Sick or Exposed to COVID-19

Things to Know

Symptoms and Risk


If you’re experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, you may feel like you need to get tested for COVID-19, or coronavirus, to ease your mind. 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 or combinations of 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

Check the CDC website for the latest list of symptoms associated with COVID-19.

In some instances, people infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms or symptoms are so mild they don’t feel sick. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to stay home as much as possible, avoid gatherings of 10 or more, and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.

For most of us with mild symptoms, getting tested won’t change our treatment. Whether you have another flu-like virus or COVID-19, the vast majority of people do very well recovering at home and symptoms can be treated with over-the counter medicines. You can check your symptoms using the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker tool. Adults over age 65 and people of any age with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at higher risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.

It’s important EVERYONE take prevention steps to help stop the spread:

  • Wear a face covering in public spaces
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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When to Seek Medical Attention

If you feel like your symptoms are worsening, especially if you have difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider or seek medical attention.

In adults, emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

    * This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. This will help them prepare for your arrival so that they can take steps to reduce symptom exposure to themselves and other patients.

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Sick or Being Tested for COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or you have symptoms and are getting tested, you’ll be asked to stay isolated at home to help prevent the disease from spreading to other people in your home and community. 

If you've tested positive, other people you live with and those you had close contact with during the time since you became sick will be asked to take specific actions to quarantine themselves, monitor for symptoms, and prevent further spread to others.

>>> People with a positive test for COVID-19 with recent onset of mild to moderate symptoms who are high-risk for severe illness may benefit from receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, if eligible.  Treatment can lower the amount of virus in your body, reduce symptoms and help avoid hospitalization.    Learn more  <<<

How Long Should I Stay Isolated at Home?

It can be confusing to know how long you should isolate at home. Public Health has created a home isolation decision-maker tool to help you know when it's safe to be around others after being sick with COVID-19. 

The length of time you should isolate at home depends on several factors:

  • Were tested for COVID-19 and the test result;
  • Have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19; and
  • Are able to wear a mask.

Click on the button below to take the questionnaire.

How long should I isolate?

For your reference, you may also view and download the Home Isolation Guidelines (PDF).


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What to Do When Sick

Staying home and avoiding physical contact with others is an important prevention step you can take to protect others from being infected and spreading further into the community. It can also be difficult, at times, as it may leave you feeling isolated, or alone. Calling up friends and using mobile video chats can be great ways to stay connected even when physically apart.

Please follow these guidelines during your home isolation period:

  • Stay away from others. As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Do not go to work, school or any public areas. Have someone help you with essential tasks like grocery shopping. If you need a note to explain your absence, you can use the Public Health Statement for Medical Absence: English | Spanish(PDF)
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Limit contact with pets & animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.
  • Wear a facemask when in the same room with other people and when you visit a healthcare provider. If you do not have a facemask, you can use a bandana or scarf to cover your mouth and nose as an alternative.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing household items like dishes, cups, eating utensils, and bedding.
  • Clean and disinfect: Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs.

For additional guidance, see CDC's What to Do When Sick

Recovery and Monitoring Symptoms

Most people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 fully recover at home with plenty of rest and lots of fluids. There is no medical treatment or cure for COVID-19. Over-the-counter medicines may help with symptoms; check with your healthcare provider about the best care plan for you.

If symptoms become severe, such as having difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately. If you need to see a healthcare provider, please call ahead to tell them you are a close contact of someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19 OR who has a respiratory infection. For medical emergencies, call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel. This will help the healthcare provider or first responders take steps to protect themselves from infection.

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Exposure to Someone with COVID-19

Quarantine prevents the spread of COVID-19 by asking people who might be infected to stay away from others until enough time has passed to be sure they don’t have COVID-19. If you are a household member or a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should stay at home and away from others (quarantine) and monitor yourself for symptoms.

What is Close Contact?

Close contact is being within 6 feet of the sick person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Exposure starts from 2 days before the person had symptoms of illness (or, for people without symptoms, 2 days prior to being tested) until the time the patient is isolated. 

A cumulative total means all individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes).

Do I Need to Quarantine?

It can be confusing to know if you need to quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Public Health has created a quarantine decision-maker tool to help you know when it's safe to be around others after being sick with COVID-19. 

Whether you need to quarantine and for how long depends on if you:

  • Were a close contact of someone with COVID-19;
  • Have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and recovered;
  • Are Up-to-Date with your COVID-19 vaccinations; and
  • Are able to wear a mask.

Click on the button below to take the questionnaire.

Should I quarantine? How long?

For your reference, you may also view and download the MCDPH Quarantine Guidance (PDF - Rev. 1/7/22). If you develop symptoms after being exposed, see  MCDPH home isolation guidance.

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Testing and Follow-up Care

Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is now widely available, and in many cases, there is no cost due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. You can get tested whether you are currently experiencing symptoms or are concerned you were exposed to someone with the virus, even if you have no symptoms of illness. Visit our community testing page to locate testing in your area or call 602-506-6767 for more information about testing options and availability.

If you do not have a medical home or are uninsured, consider visiting a community health center if you need medical help. They will work with you to help you get access to a healthcare provider. Please call 602-253-0090 or look at the AACHC website for a health care center near you.

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Caring for Someone with COVID-19

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will have only mild illness and recover at home with plenty of rest and lots of fluids. Care at home can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and help protect people who are at risk for getting seriously ill from COVID-19. 

Adults over 65 and people of any age with certain serious underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes are at higher risk for developing severe disease from COVID-19 illness and should seek medical care as soon as symptoms start.

If you are caring for someone at home, monitor for emergency signs of worsening health, help prevent the spread of germs, provide symptom care, and understand time frames for when to end home isolation. Keep their healthcare provider’s contact information in a visible place for easy reference.

What should I look for when monitoring their symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms to watch for are fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. Call their healthcare provider if the person you’re caring for seems to be worse, especially if showing any of these emergency warning signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

For medical emergencies, call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that they have or are suspected to have COVID-19. This will help the first responders and hospital personnel take steps to protect themselves from infection.

How can I prevent the virus from spreading in the home to others?

Have the person stay in one room, away from other people, including yourself, as much as possible. If possible, have them use a separate bathroom. In addition:

  • Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding
  • If facemasks are available, have them wear a facemask when they are around people, including you.
  • If the sick person can’t wear a facemask, you should wear one while in the same room with them, if facemasks are available. If you do not have a facemask, you can use a bandana or scarf as an alternative.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.
  • Limit contact with pets & animals. You should restrict the sick person’s contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, sink handles, and doorknobs.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.

How can I help them treat their symptoms?

Most cases of COVID-19 are mild and people recover at home within a few days to a week. Make sure the sick person drinks a lot of fluids to stay hydrated and rests at home. Over-the-counter medicines may help with symptoms. Check with their healthcare provider if you have questions about the best course of care.

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More Information


Still Have Questions?

If you have questions, please submit your question here or call us at 602-506-6767.

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