What to Do If You Think You May Have Coronavirus

“Restrict activities outside the home,” Dr. Watkins says. “Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis should be avoided.”

This is much more feasible for some people than others. Not everyone is easily able to stay home from work or school even in the worst of circumstances, whether because they need the money, because they have no leave available at their jobs, because they live in abusive or unaccepting households, or any other number of reasons. But it’s incredibly important that anyone with the new coronavirus or with a suspected case of it tries to stay home and away from other people if at all possible.

The only major exception to this rule is if your symptoms progress to the point where you need to see a doctor, like if you have significant trouble breathing. Then it would be necessary to leave so you could receive care. There have been conflicting reports as to what constitutes a “mild” versus “severe” case of the new coronavirus, so the point is really to listen to your body: If you’re concerned and having major issues like shortness of breath, seek medical care.

If you need to leave your home for care, tell your doctor or the emergency room that you have COVID-19 before you arrive.

If you get diagnosed with the new coronavirus, public health personnel might be in touch with you. How regularly that happens will likely depend on where exactly you are and may become less frequent as the COVID-19 caseload increases. Both experts agree, it’s really important to monitor your symptoms closely (which you’d probably do anyway, but it’s good to put it out there just in case).

If you’re dealing with symptoms like increasing shortness of breath, Dr. Watkins suggests seeking medical care, like by calling 911, going to the emergency room, or going to your doctor’s office.

If you or your caretaker call 911, be sure to notify the dispatch team that the emergency involves a case of diagnosed or suspected COVID-19, he says. It’s the same situation with going to your doctor or a hospital: Call ahead, let them know you have a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 (or think you have it) and your symptoms are getting worse so you need treatment.

“This will help [them] take steps to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected,” Dr. Watkins explains.

If you have the new coronavirus and are older than 60 or have chronic medical conditions like heart disease (or both), you’re more vulnerable to complications, according to the WHO. (In fact, the chances of COVID-19 becoming severe actually start increasing at around age 40.) If any of this applies to you, it’s especially important for you or whoever is taking care of you to be extra observant of your health. “If [you or your] caretakers notice any distressing symptoms such trouble breathing, high fevers that don’t resolve with medications, any new chest pains, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary, a medical provider should be contacted,” Dr. Bhadelia says.

Isolate yourself from other people and animals in your home if you can.

“As much as possible, those ill with COVID-19 should stay in a specific room and away from other people in the home,” Dr. Watkins says. “Also, they should use a separate bathroom, if available.”

Dr. Bhadelia stresses again that some of the guidance on how to protect anyone you live with from the new coronavirus will vary between states. “For those sharing a home with someone sick, health officials may need to assess if it is possible for the sick to recover in their own bedrooms [and] whether there are caretakers at home who can assist and are equipped appropriately to protect themselves,” she says. “Public health officials will have guidance on next steps as people you live with may also need to be quarantined.”

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