OH-Blog Logo
Person wearing mask staring out window

I’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19. What Do I Do Now?

Numbers of COVID-19 cases in the United States are breaking records, and the total continues to climb. This means your chance of exposure is higher than ever. You may even know someone who was exposed or infected with the virus.

But despite having information about COVID-19 flashing across our screens for nearly a year now, it’s still easy to forget what you should do when you’re told you may have been exposed. It’s a scary, stressful hurdle to face, but you don’t have to face it alone. Let’s walk through the next course of action together, so you can take care of yourself, keep your loved ones safe and protect the community.

Step 1: Begin quarantine immediately

Once you discover you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s time to enter your quarantine. For most, quarantine requires you to maintain a safe distance from those who have not been exposed for 10 days to avoid spreading the virus. If you work in healthcare, the amount of time you are quarantined may be different. Check in with your leadership to find out your specific quarantine timeline. If quarantined, your official job is to stay home, be aware of how you are feeling and stay away from others. If you end up developing symptoms, be sure to get tested for COVID-19.

This rule applies even if you live with other people, especially if they are in a high-risk group. If keeping your distance isn’t an option, wear your mask when you have to be around others. This is the best thing you can do to protect your household from COVID-19.

If you live alone, use a grocery or food delivery service to make sure you have all the supplies you need to stay in. A more affordable option is to ask a friend or family member to drop off what you need at your door. Either way, wait inside until they leave before retrieving your items. If this isn’t possible, then make sure to stay at least 6 feet away (10 feet is better) from those bringing you supplies, and wear your mask.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for specific scenarios that demonstrate when it is safe to end quarantine and be around others.

Step 2: Reach out to your circle and employer

If you do have COVID-19, you may start spreading the virus as early as two days before any symptoms appear. So, while it may be nerve-wracking, you must make anyone you’ve been in close contact with aware of your exposure. This gives them time to prepare for their own quarantine in case you test positive or they start developing symptoms. They’ll also be able to warn anyone they may have come into contact with sooner.

If you have a job where you are expected to work around others, you will also need to contact your manager and Human Resources department. They can help you figure out what steps you need to take before you can safely return to work. They will also need to let the rest of the staff know about their possible exposure.

Step 3: Call your primary care physician

While many providers tackle this step differently, it’s common that you won’t be advised to get tested unless symptoms appear. It’s still important to let your doctor know about your exposure because they can provide education on how to quarantine, explain the symptoms to watch for, and recommend ways to care for yourself and your household during this time.

If you would like to get tested, visit the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 website to see your options. You can also visit OhioHealth’s COVID-19 testing page, to learn how we are handling testing.

Step 4: Watch for COVID-19 symptoms

Keep a close eye on how you’re feeling these next two weeks in quarantine. It’s crucial you stay in quarantine for the full 10 days, even if you are feeling healthy or have already received a negative COVID-19 test. Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure, so to eliminate all risk, it’s best to stay at home. If you have shown no symptoms after 10 days, your quarantine can end.

But if you do start to show symptoms …

Step 5: Schedule a COVID-19 test

If you start to show symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19. Getting tested or receiving medical care are the only times you should be leaving home during your quarantine.

Step 6: Take care of yourself

It’s time to get some rest, rest and more rest. Make sure to stay hydrated and take over-the-counter medicines to alleviate symptoms. Continue to wear a mask around those in your household.

Clean high-touch objects and surfaces throughout the day, even if you live alone. If you live with others, request that they clean common area objects and surfaces so you can continue to keep your distance. This will help protect your household by limiting the number of germs in your space.

Step 7: Share your test results

Once you receive your COVID-19 test results, positive or negative, you need to call everyone you were in close contact with again to let them know the outcome. No matter your result, you must stay at home for the rest of your designated quarantine time. If you’re positive for COVID-19, your quarantine transitions into isolation. This means that you are separated from others who are not sick, in order to avoid spreading possible infection. Continue to wear your mask around your household if you cannot avoid being around them, disinfecting common objects and surfaces and washing your hands often. Avoid sharing household items, such as dishes and utensils.

Step 8: Monitor your symptoms

Continue to monitor your symptoms, watching out for the following emergency warning signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish face or lips

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Call your medical provider if you are concerned about any symptoms that seem severe.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency department immediately.

If you think you may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, you can call the Ohio Department of Health call center. The call center is now open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to answer any COVID-19 questions, and can be reached at 1 (833) 4-ASK-ODH (1 (833) 427-5634).

The information in this article was updated on December 2, 2020. For the latest information concerning COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website.


Go to the COVID-19 Toolkit page on the OhioHealth blog


related articles