Tips

How To Tell People You Have COVID-19?

Khang T. Vuong, MHA06 Oct 2021

Unawareness and lack of communication can lead to an accelerated community spread between one individual to many others. A few things you should keep in mind:

  • It is not your fault that you are feeling this way; we are in a pandemic
  • Coronavirus can spread extremely quickly; one contact could turn into 30+ infected individuals
  • Not communicating is the same as contributing to the spread of this virus
  • You are doing people a favor by letting them know, and you could save lives by doing so

This framework of why, when, how, and what to say will guide you through the process of letting your loved ones know you might have Coronavirus, from the moment you suspect you may have COVID-19 symptoms to the moment you test positive.

While no one wants to hear that they may have been exposed to Coronavirus, fostering positive communication will help contain the spread of coronavirus by encouraging your loved ones to practice self-containment and minimize further exposure.

Why Should You Tell People You Have COVID-19?

According to McKinsey, the Coronavirus is much more contagious and lethal than the flu. The disease spreads from respiratory droplets, which can travel through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or from close person-to-person contact, meaning people have come within six feet of one another.

COVID 19 is much more infectious than influenza

Each host could spread to 2-4 other people without even knowing. This means that if you have come within six feet of someone who may have coronavirus, they have a higher chance of getting the infection from you, especially if masks were not being worn. 

Whether or not a person experiences symptoms, they can spread the disease to other people in the community. 

While most young, healthy people will recover from COVID-19, the elderly (ages 70 and over) are 40 to 90 times more likely to die from Coronavirus complications than younger adults in their 30s. This means you could unknowingly put yourself and your friends and family members at risk if preventative measures were taken lightly.

Older people are more like to die from COVID-19 than younger individuals

Knowing that you may have been exposed to coronavirus is the first step toward getting tested and taking measures to prevent its spread to others in the community - which is why if you have tested positive for coronavirus (or suspect you may have been exposed to it), you owe it to your loved ones to notify them about their potential exposure to COVID-19.

Will I Get Fired From My Job If I Have COVID-19?

While you should always consult with an attorney, having an understanding of basic rights can help.

"Are they not attending because they have their own serious medical condition, or because they are caring for a family member who has a serious medical condition? In those circumstances, the employee's job would be protected by the Family Medical Leave Act." - said Sheri Oluyemi, an Atlanta-based employment attorney.

"If your employee is exempt, meaning they have more a more managerial role and they're usually on a salary, you can also stop paying them if they aren't coming to work, but there are more nuances," Oluyemi said.

When To Tell Someone You Have COVID-19 

Sometimes, you may learn that you have been exposed to coronavirus by another person in your life who has tested positive. Other times, you may not know you have COVID-19 until you begin to express symptoms of the disease.

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Say Something When You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

When you learn that you may have been exposed to coronavirus by another person in your community, you should take the following precautions to notify people you may have had close contact with about your potential exposure to COVID-19:

  • Estimate the date of exposure using information given to you by the person who exposed you to COVID-19. Ask them when they began to express symptoms of the disease and when they tested positive for coronavirus, then use your records to determine when you had contact with them during the 14 days before they became sick.
  • Compile a list of people you may have had contact with within the days following your exposure to the coronavirus. Doctors define "close contact" as 10 minutes or more of face-to-face interaction. Anyone you may have had close contact with within the days following your exposure to the coronavirus may be at risk. Create a list of people you know whom you may have been exposed to the disease in the days following your initial exposure to someone with COVID-19.
  • Craft a carefully worded message to anyone you may have had close contact with after being exposed to coronavirus. Be compassionate in your wording and apologize for putting the other person at risk, but stress that you have not yet been tested for the coronavirus and plan to do so. Let them know you will keep them updated throughout the testing process and that they should continue to practice social distancing in the meantime.

Say Something When You Have COVID-19 Symptoms

If you are not sure if you were exposed to the coronavirus or not (for example, someone in your workplace tests positive, but they work in an entirely different department than you -- or you were in a public place where someone was coughing, but you're not sure if they were sick), keep a watchful eye for symptoms of COVID-19. 

Symptoms of novel coronavirus infection may appear 2-14 days after exposure. These include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficult breathing
  • In some cases, sore throat and muscle aches

Even if you do not show symptoms, however, you may still have the coronavirus and be able to spread it to others in your community, some of whom might be at greater risk of mortality. That's why it's important to get tested for coronavirus anytime you suspect you may have had contact with another person who has COVID-19.

You should still compile a list of loved ones you may have had contact with and let them know you are planning to get tested for COVID-19. However, let them know that you are unsure if you were exposed to the disease or not, sharing as many details as you feel comfortable with and that in the meantime, they should continue to practice social distancing.

Say Something Immediately When Getting Tested For COVID-19

If you suspect you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your community to let them know. Contact your county health department with any concerns you may have about having the coronavirus.

Update anyone whom you have previously notified about your potential coronavirus exposure, letting them know that you have been or are in the process of getting tested. In the meantime, let them know that they should also practice self-quarantine and avoid leaving home at all costs.

Once you test positive for COVID-19, it becomes essential to notify anyone with whom you may have had close contact a week before receiving your positive test result (or within 14 days of becoming symptomatic if you have symptoms of the coronavirus).

How To Tell People

Play the role of an educator. If you have tested positive for coronavirus and are ready to tell your loved ones about their potential exposure to COVID-19, you should prepare to tell loved ones about your condition. While a face-to-face conversation is ideal, you want to minimize your face-to-face exposure to others when you have the coronavirus.

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You have a few options when it comes to communicating with your loved ones regarding the coronavirus. Here is our evaluation of each method of communication and whether it works for sharing this news:

Tell People You Have Seen in the Last Week

Texting is the fastest way to communicate with a large group of friends or family. If you recently attended a party or large get-together, you may want to shoot your loved ones a group message such as:

In-person communication is not a good idea when communicating that you have the coronavirus since you run the risk of spreading the disease further. Therefore, you should talk to your loved ones over FaceTime or Skype, on the phone, or via text or email. We recommend FaceTime or Skype if possible, though text or email provides the advantage of allowing you to plan out your words beforehand carefully.

Texting is the best medium when you don't feel well and may not be able to talk.

Follow our template below to send a text or email to loved ones letting them know that you may have the Coronavirus:

"I know this may be hard for you, so if you want to talk, give me a call.

After we spent time together recently, I went to get tested on [Date and time]. Before getting tested, I experienced [symptoms]. Since we had contact recently, my healthcare provider recommends that you and your loved ones quarantine yourself immediately and let everybody around you know about this situation. Here is a beneficial article: www.talktomira.com/post/how-to-tell-people-you-have-the-coronavirus-covid-19"

Call those who you think are high-risks (elders, people with chronic diseases, health workers)

Calling loved ones who live nearby is a fast way to notify them to contain the spread. Unlike a text or email, you don‚t run the risk that they will not see the message in time. Try to catch them at a time you know they will answer, rather than leaving a message. A sample phone call could start with something like this:

"Hey, I know this may be a little bit of a disruption to your day. So if you are doing something and need to catch a breath, I can wait for a few seconds...

I want to make sure you are okay. I have been feeling a little strange; I went and got tested for COVID-19. I am waiting for the results now, but I want to let you know that you may want to self-quarantine and let everybody around you know.

I apologize for putting you in this uncomfortable position. As I'm sure you know, this was not my intent. This test result has come as a shock to my family and me, too."

In-person Communication Is Not A Good Idea

In-person communication is not a good idea when communicating that you have the coronavirus since you run the risk of spreading the disease further. Therefore, you should talk to your loved ones over FaceTime or Skype, on the phone, or via text or email. We recommend FaceTime or Skype if possible, though text or email provides the advantage of allowing you to plan out your words beforehand carefully.

Preparing for Any Reaction

Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict how someone will react to such sensitive news as finding out they may have been exposed to coronavirus. Some people you know may be kind and understanding, while others may be sad or frustrated.

Whatever happens, try to remember that a range of emotional responses to this news can be considered "normal," and exercise patience with your loved ones when it comes to this conversation. 

When someone you love finds out you may have exposed them to coronavirus, they may have several questions about COVID-19 and their potential risk.

You should always refer to the latest information published by the CDC or WHO when answering loved ones' questions about the coronavirus. Your loved one may also want to contact their primary care doctor via phone or message to ask any additional questions they still have about the disease.

This article is by no means legal or medical advice. As always, contact your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health.