Close contact means being within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, of someone with COVID-19 during their infectious period. The infectious period is when the person is contagious. It starts two days before symptoms began, or for people who haven't had symptoms, two days before they got tested, and continues until they are recovered.
Close contact does not mean: being more than six feet away in the same indoor environment for a short period of time, walking by, or briefly being in the same room.
What is Isolation, Quarantine and Self-Observation?
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|Examples of close contacts||Examples of not close contacts|
|You live in the same home||You were their cashier at the grocery store|
|You are intimate partners||You are a pharmacist who gave the person medication|
|You rode in the same car||You were in front of the person in line at the store|
|You had dinner together||You’re a coworker who briefly walked by to ask a question|
If you test positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer will call you. They will give you guidance to stay home and away from other people until you recover. This stops the virus from spreading to other people. They will answer any questions you may have and see if you need help getting resources to stay home.
They will ask you questions about your symptoms, activities, and who you may have come into contact with during a specific period of time. This information is only used to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The contact tracer does not enforce rules. You will not get in trouble if you gathered with people or did not follow protocols.
Based on your answers, the contact tracer will help you identify any close contacts. Those people may have been exposed to the virus, which means they have a greater chance of getting it themselves, and then of spreading it to others.Here's how contact tracing for COVID-19 works in Vermont.
If you are identified as a close contact, you will be contacted. The notification will come from the Health Department or a place you went to recently (for example, your employer, your child’s school, or your health care provider might contact you). They will tell you the date when you may have been exposed. They will give you guidance to stay home and away from others for a certain amount of time. They will ask you to watch for symptoms and ask if you need help while staying home.
It’s important to answer the call and to answer questions as completely as possible to make sure everyone knows what steps to take to prevent further spread of the virus. The contact tracer does not enforce rules. You will not get in trouble if you gathered with people or did not follow protocols.
If you receive a text message from 86361, this is a notification from the Health Department that you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Soon you will receive a call from a Health Department Contact Tracer.
If you are a close contact, get tested 2 days after your contact or as soon as you can. Find out where to get tested.
While Health Department contact tracers work to identify all close contacts, all might not be identified, or someone might know they are a close contact before they are reached.
If you think that you might be a close contact but were not notified, you may take precautions by quarantining for 14 days since the last day you were in contact with that person, and get tested on day 7 or after if you have not had any symptoms.
It can be stressful and overwhelming to learn you may have been exposed to COVID-19, but you can make sure your questions are answered and follow the health guidance to help prevent the virus from spreading. Here are more details on what to do if you’re a close contact.
If you had COVID-19 and are now a close contact of someone who tests positve, you do not need to quarantine if:
- you had a positive COVID-19 test result (from a PCR or antigen test) and have met the criteria to end your isolation, and
- the new exposure is within the first 3 months after symptoms from your initial infection started, or within the first 3 months of your first positive test if you didn’t have symptoms during your initial infection, and
- you have not had any COVID-19 symptoms since the new exposure.
- you are within 3 months of receiving your second dose of the vaccine, and
- you have not had any COVID-19 symptoms since the new exposure, and
- you are not an inpatient or resident in a health care setting or a health care worker in certain situations.
If you test positive or are a close contact, contact tracers will ask if you want to enroll in Sara Alert, a free and secure system that sends daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19 by email, text or automated or live person phone call. Depending on the symptoms you report, the Health Department may reach out to you to give guidance and next steps. Sara Alert is a symptom monitoring tool. It is not GPS-based, so it does not monitor your movements.
Sample text reminder:
Contact tracers use key dates to determine the amount of time you need to stay home. Your contact tracer will help walk you through this.
For people who test positive:
- Symptom onset date – the first day you noticed symptoms. This is the date contact tracers will use to determine your timeline. (If you haven't had symptoms, contact tracers will use the date you got tested.)
- Date of exposure – the date you were exposed to COVID-19. Contact tracers may not be able to know the exact date you were exposed, but they will narrow down the time period.
- Incubation period – the amount of time it takes after being exposed, to when you first notice symptoms. If you didn’t get symptoms, the incubation is the period of time between exposure and when you test positive for COVID-19. The incubation period can range from 2-14 days after being exposed. Contact tracers will ask about your activities in the last 14 days to get an idea of where and how you may have been exposed.
- Infectious period – the period of time when you have a high chance of spreading the virus to others, which means you were contagious. The infectious period starts two days before you get symptoms (or if you don’t have symptoms, the two days before you got tested) and continues until you have recovered. People you had close interactions with during this time are at risk and may be considered a close contact.
- Isolation – the period of time where you will stay home and away from other people until you recover. Isolation starts as soon as you notice symptoms (or if you haven't had symptoms, it starts as soon as you get a positive test result).
- End isolation – you can end home isolation when you have recovered. Generally, this means at least 10 days have passed since first noticed symptoms, symptoms have improved, and you are fever-free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication. If you haven't had symptoms, generally, you can end isolation 10 days after you were tested.
For close contacts:
- Date of exposure – the date you were exposed to COVID-19. This is when you were last in contact with someone who tested positive while they were infectious.
- Quarantine – this means staying home and away from others for 14 days to stop the virus from spreading to other people. Day 0 is the last day you were in close contact with the person who tested positive.
- End quarantine – close contacts can end quarantine after 14 days if they didn’t get sick. In Vermont, you may end quarantine early if you test negative on or after day 7 and remain symptom-free.
Contact tracing is a proven public health tool that has been used for decades to slow or stop the spread of infectious diseases.
- Listen to an interview (link is external) with a Health Department COVID-19 contact tracer (July 28, 2020)
- Spotlight on contact tracing data - page 28 (September 4, 2020)
- Spotlight on contact tracing data (link is external) - page 29 (July 10, 2020)
- Contact Tracing Infographic (link is external) (CDC)
- Principles of contact tracing (link is external) (CDC)