So, your community has largely reopened, and you decided to get lunch with a friend, only to find out a few days later that they have tested positive for COVID-19. What do you do now?
"What to do after you are in the presence of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 really depends on your level of exposure," said Michael Richardson, MD, a medical director at One Medical, who's based out of Boston. "If your friend tests positive, and the last time you spoke to them in person was 10 feet away on the sidewalk with you both wearing masks, your risk of catching COVID-19 is pretty darn low and likely does not warrant testing." However, if you were both indoors and with each other for a good bit of time, that's another story. Here's what to do next.
1. Quarantine For 2 Weeks
"If you have had close contact, less than six feet away for 15 minutes, with someone who was potentially contagious with COVID-19 and has since tested positive, you should quarantine for 14 days," David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told POPSUGAR. That means staying home and not allowing anyone outside of your household to visit.
Sandra Kesh, MD, deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, NY, agreed. "If you had a real exposure, regardless of a negative test you should quarantine for 14 days," she said. "It's always a good idea to speak to your primary care provider so they can help you assess risk and determine next steps."
2. Monitor Your Symptoms
Keep an eye out for any of the primary symptoms of COVID-19, and talk to your doctor if you're concerned. Many people experience shortness of breath, cough, or fever, but headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, sore throat, and muscle ache and fatigue are also common. "Self-monitor your symptoms and contact your doctor if you start to get sick," Dr. Kesh said.
3. Get Tested
"If testing is available, get tested, and by 'tested,' I am referring to a diagnostic test (often performed as a nasal swab), and not an antibody test," Dr. Kesh said. "The best thing to do is contact your doctor because a lot of times testing is not available or you won't get results back in time." If testing is available, you should wait at least a few days after exposure to be swabbed, but "the ideal time is within five to seven days," Dr. Kesh explained.
Continue to quarantine until you have your results or 14 days have passed, and whatever the result, be sure to discuss next steps with your doctor.
4. Tell Anyone You've Been in Contact With
Even if you haven't developed symptoms or tested positive, it's probably a good idea to give people a heads-up that you've been exposed. "Talking to others about their potential exposure to COVID-19 is similar to talking about sexually transmitted infections," Dr. Richardson said. "Whether you start to feel symptoms or not, if there is a chance that you could have the virus, it's a good idea that you inform others they may have been exposed too so they can understand their level of risk and get tested if available."
That said, "there is no need for your contacts to get tested, unless you test positive," Dr. Cutler explained.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.