Steps to Slow the Spread

Overview

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. To limit the spread of COVID-19, follow these steps if you have symptoms, if you test positive, or if you had close contact with someone who is sick

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Adapted from Ian Mackay, The Swiss Cheese Infographic that Went Viral Dec 2020

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Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, Arlington County Public Health is shifting its contact tracing to maximize resources and focus on high-risk populations and settings (workplaces, long-term care facilities, group homes, schools, childcare settings). To keep you and others safe, follow these steps to slow the spread even if you aren't contacted by the health department. These CDC recommendations are the minimum quarantine and isolation recommendations for the general population. You may need to follow additional COVID-19 policies and guidance from County programs and facilities, employer, school, nursing home and/or daycare settings.

If You Have Symptoms (Isolate)

These CDC recommendations are the minimum quarantine and isolation recommendations for the general population. You may need to follow additional COVID-19 policies and guidance from County programs and facilities, employer, school, nursing home and/or daycare settings.

People with these new or unusual 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

This list does not include all possible symptoms.

If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19 
Your Steps to Take 
Everyone should:

Stay home (isolate) away from others for at least 5 days to keep from spreading the virus to others.

Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when around others for 10 days.

Get tested as soon as possible. If you are unable to get tested immediately, you should assume you have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.

If your symptoms are improving or starting to go away after 5 days with no fever, you can leave your home while wearing a mask around others.

Continue to isolate after day 5 if symptoms do not improve. Seek medical care for any new or worsening symptoms. 

 

If you are unable to get tested immediately, you should assume you have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.

Follow these additional steps:

  • Stay away from others.
    • Stay 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) away from others.
    • Do not share personal items.
    • Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.
  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Stay in touch with your doctor.
    • Work with your doctor to see if you are eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies as treatment for your COVID-19 infection.
    • Call first if you need to see your doctor or urgent care.
    • Call 9-1-1 if you need help right away. For example, if you have trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot at least daily. See the CDC’s guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, especially when around other people.
  • Make sure the room has good air flow, if you have to share space. Open the window to increase air circulation. Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • Notify people you have had close contact with. This means within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Tell them to stay home and away from others. You may wish to share the guidance for “If You Had Close Contact with Someone Who Is Sick (Quarantine).”
    • If you have symptoms, you were able to spread COVID-19 starting two days before your symptoms began.
    • If you do not have symptoms, you were able to spread COVID-19 starting two days before you tested positive.
    • See the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19: How to Notify Your Contacts, for help identifying and talking to your close contacts.

Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, Arlington County Public Health is shifting its contact tracing to maximize resources and focus on high-risk populations and settings (workplaces, long-term care facilities, group homes, schools, childcare settings). To keep you and others safe, follow these steps to slow the spread even if you aren't contacted by the health department.

When to End Isolation

You should wait to end your isolation until at least 5 days after symptoms started and you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved.

  • If your symptoms are improving or starting to go away after 5 days with no fever, you can leave your home while wearing a mask around others.
  • Continue to isolate after day 5 if symptoms do not improve. Seek medical care for any new or worsening symptoms.
  • Do not travel during your 5 or more-day isolation period. After you end isolation, avoid travel until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
  • If you must travel on days 6-10, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of travel. If you are unable to wear a mask, you should not travel during the 10 days.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

 

If You Test Positive (Isolate)

These CDC recommendations are the minimum quarantine and isolation recommendations for the general population. You may need to follow additional COVID-19 policies and guidance from County programs and facilities, employer, school, nursing home and/or daycare settings.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without care from a doctor. Older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. Seek care early.

Everyone should:

 

 

Stay home (isolate) for 5 days after you tested positive.

Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when around others for 10 days.

If you have no symptoms OR your symptoms are improving after 5 days with no fever, you can leave your home while wearing a mask around others.

Continue to isolate after day 5 if symptoms do not improve. Seek medical care for any new or worsening symptoms.

 

The highest risk of spreading COVID-19 is during the first 5 days, but spread is still possible for up to 10 days after infection. People may choose to isolate for the full 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. According to the CDC, almost 1/3 of people remain infectious 5 days after a positive test.

Follow these additional steps:
  •  Stay away from others.
    • Stay 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) away from others.
    • Do not share personal items.
    • Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.
  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Stay in touch with your doctor.
    • Work with your doctor to see if you are eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies as treatment for your COVID-19 infection.
    • Call first if you need to see your doctor or urgent care.
    • Call 9-1-1 if you need help right away. For example, if you have trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot at least daily. See the CDC’s guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, especially when around other people.
  • Make sure the room has good air flow, if you have to share space. Open the window to increase air circulation. Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • Notify people you have had close contact with. This means within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Tell them to stay home and away from others. You may wish to share the guidance for “If You Had Close Contact with Someone Who Is Sick (Quarantine).”
    • If you have symptoms, you were able to spread COVID-19 starting two days before your symptoms began.
    • If you do not have symptoms, you were able to spread COVID-19 starting two days before you tested positive.
    • See the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19: How to Notify Your Contacts, for help identifying and talking to your close contacts.

Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, Arlington County Public Health is shifting its contact tracing to maximize resources and focus on high-risk populations and settings (workplaces, long-term care facilities, group homes, schools, childcare settings). To keep you and others safe, follow these steps to slow the spread even if you aren't contacted by the health department.

When to End Isolation

You should wait to end your isolation until at least 5 days after symptoms started and you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved.

  • If your symptoms are improving or starting to go away after 5 days with no fever, you can leave your home while wearing a mask around others.
  • Continue to isolate after day 5 if symptoms do not improve. Seek medical care for any new or worsening symptoms.
  • Do not travel during your 5 or more-day isolation period. After you end isolation, avoid travel until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
  • If you must travel on days 6-10, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of travel. If you are unable to wear a mask, you should not travel during the 10 days.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

 

If You Had Close Contact with Someone Who Is Sick (Quarantine)

These CDC recommendations are the minimum quarantine and isolation recommendations for the general population. You may need to follow additional COVID-19 policies and guidance from County programs and facilities, employer, school, nursing home and/or daycare settings.

A close contact is anyone within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. 

If You Are
Your Steps to Take
  • Not vaccinated
  • Partially vaccinated
  • Not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines (see below)
 

Stay home (quarantine) for 5 days.

Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when around others for 10 days.

Test on Day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and stay home. See If You Have Symptoms (Isolate) for more information.

  • Are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines (see below)
  • Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (you tested positive using a viral test)
 
Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when around others for 10 days. 

Test on Day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and stay home. See If You Have Symptoms (Isolate) for more information.

*CDC recommends that people remain up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses at regular time points.

The highest risk of developing COVID-19 illness is during the first 5 days after exposure, but developing illness is still possible for up to 14 days. People may choose to quarantine for up to 14 days after being exposed to COVID-19.

If quarantine is not possible, you must wear a mask for 10 days. Anyone who is unable to wear a mask effectively should quarantine (stay away from others) for 10 days after exposure. 

Follow these additional steps:

  • Stay away from others even though you may not feel sick.
    • Stay 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) away from others.
    • Do not share personal items.
    • Use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.
  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Work with your doctor to see if you are eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies as post-exposure prophylaxis (preventive treatment). 
    • Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day, and watch for fever or cough.
    • If you get sick, follow the guidance for “If You Have Symptoms (Isolate).”
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot at least daily. See the CDC’s guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, especially when around other people.
  • Make sure the room has good air flow, if you have to share space. Open the window to increase air circulation. Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • If you test positive, follow the guidance for “If You Test Positive (Isolate).”

Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, Arlington County Public Health is shifting its contact tracing to maximize resources and focus on high-risk populations and settings (workplaces, long-term care facilities, group homes, schools, childcare settings). To keep you and others safe, follow these steps to slow the spread even if you aren't contacted by the health department.

 

Set Up Your Buddy System

If you become ill or need to isolate or self-quarantine, you may need help from other people. And other people may ask you for help.

Having a buddy system will make it easier to get things like food and medicine if you are unable to leave your home. We recommend that every household has two “buddy system” households to call upon for help if needed.

Plan ahead and reach out now – safely – to put your “buddy system” in place.

Buddies can be:

  • Friends and neighbors
  • People you know through work and social networks
  • Members of faith groups
  • Members of neighborhood associations (many have Facebook or NextDoor groups or other ways to be in contact)