?

The short answer from an infectious disease specialist
woman looking out of window during self quarentine

What should I do if I think I have been around someone who has coronavirus?

A: The answer depends on the degree of contact you have with that person.

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The coronavirus mainly spreads from person to person through droplets when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. This means that the biggest risk for catching it is to be in close contact for a significant amount of time with someone who has COVID-19.

There isn’t an exact definition of what that means, but generally we say within 6 feet of someone for at least 10 minutes.

If you were just grocery shopping in the same store as someone who might have COVID-19, that would not be considered a high risk — unless that person coughs or sneezes directly on you, which is a clear exposure.

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People who do come in close, significant contact with someone who has COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. This involves staying home and limiting your interactions with others — even if you don’t get sick. We now understand that people can have the virus and pass it on to others even if they aren’t showing any symptoms, so self-quarantining is critical to helping prevent the spread.

If you develop symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath, contact your healthcare provider for guidance on what to do.

— Infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD

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