What to know about coronavirus contact tracing and spread

With the coronavirus pandemic, you might not be sure about getting tested after an exposure or how contact tracing works. Here are some answers from the CDC to your frequently asked questions.

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Who is considered a close contact to someone with COVID-19?

For COVID-19, a close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

I was told I’m a close contact. Does that mean I need to get tested?

The current guidance from the CDC is that if you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should be tested, even if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. The health department may be able to provide resources for testing in your area.

  • While you are waiting for your COVID-19 test result, stay home away from others (self-quarantine) and monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19 to protect your friends, family, and others from possibly getting COVID-19.
  • If your test is positive, you should continue to stay home and self-isolate away from others and monitor your health. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and they worsen or become severe, you should seek emergency medical care. Severe symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face. Someone from the health department may call you to, check on your health, discuss who you have been around, and ask where you have spent time while you may have been able to spread COVID-19 to others.
  • If your test is negative and you don’t have symptoms, you should continue to stay home and self-quarantine away from others for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19 and follow all recommendations from the health department. This is important because symptoms can appear up to 14 days after you’ve been exposed and are infected. A negative result before the end of your quarantine period does not rule out possible infection. Additionally, you do not need a repeat test unless you develop symptoms, or if you require a test to return to work.
  • If your test is negative and you have symptoms, you should continue to self-quarantine away from others for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19 and follow all recommendations from the health department. Additional medical consultation and a second test may be needed if your symptoms do not improve.
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How do I know when I need medical care or when I can still stay home?

Most people recover from a coronavirus infection and can care for themselves at home. Your primary care provider is a great resource for understanding more about what to do if you are having symptoms and have questions.

The CDC also as a “coronavirus self-checker” tool online here that will walk you through a series of questions and provide recommended actions and resources based on your answers.

Will my personal information be shared if I talk with a local public health worker doing contact tracing?

Discussions with health department staff are confidential. This means that your personal and medical information will be kept private and only shared with those who may need to know, like your health care provider.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your name will not be shared with those you came in contact with. The health department will only notify people you were within 6 feet of for more than 15 minutes, that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.

Each state and jurisdiction use their own method for collecting and protecting health information. To learn more, you can also contact your state or local health department or ask questions with a contact tracer if they call you.

What are the symptoms?

Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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