COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

For a comprehensive list of FAQs, please visit the CDC's website.

Cloth Face Coverings FAQs (Source: CDC)

General Business FAQs (Source: CDC)

Unemployment FAQs (Source: WI Dept of Workforce Development)

COVID-19: FAQs on Health Privacy (Source: WI DHS) 

Event Planning & COVID-19 FAQs (Source: CDC)


Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

A: Symptoms may include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, chills, repeated shaking with chills, body or muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and new loss of taste or smell. Click here for more info on symptoms and for a list of local online symptom checkers. 


Q: Can antibody testing be used to inform workplace decisions, such as who can safely return to work or who does or does not need to use personal protective equipment?

A: Antibody testing should not be used to inform workplace decisions, including return-to-work or personal protective equipment decisions. Antibody testing can only determine whether antibodies are present in an individual’s blood. We don’t know yet whether having antibodies means that a person is immune to or protected from future COVID-19 infection. Additional FAQ about antibody testing can be found on the DHS COVID-19 Testing page


Q: I have had COVID-19. Who do I contact to donate convalescent plasma? 

A: If you are fully recovered from COVID-19 and meet certain criteria, you may be able to help out. You can contact either your local Community Blood Center or the American Red Cross.


Q: We get questions like the following: 

  • "My friend said she was diagnosed with COVID-19, but they didn't run a test. Is she telling the truth?" 
  • "I was a close contact to a lab confirmed positive case of COVID-19, I got sick and was tested, but the result was negative. My doctor said she feels that I do have COVID-19 and told me to isolate at home just as if my test was positive. How can my doctor do that? Isn't that inflating the positive counts of COVID-19?"

A: COVID-19 infections can most often be categorized as: 

  • Lab confirmed positive case: This is the most clean cut way to diagnose COVID-19. The person has a positive test for COVID-19. WCHD is not currently reporting anything other than lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our numbers. 
  • Probable case: an illness meeting the clinical criteria AND epidemiologic evidence without a confirmed lab test.
  • Clinical criteria: symptoms such as fever or chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, loss of sense of smell or taste, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, severe respiratory illness. 
  • Epidemiologic evidence: any one of the following exposures in the 14 days before onset of symptoms: Close contact with a confirmed OR probable case of COVID-19 disease; Member of a cluster of illnesses where at least one lab confirmed case has been diagnosed; Travel to or resides in an area with sustained, ongoing community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. 

So it is possible for someone to be diagnosed with COVID-19 without having a test done or even having a negative test. However, the ONLY COVID-19 infections that are currently reported and get added to the confirmed positive case count numbers are the lab confirmed positive cases, so there is no concern that the other cases inflate the number of confirmed positive cases. For more information about how public health and healthcare providers classify COVID-19 infections please see the DHS website. 


Quarantine Q&A 

Q: What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

A: Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease. Isolation separates people that have tested positive for COVID-19 from people who are not sick. Isolation recommendation is 24 hours fever free without using medicine that reduces fever and 24 hours with symptom improvement and at least 10 days from onset of symptoms. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to COVID-19 to see if they become sick.


Q: What if I get sick during quarantine?

A: Call your doctor if you need medical care, and isolate yourself from other well members of the house, if possible. More can be found at:  If you think you are sick .


Q: When can a recovering COVID-19 patient return to work? 

A: Ensure that employees who have symptoms of respiratory illness stay home and do not come to work until:

  • They are free of fever (>100.4°F) for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine; AND
  • Symptoms have improved; AND
  • Ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared.


Q: What is the definition a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case? If a person has 15 minutes or more of exposure over the course of a day, would they be considered a close contact? 

A: Based on CDC and DHS guidance, one definition of a close contact is being within 6 feet of a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes during a single day. For example, this could be 15+ minutes of sustained contact closer than 6 feet or three, five minute periods of contact closer than 6 feet over the course a day. Both of these examples would be considered close contact. Close contacts should wait at least 48 hours after exposure before they are tested, because COVID-19 is most commonly first detectable 3-5 days after exposure. 


Masks & Face Coverings Q&A

Q: How does wearing a mask or cloth face covering slow the spread of COVID-19? 

A: Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth minimizes the spread of COVID-19. It creates a barrier that helps prevents respiratory droplets from traveling into the air while people are speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing. Many people have the virus but don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms. Wearing a mask protects others and reduces the chance of unintentionally spreading the virus.


Q: Should I wear a mask or cloth face covering?

A: If you are unvaccinated, we strongly recommend wearing a mask or cloth face covering when physical distancing is hard to maintain and you are around people who are not members of your household. With that being said, masks should not be used as a substitute for physical distancing. For the best protection, you should both physical distance and wear a mask.

  • Do not wear a mask if you have trouble breathing or are unable to remove it without assistance. Do not put masks on children under 2 years of age.
  • Do not wear a mask with a valve. Because the valve releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, this type of mask doesn't prevent the wearer from spreading the virus.
  • There are additional situations where wearing a mask could introduce safety concerns. For example, if you are engaging in high intensity activities, such as running, you may not be able to wear a mask. It's also recommended that you don't wear a mask when swimming as it is difficult to breathe through a wet mask. There may also be work hazards that don't allow for a mask, such as factories where straps could get caught in machinery or there is a risk for heat-related illness. Click here for more situations where you may want to consider an alternative or adaptation.


Q: If I'm caring for someone with COVID-19, should I wear a mask?

A: It is most important that the person who is sick wears a mask, this is called “source control.” To prevent getting sick, caregivers should continue to practice key preventive actions: avoid close contact as much as possible, clean hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; and frequently clean and disinfect surfaces. Those caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 at home or in a non-healthcare setting may also wear a cloth face covering. However, the protective effects—how well the cloth face covering protects healthy people from breathing in the virus—are unknown. 


Q: What should I do if my employer is not protecting workers from COVID-19?

A: Private sector employees: Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is. If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can contact your OSHA regional office by phone or online at the OSHA website. Many complaints are handled informally by OSHA. There are whistleblower provisions which are designed to protect employees who file a complaint from losing employment or pay, and OSHA has a whistleblower liaison. 


Public sector employees: Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is. If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can send questions or concerns to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) Tech mailbox. You can also file a complaint or concern on the DSPS webpage. Click on “file a complaint” on the right side of the page to reach an online form. Make sure to enter your category and profession in the dropdown boxes to route your question, concern, or complaint to the right person.