Apr 17, 2020 9:00 AM

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Mom caring for sick family member

Revised Apr. 17, 2020 to reflect updated CDC guidelines. Post originally published March 25, 2020. 

As of April 17, 2020, the U.S. has reported more than 671,000 cases of coronavirus, with nearly 2.2 million cases worldwide. While stay-at-home and physical distancing initiatives can help prevent further spread of the coronavirus, how do these protective measures work when you or a family member has tested positive for COVID-19? Use the checklist below to protect yourself and your loved ones.

1. Immediately Implement Physical Distancing

 The infected person should:

  • Stay home from work and school and avoid other public places
  • Stay in a specific room away from others in the home
  • Use a separate bathroom if available
  • Wear a face mask when exposed to others in or outside the home

“Many of our folks in Utah have large families and that can be very difficult,” says John Barrett, MD, executive medical director of U of U Health’s Community Physician Group. “But you want to make sure that for those who might be at risk for infection, you make that risk as small as you can.”

Additionally, prohibit visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home. Make sure that shared spaces have good air flow, such as by an air conditioner or an opened window.

2. Prevent the Spread of Germs

Maintain personal hygiene

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • Throw any used tissues in a closed trash bin.
  • Immediately after—and whenever you have contact with food, pets, the restroom, infected surfaces, or other people—wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If water and soap are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect shared surfaces

A person can get COVID-19 by touching an infected surface or object and touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, however. To prevent this method of infection, the CDC recommends regularly cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, remote controls, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

To clean surfaces that are dirty, you can use detergent or soap and water. To disinfect, use diluted household bleach, alcohol solutions that contain at least 70% alcohol, or any EPA-registered household disinfectant.

Handle any potentially infected items with caution

Avoid sharing personal household items like dishes, towels, and bedding. Use gloves when handling dishes, towels, bedding, laundry, or trash and be sure to wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves.

3. Provide Symptom Treatment

For most people, symptoms last a few days and get better after a week. In the meantime, prioritize making sure the sick person drinks a lot of fluids to stay hydrated and rests at home. “I can’t emphasize hydration enough,” Barrett says. Over-the-counter medications may also help with some symptoms, as fever is generally the symptom that makes people feel the worst, according to Barrett.

4. Monitor for Worsening Symptoms, and Know the Emergency Warning Signs

If you or a loved one develop worsening symptoms, call your health care provider or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. In case of a medical emergency, dial 911.

 Some common emergency warning signs include*:

  • Trouble breathing
  • 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.

5. When to End Home Isolation

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

If they will not have a test to determine if they are still contagious, they can leave home after these three things have happened:

  • They have had no fever for at least 72 hours (three full days) without the use of medicine that reduces fevers, AND
  • Other symptoms have improved (such as cough or shortness of breath), AND
  • At least seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.

If they will be tested to determine if they are still contagious, they can leave home after these three things have happened:

  • They no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers), AND
  • Other symptoms have improved (such as cough or shortness of breath), AND
  • They received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. Their doctor will follow CDC guidelines.

For any additional questions, contact your health care provider or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712.

Above All, Remain Calm

In a recent study of 5,000 individuals in the U.S. who tested positive for COVID-19, there was a 10% chance of spread within a family, compared to 0.5% for infrequent contacts.

“It’s not everyone in the family that gets COVID-19, and it’s certainly not everybody outside if you are in contact,” says Thomas Miller, MD, chief medical officer for U of U Health. “It does give me some hope that people who are living in families may not experience the spread as aggressively as they might think.”

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