What happens if someone in your household, or someone you’ve just recently spent time with, tests positive for COVID-19? You’re guessing they were probably (unknowingly) contagious when you were with them, and you wonder: Can you be around someone with COVID-19 and not get it?
Yes! While it’s true your risk of getting sick goes up whenever you come in contact with someone who has the virus, it is possible to avoid coming down with COVID-19 even if you are (or have been) around someone who has it.
Getting infected by SARS-CoV-2 requires close contact over a sustained period of time (generally more than 15 minutes). Just because you come in contact with someone who has or had the virus does not automatically mean you’ll become infected. Lots of things affect whether or not a person exposed to a virus gets sick from it: the ventilation of the space, how robust your immune system is, how many people inside the space were exhaling viral particles. All of these things (and more) can influence whether you get sick from an exposure.
If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine yourself for 14 days following the contact and monitor any symptoms that develop. If testing is available near you, get tested (opt for the PCR test -- not the rapid test -- if possible), but not until 4-5 days after exposure (tests are not good at picking up the virus any sooner than that) or if you develop symptoms.
If the infected person lives with you, take precautions to minimize further exposure The sick person should immediately isolate themselves for at least 10 days in a designated space, such as their bedroom. Help them avoid the need to leave the sick room by checking in on them frequently using your phone. Wear masks if you must interact. Leave food and drink outside their door, handle their laundry carefully, clean surfaces frequently, and follow other guidelines for taking care of a sick person at home. In the event you do develop COVID-19 symptoms, get tested.
Because COVID-19 is contagious even if someone is not showing symptoms (or not yet), it’s possible that someone you’ve spent time may have unknowingly been infected. If you practice strict social distancing guidelines, wear masks whenever you must interact, and clean shared surfaces frequently, you may be able to escape infection yourself.