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)

Governor Evers Face Coverings Order FAQs 


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: What is social distancing? 

A: Click here to view a helpful infographic


Q: What is an isolation site?

A: An isolation site benefits the community in many ways. It provides a safe place for people to recover from COVID-19 without infecting others, which in turn helps prevent further spread of the virus. An isolation site also preserves space at local hospitals by opening up room for those that need it the most.


Q: Who would use an isolation site?

A: An isolation site is a great option for people who lack an appropriate setting to recover from COVID-19 and do not need medical support. This could include someone who needs to protect a vulnerable family member, a healthcare worker exposed to the virus, or someone that cannot properly distance from others in the home. People staying in an isolation site are either confirmed to have COVID-19 or they are suspected to have the illness. Individuals staying at an isolation site are there voluntarily and must be referred by a medical provider or public health official. You cannot call the site directly to reserve a room.


Q: Is there a risk to the community if an isolation site is set up?

A: An isolation site actually protects the community by managing the virus and preventing further spread. An isolation site is an area that is restricted from the public, and only those that can remain in their room for the entire duration of their stay will be admitted. COVID-19 is an unpredictable disease, so preparing an isolation site now ensures that we will be ready should a surge or a need arise.


Q: I have been exposed to COVID-19, and my work is making me stay home for 14 days. Can't I just get a test at my doctor and, if it's negative, go back to work?

A: No. According to the CDC, the incubation period (the time from being exposed to beginning symptoms) for COVID-19 is thought to extend to 14 days, with a median time of 4-5 days from exposure to symptoms onset. A negative test result before 14 days post-exposure only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. So even if you have a negative test on day 7, you still must finish out the 14 days quarantine.


Q: My college age child is living in an apartment for the summer in the town where she goes to college. She is very healthy otherwise, but tested positive for COVID-19. Should I insist she come home?

A: W e do not recommend young adults leave summer housing in their college area to come home u nless your child has an underlying medical condition that could be complicated by COVID-19; needs healthcare and must be within network to receive care; or has a lot of roommates and can't self-isolate at their college residence but could isolate at their parents and expose less people. As long as they can safely distance themselves from others in their current living situation, they should stay in that local community to not further spread the virus.


Q: I keep hearing on the news that the positive COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin are going down, why is the Winnebago County Health Department still suggesting social distancing, mask wearing and avoiding assembling in groups over 10?

A: Each community within Wisconsin is at a different point in spread of the virus. Currently, Winnebago County is seeing an increase in cases--especially in those aged 20-29 who report attending social events over Memorial Day, birthday parties and congregating in local taverns. These activities can spread the virus very easily.


Q: Why is it a big deal if 20-29 year olds are coming down with COVID-19? Aren't they likely to have minimal symptoms, and it affects them like a cold or the flu? So what?

A: Most healthy 20-29 year olds will not have severe cases of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this age demographic tends to have summer employment in areas that can spread the virus such as nursing homes, day cares, day camps, bars and restaurants. Exposing the medically fragile to the virus or an entire shift of coworkers can have negative consequences on people other than that young adult. A bar or restaurant may also need to close due to a shortage of staff or an elderly person could have dire outcomes if exposed to COVID-19. 


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: Is it safe to have a cookout?

A: Have a barbecue or cookout with the people you live with. If you do decide to have a barbecue, limit the gathering to less than ten people, keep 6 feet apart, wear a facial covering when possible, and wash your hands before and after using shared surfaces. (Source: DHS)


Q: What about potlucks?

A: Even if the potluck is outside, this is a high-risk activity because sharing commonly touched surfaces with other people makes it easier to spread the virus. Suggest everyone brings their own dishes for themselves or order a separate dish for each person from a local restaurant. (Source: DHS)


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. 


Q: How do you define a wave in a pandemic? Are we in the first wave, or the second, of this one?

A: A second wave can be defined as a recurrence after a period of widespread decline. Until we see a period of widespread decline in Wisconsin, we are still considered to be in the first wave. 


Q: My friend had a negative COVID-19 test and her doctor said she can go back to work, but public health is telling me I cannot go back to work and have to stay quarantined. Why can some people go back to work and others have to stay quarantined?

A: The most likely scenario is that your friend was tested because they had symptoms similar to COVID-19, but had no known exposure to COVID-19. Since that test was negative, they can return to work the same as with any other viral illness. A negative COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time. It means that at the time the sample was taken that person did not have an active infection. The test measures "infection, not exposure." Because you mentioned quarantine for yourself, that likely means that you were exposed to COVID-19 and were contacted by public health. People who have been exposed to COVID-19, have a COVID-19 test and receive a negative result do not end their quarantine early. We know that the incubation period for COVID-19 is 2-14 days. That means after an exposure it can take between 2 and 14 days for you to show symptoms.


Let's look at an example:

You are exposed on July 4, and are notified of the exposure on July 7, then placed in quarantine through July 18 , have no symptoms but are tested on July 8th, there are still an additional 10 days that you could develop illness. A negative test on July 8 would not predict your status on any of the following days in quarantine.


Q: If the test won't let me out of quarantine early, then why do we even do it?

A: We know that people can be "asymptomatic spreaders" (meaning they have no symptoms, but can still infect others) so following these people and isolating them until they are not infectious is one of the ways we can reduce spread of COVID-19.


Quarantine Q&A

Q: Can I end my quarantine if I have a negative COVID-19 test?

A: No. It may take up to 14 days for the illness to surface. Also, if a test is taken immediately after exposure, it will most often show up negative.


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: How long will I need to stay in quarantine if I was in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

A: Since it may take up to 14 days for you to have symptoms after infection, you will need to self-quarantine and self-monitor for 14 days from:

  • When you last had contact with the sick member of your household, OR
  • When the last sick member of your household recovered (the day they no longer had fever and had improvements in other symptoms).


Q: What if someone else in my household gets sick? 

A: If someone who lives in your household gets sick and are unable to separate from others, all well members of your household need to extend their self-quarantine and self-monitoring for 14 days from the date the last person recovered from their illness.


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. A negative test result does not exempt a close contact from the requirement to quarantine, which should be continued for the recommended 14 days in all cases. In some cases, repeat testing near the end of the quarantine period may be considered to exclude asymptomatic infection before resuming activities that involve close contact with individuals at risk for severe COVID-19.  


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 able, 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: I wear a mask when I go to public places, but I see a lot of people not wearing masks. Why isn’t the health department making it a requirement for everyone to wear masks? 

A: Winnebago County does not currently have a local ordinance providing the authority to enforce health orders like a mask requirement. Winnebago County would need to adopt WI State Statute 252 in local ordinance for health orders to be enforceable for the entire Winnebago County Health Department jurisdiction. Even though this is not an enforceable mandate, it's still a strong recommendation that everyone who is safely able to wear a mask should wear a mask.


Q: How can I voice my opinion regarding the health department’s ability to create and/or enforce health orders for our community?

A: We appreciate citizens voicing their concerns/opinions regarding the health precaution measures taken locally to ensure that decisions are representative of the community we serve. Contact your County Board Supervisors to make sure they have well-represented information when making their decisions/votes on how health precautions are implemented in Winnebago County.


Here is a link to Winnebago County’s Supervisor Directory and District Search by Address where you can find your corresponding representative on the Winnebago County Supervisory Board. You may also reach out to your local elected officials and the businesses you frequent to share your opinion.


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.