3 Easy Ways to Know If You've Been Exposed to Coronavirus

The CDC uses these three numbers to determine if you've been in close contact with an infected person.

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Though we spent much of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic panicked over shared surfaces like door knobs and shopping cart handles, we've since learned that COVID-19 most commonly spreads via person-to-person contact. To be specific, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus spreads "mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks." So, if you find out that someone you've been in contact with is positive for COVID-19, how do you know how likely it is that you've also been infected? Well, the CDC has three numbers you should consider to know if you've been exposed to the coronavirus: If you've been within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the infected person began feeling sick, you are considered to have been in close contact with the virus.

These close contact measurements are used by the CDC to conduct contact tracing, which is how health officials identify people who have the coronavirus and who they could've infected in order to initiate isolation and quarantine to try to stop the spread. If you are someone who is considered to be in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, health officials may reach out to notify you of your potential exposure, refer you for testing, and monitor you for signs and symptoms of the coronavirus.

man and woman talking while wearing masks
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Even if you're wearing a face mask during an interaction with someone who turns out to be COVID-19 positive, the CDC says you are still considered a close contact. "Cloth face coverings are meant to prevent someone from transmitting the disease to others, and not to protect someone from becoming infected," the CDC explains.

So if you find out that you have been exposed to the coronavirus by being in close contact with an infected person, what should you do? The CDC recommends that you stay home and maintain at least six feet of distance from anyone else until 14 days after you were first exposed to an infected person. They also recommend that any close contacts "monitor themselves by checking their temperature twice daily and watching for symptoms of COVID-19."

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However, it's important to remember that it's wholly possible you could've had an interaction with someone who's infected with the coronavirus and not known that was the case. This is why the CDC recommends that you follow all coronavirus safety practices like maintaining six feet of distance between you and others to prevent being hit with respiratory droplets, wearing a face mask to protect others from your droplets, and washing your hands in case you have touched a contaminated surface.

If you do notice any coronavirus symptoms, you should self-quarantine for at least 10 days after the onset of your symptoms. And for more ways to avoid the spread, check out Here's How Just One Day of Social Distancing Slows the Spread.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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