COVID-19: Close Contacts

If you had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be at risk of infection. Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 is encouraged to get tested. It is important to quarantine and self-monitor to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

What does it mean to be a "close contact" of someone with COVID-19?

You are a close contact if any of the following situations happened while you spent time with the person with COVID-19, even if they didn't have symptoms:

  • Had direct physical contact with the person (for example, a hug, kiss, or handshake).
  • Were within six feet of the person for a total of more than 15 minutes in a single day.
  • Had contact with the person's respiratory secretions (for example, coughed or sneezed on; contact with a dirty tissue, shared a drinking glass, food, towels, or other personal items.

Next Steps: Close contacts of someone with COVID-19 P-02598a


Quarantine and self-monitor

Quarantine and self-monitor to protect yourself, your family, and your community. During your quarantine period, watch to see if you develop symptoms. If you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate, contact your health care provider, and get tested. Open the tabs below to learn more about quarantine and self-monitoring for close contacts.

 How long do I need to quarantine?

While a 14-day quarantine continues to be the safest and recommended option, two additional quarantine options are now allowed for some people. Follow local guidance for quarantine release times as some options may not be acceptable in certain settings and situations.

Consideration for these shortened quarantine periods is only for people who do not have symptoms at any time during their quarantine period.

For close contacts who do not develop symptoms, quarantine can end: 

  • 10 days after their last close contact without testing, or 
  • 7 days after their last close contact, with a negative test result (PCR or antigen) collected on day 6 or 7.

 

You Stop the Spread How long should I quarantine? P-02905

How Long Should I Quarantine?
This visual shows quarantine options for close contacts.

Continue to monitor for symptoms daily through day 14 of quarantine, and continue to follow public health guidelines such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and avoiding gatherings. If you are unable to monitor for symptoms and follow public health guidelines, you should quarantine for the full 14 days.

 How do I quarantine?

  • Stay home as much as possible. Avoid contact with others to prevent spreading infection. If you live with someone who has COVID-19, and you are at a higher risk for serious illness, find an alternative living arrangement from the sick family member, if possible.
  • Most people should not go to work if they have to be around other people. Talk with your employer about the possibility of working remotely. Health care workers should contact their employee health for their current policy.
  • Avoid travel. If travel is absolutely necessary, and you become ill, you may not be able to return home until after you recover. When you get home, you will be asked to continue to self-quarantine and self-monitor.
  • Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
  • Go out only if absolutely necessary. Instead, see if someone can drop off essentials at your house. If you need to go out, limit your travel for essential needs, for example, going to the doctor, getting groceries, or picking up medication. Remember to always wear a cloth face covering.
  • Postpone all nonessential medical appointments until your quarantine is over. If you have an essential appointment during quarantine, call your doctor about what arrangements can be made.
  • Do not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Wear a face mask if you have to be around others. This helps protect others by preventing respiratory droplets from getting into the air.

 How do I self-monitor during quarantine?

  • Check your temperature twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. If you don't have a thermometer, watch for symptoms of fever like chills or sweats.
  • Watch for cough, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms of COVID-19. Write down any symptoms you have and when they begin. Your local health department will give you instructions if they want you to report your symptoms to them regularly through a phone call or email. The Next steps: close contacts of someone with COVID-19 flyer includes a chart you can use to log your daily symptoms.

 What if someone in my household is diagnosed?

If someone who lives in your household gets sick or is diagnosed with COVID-19 and is unable to separate from others, all well members of your household need to extend their self-quarantine and self-monitoring for 14 days from the date the last person recovered from their illness. Learn how to avoid exposure when living with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. 

 What if I get sick?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine, isolate yourself from other members of your house, contact your doctor, and get tested. Tell your doctor your symptoms to determine if you need medical care. Do not go to your doctor's office without contacting them first.

 What if I'm fully vaccinated against COVID-19? 

If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (received second dose in a two-dose series, or one dose of a single-dose vaccine) and were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you do not have to quarantine, if you meet ALL of the following criteria: 

  • Your exposure to someone with COVID-19 happened at least two weeks after receiving the last dose of your vaccine series.  
  • You have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 since your last close contact.  

Continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after your last close contact. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, isolate from others, contact your health care provider, and get tested.

Note: New quarantine exemptions do apply to workers in non-health care settings, but do not apply to patients receiving inpatient care in a health care setting, residents of long-term care facilities, or residents of non-health care congregate settings (such as correctional and detention facilities or group homes). Patients and residents in these settings should continue to quarantine for 14 days after the date of last exposure. 

Frequently asked questions

See frequently asked questions about quarantine recommendations below.

Why is a 14-day quarantine considered the safest and recommended option? 

The incubation period for the virus that causes COVID-19 is still 14 days. This means you can develop an infection any time in the 14 days after close contact with a person with COVID-19. The likelihood that a close contact who has not had any symptoms can spread COVID-19 after a 10-day or 7-day quarantine with a negative test is relatively low, but not as low as those who quarantine for a full 14 days. 

More frequently asked questions about quarantine and quarantine options are answered on this DHS publication.  

How has quarantine guidance for close contacts changed? 

In accordance with the CDC, DHS has updated quarantine guidance (HAN #23 and HAN #27) for close contacts of COVID-19 cases.

 

If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may not have to quarantine.

Quarantine may be shortened from 14 days to 10 days after last close contact, provided people still monitor for symptoms, wear a mask, physical distance, and avoid social gatherings for the full 14 days. Quarantine may be shortened further to 7 days after last close contact, using a test-based strategy. The test-based strategy for shortening quarantine is a change from the previous CDC and DHS guidance that quarantine should continue for 14 days regardless of test result. 

These alternative strategies are considered acceptable, but not preferred, because they carry increased risk of transmission compared to the 14-day quarantine. However, in some situations this increase in risk may be outweighed by the potential benefits of a quarantine requirement that places less burden on individuals, families, and communities. 

Shortened quarantine options may not apply in some settings or situations. Follow local and institutional quarantine guidance. High-risk, congregate settings such as long-term care facilities, shelters, jails, and prisons must determine quarantine length on a case-by-case basis.

I was wearing a mask when I was in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. Do I need to quarantine?

Yes. Wearing a face mask or covering while you spend time with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, even they were also wearing a mask, reduces your risk of getting COVID-19, but does not prevent it entirely. Even if you were both wearing a face mask or covering, you are still considered a close contact and will need to quarantine.  

If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may not have to quarantine. See quarantine recommendations for people who have been fully vaccinated (received second dose in a two-dose series, or one dose of a single-dose series). 

I got my first dose of a two-dose series, but haven't completed my vaccine series. I have since been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Do I need to quarantine? 

Yes. If you have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you still need to quarantine. This means you have gotten both doses of vaccine AND it has been at least two weeks since your last dose. This is because full protection from the vaccine kicks in about two weeks after you complete your vaccine series. 

I had close contact with someone with COVID-19 before I was fully vaccinated (14 days after getting your last dose of vaccine). Do I need to quarantine?

Yes, if you are exposed to COVID-19 before you are fully vaccinated (two weeks or more since you got your second dose in a two-dose series or one dose of a single-dose vaccine), you must complete a full quarantine period. This is because your body may not have built up a full immune response at the time when you were exposed to COVID-19.


Use your phone to stop the spread of COVID-19

Protect yourself and your community by sending and receiving updates about possible exposure. Learn more about the WI Exposure Notification app.  

COVID-19 Wisconsin Exposure Notification P-02871

 
Last Revised: March 25, 2021