What Do I Need to Know?

By Thomas J. Kirn, M.D., Ph.D., pathologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Was I exposed to COVID-19?

The definition of exposure varies, but use these general guidelines. Were you:

  • Within six feet of someone who has tested positive for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24 hour period?
  • Living in the same house as someone with COVID-19?
  • In direct physical contact with secretions from someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (for example, coughed on)?

If you answered yes to any of the above, that counts as exposure.

Was I wearing a mask?

Keep in mind that exposure and risk are also influenced by mask usage. When your mask is off, you are more vulnerable to infection in public settings.

I think I was exposed to COVID-19. When should I get a test?

The incubation period (time from exposure to when you may develop symptoms) for COVID-19 is 2-14 days, meaning that it is possible to develop symptoms at any time within that window. However, most people tend to show symptoms between 5-7 days. To maximize the accuracy of a COVID-19 test, you should aim to get tested within 5-7 days from exposure.

I think I was exposed to COVID-19, but I feel fine. Why should I get a test?

If you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested to stop the “the silent spread.” Some individuals with COVID-19 will not develop symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to more vulnerable friends, family members, and neighbors. Testing helps us break the chain of infection and protect one another.

It’s been less than 5-7 days since I was exposed. What should I do?

If possible, you should get tested within 5-7 days from exposure to maximize test accuracy. It’s important to note that while you are waiting, you should quarantine and remain separate from others as much as possible, including loved ones and even within your own home.

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I’m waiting to take a COVID-19 test. How can I keep the people in my own home safe?

  • If possible, remain in separate areas of the home or dwelling.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a mask while inside.
  • If possible, remain six feet away from roommates or loved ones while dining.

I am asymptomatic and got my test back 5-7 days after my exposure and it was negative. What now?

If your test comes back negative, you may be able to end quarantine early based on CDC guidelines. Consult with your local health department or doctor to determine what is best for your specific circumstances. When it is safe for you to return to public settings, remember to wear a face mask and follow social distancing protocols.

I am asymptomatic and got my test back 5-7 days after my exposure and it was positive. What now?

If your test comes back positive, you will need to isolate from others as you recover. Remain in your home and follow the best practices above.

If you remain asymptomatic, you should isolate for 10 days after receiving your test, assuming no symptoms develop.

If you begin to develop symptoms, you should self-isolate until:

  • 10 days since symptoms first began AND
  • You have been fever free for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medications AND
  • Your symptoms have improved.

What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Isolation occurs when you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms consistent with the virus. Quarantine occurs when you have been exposed to a known case of COVID-19, but you are asymptomatic and are separating yourself to protect others from potential “silent spread.”

If you begin to develop extreme symptoms at any time, including extreme fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms, call your primary care physician. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, including difficulty breathing, call 911.

For more COVID-19 resources visit: rwjbh.org/covid19.

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By Thomas J. Kirn, MD, Ph.D., Pathologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine

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Was I exposed to COVID-19?

The definition of exposure varies, but use these general guidelines. Were you:

  • Within six feet of someone who has tested positive for a cumulative time of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period?
  • Living in the same house with someone who has COVID-19?
  • In direct physical contact with secretions from someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (for example, coughing)?

If you answered yes to any of the questions, that counts as exposure.

Was he wearing a mask?

Note that exposure and risk are also influenced by the use of masks. When you remove the mask in public settings, you are more vulnerable to infection.

I think I was exposed to COVID-19. When should I get tested?

The incubation period (time from exposure to when you can develop symptoms) for COVID-19 is 2 to 14 days, meaning that it is possible to develop symptoms at any time within that time. However, most people usually have symptoms within 5-7 days. To maximize the accuracy of a COVID-19 test, you should aim to get tested within 5 to 7 days of exposure.

I think I have been exposed to COVID-19, but I feel fine. Why should I get tested?

If you have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested to stop the “silent spread.” Some individuals with COVID-19 will not develop symptoms, but can still spread the virus to more vulnerable friends, family members, and neighbors. Testing helps us break the chain of infection and protect each other.

It has been less than 5 to 7 days since I have been exposed. That I have to do?

If possible, the test should be done within 5-7 days of exposure to maximize the accuracy of the test. It is important to note that while you are waiting, you should self-quarantine and remain separate from others as much as possible, including loved ones and even within your own home.

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I am waiting to get tested for COVID-19. How can I keep people safe inside my own home?

  • If possible, stay in separate areas within the home or dwelling.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wear a mask while indoors.
  • If possible, stay six feet away from your roommates or loved ones while they are eating.

I am asymptomatic and received my test 5-7 days after my exposure and it was negative. Now should I do?

If your test has come back negative, you can end the quarantine early as per the CDC’s recommendations. Check with your local health department or doctor to determine what is best for your specific circumstances. When it is safe for you to return to public places, remember to wear a mask and follow social distancing protocols.

I am asymptomatic and received my test 5-7 days after my exposure and it was positive. What should I do now?

If your test is positive, you need to isolate yourself from others while you recover.

Stay home and follow the above guidelines to the best of your ability.

If you remain asymptomatic, you should isolate yourself for 10 days after receiving your test, assuming no symptoms have developed.

If you start to develop symptoms, you should isolate yourself until:

  • 10 days have passed since symptoms started AND
  • Has been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications AND
  • Your symptoms have improved.

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Isolation occurs when you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms consistent with the virus. Quarantine occurs when you have been exposed to a known case of COVID-19, but are asymptomatic and are separating to protect others from possible “silent spread.”

If at any time you begin to develop extreme symptoms, including extreme fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms, call your primary care physician. If you have a medical emergency, including trouble breathing, call 911.

For more information on COVID-19, visit rwjbh.org/covid19enespanol.

COVID-19 Exposure, Testing, and Quarantine: What Do I Need to Know?

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