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K-State Today

August 20, 2020

Understanding close contacts and contact tracing

Submitted by Lafene Health Center

All K-Staters should understand what a close contact is, and the need to self-quarantine or self-monitor if you are a close contact.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an individual with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more starting from two days, or 48 hours, before illness onset — or, for asymptomatic patients, two days before positive specimen collection — until the time the patient is isolated. 

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

  • If you had direct physical contact with the person (e.g., hug, kiss, handshake). 
  • If you were within 6 feet of the person for 10 minutes or more. 
  • If you had contact with the person's respiratory secretions (e.g., coughed/sneezed on, contact with dirty tissue, sharing a drinking glass, food or towels or other personal items). 
  • If you stayed overnight for at least one night in a household with the person. 

Remember that someone who is sick with COVID-19 can spread it two days, or 48 hours, before they show any symptoms. Also, not everyone with COVID-19 will have symptoms, but they may still spread it to others. 

Call Lafene Health Center or your health care provider and tell them about your close contact with the infected person and ask for guidance regarding quarantine. Your health care provider will work with your local or state public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if you need to be tested. Calling ahead allows a medical professional to assess your symptoms over the phone and determine if you should be tested for COVID-19. If you test negative during your quarantine period, you will still need to complete your full 14-day quarantine before it is safe to go back to in-person class or work or to be around others. 

If you are a close contact, it is important to self-quarantine and self-monitor to protect yourself, your family and your community.     

Self-quarantine means to stay home as much as possible, avoid travel and go out only if absolutely necessary. If you must go out, limit your travel to essential needs such as going to the doctor or getting groceries or medications. Remember to always wear a face covering. This helps protect others by preventing respiratory droplets from getting into the air. Remember to wash your hands often and practice good hygiene. 

Read more about isolation and quarantine and the COVID-19 exposure protocols you must follow before returning to in-person class, work or other university activities.

Self-monitoring includes measuring your temperature twice a day, watching for cough or difficulty breathing and responding to phone calls, texts or emails from Lafene Health Center or your local health department. This contact from Lafene Health Center or the local health department is called contact tracingContact tracing slows the spread of COVID-19 by letting people know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms. Contact tracing helps people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 get tested and asks people to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 or self-quarantine if they are a close contact. 

If you develop fever, cough, have difficulty breathing or any other symptoms of COVID-19, call Lafene Health Center at 785-532-6544 or your health care provider. Isolate yourself from others in your home, practice good hand hygiene, sanitize surfaces in your home and wear a face covering if you need to be around other people. If you need emergency medical attention, call 911 and let them know that you are being monitored for COVID-19. 

Everyone should prevent the spread of COVID-19 by: 

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Covering your cough with your elbow or a tissue. 
  • Wearing a face covering. 
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • Maintaining 6-feet physical distance when possible. 

The COVID-19 Guidance and FAQ website is the best source for the most up-to-date information regarding the health and wellness guidance for students, faculty and staff.