Daily Life During COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Updated April 6, 2021.
Provided to help residents reduce the spread of COVID-19, be prepared in case of an infection and know what to do if someone in their household is exposed to COVID-19.
What is the DHHS?
New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
What is the CDC?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the nation's health protection agency.
What is a "mask" according to the Portsmouth Mask Ordinance?
The Portsmouth Mask Ordinance requires a snugly-fitting face covering made of tightly woven soft material with full coverage of the nose and mouth, without vents or opening in the mask material. Plastic face shields alone have not been shown to provide adequate protection.
What is a quarantine? How long does it last?
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed or may have been exposed to a contagious disease while waiting to see if they become sick.
In the case of COVID-19, the New Hampshire DHHS recommends that individuals quarantine for at least 10 days after the day they were potentially exposed. However, according to the CDC, symptoms are known to appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure. So 14 days is precautionary and a 14-day quarantine should be considered, especially in certain high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, congregate housing, jails/prisons, etc.)
NH DHHS provides more detailed guidelines on home quarantine here.
It is very important that you stay home during your quarantine.
You will need to:
- Separate yourself from others in your home
- Wear a mask
- Check your temperature regularly
- Call your healthcare provider if you develop a fever or any other symptoms of an infection
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
- Keep household items and “touch surfaces” clean, and disinfect them often.
What is isolation and how is it different from quarantine? How long does it last?
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. It is very important that you stay home during your isolation, and follow the rules for quarantine, above. The NH DHHS provides guidance as follows:
- For those isolating due to COVID-19 infection, isolation should last at least 10 days after symptoms first appear and continue through a full day (24 hours) after symptoms have disappeared.
- For a person who tests positive for COVID-19 but does not feel sick, isolation lasts until at least 10 days have passed since the date of the first positive test.
NH DHHS provides more detailed guidelines on home isolation here.
What is a “bubble” (pandemic bubble or “pod”)?
These terms describe a small group of people who form their own social circle to quarantine together in an effort to provide social support and interaction without the greater risk of infection that results from unlimited social engagement.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the process of identifying persons have come into contact with an infected person and the collection of further information about these contacts. If you believe that you have been exposed, the safest thing to do is to get tested (click here for testing sites and contact info). The State of NH DHHS may be in contact if you test positive. However, with the recent surge in cases, NH DHHS is no longer contacting every person diagnosed with COVID-19. The Health Department may contact you to help the State expedite contact tracing (at the request of the State). If you have questions or concerns, you may contact the Health Dept.If you are contacted, it is very important that you reply to NH DHHS so they can keep track of the spread of COVID-19 within different communities and try to reduce the risk.
No one in my household has been exposed to COVID-19. What steps can we take now to help keep our household safe?
AVOID “the 3 C’s”: Crowds, closed spaces, close-contact settings. The virus spreads person to person on airborne droplets, so gatherings of any kind – where even one or two people might unknowingly be carrying the virus – put everyone in that gathering at higher risk. They then have the potential to spread the virus back to their homes, work, relatives and friends.
FOLLOW “the 3 W’s”: Wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands frequently.
The lowest risk is associated with outdoor activities. Good ventilation indoors also lessens the risk of airborne transmission. For more information, see the Ventilation FAQs.
For CDC advice for evaluating the risks of various activities, click here.
To reduce the impact on healthcare services and resources and to help protect your health, get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine when you are eligible. For more information, see the Vaccine FAQs.
When should I wear a mask?
The City of Portsmouth requires that masks must be worn in public places when around people who are not members of your household and you cannot maintain at least 6’ of physical distance (in effect through June 30, 2021). The State of NH also has a Mask Mandate in place through April 15, 2021. Other locations may have other rules, but this is good guidance wherever you may be. In private buildings, once someone has left the public space (e.g. reception area), mask wearing is subject to the policy of the property owner EXCEPT in the case of food service buildings where State guidelines require mask wearing by employees at all times.
How and when should I wash my hands?
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is especially important after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
What, if any, items should be disinfected before coming into my home?
While contact with a surface may expose you to the virus this is a less likely way of getting the virus based on recent scientific reports. It is not necessary to wipe down groceries or packages, rather wash your hands after shopping or bringing any item in to the home. Handwashing is key to preventing infection after touching surfaces.
What are the regulations and recommendations for travel to or from NH?
- Fully vaccinated people should continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling internationally.
- Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Fully vaccinated people must still have a negative COVID-19 test result before they board a flight to the United States and get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days after returning from international travel.
- Travel to and from any state or territory of the US is allowed for NH residents without quarantine.
Always check for additional requirements that may apply at your destination. State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state or territorial and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel. Follow all state, local, and territorial travel restrictions.
Please check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for updated important information regarding the following topics:
- Travelers/visitors to AND residents of NH following the last date of any high-risk travel, which includes international travel (outside of the U.S., including to/from Canada) or travel on a cruise ship need to self-quarantine for 10 days. Exception: Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel.
- All international travelers over the age of two years, regardless of vaccination status, must be tested no more than 3 days before travel by air into the United States (US) and show negative result to the airline before boarding, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
- International travelers arriving in the United States are recommended to get a COVID-19 viral test 3-5 days after travel regardless of vaccination status.
- The DHHS emphasizes the need even for persons not required to quarantine after travel, to still monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 daily, practice social distancing, avoid social and other group gatherings, always wear a well-fitted face mask when around other people, and practice good hand hygiene at all times.
If the test is obtained on day 6-7 of quarantine, the person is asymptomatic, and the test is negative, then the person can end their quarantine after 7 days, but they must still self-observe for symptoms of COVID-19 and strictly adhere to COVID-19 mitigation measures (social distancing, avoiding social and group gatherings, wearing a face mask when around other people, practicing frequent hand hygiene, etc.). Any new symptoms of COVID-19 should prompt the person to isolate and seek testing again (even if the person recently tested out of quarantine).
Additional exceptions to the travel quarantine can be made by businesses, organizations, schools, etc. for people traveling due to “essential travel” purposes who do not meet one of the above two criteria. The NH DHHS guidance for employers on returning to NH from outside New England is detailed here (as of March 16, 2021).
Please check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for updated important information regarding the following topics:
Follow state and local travel restrictions. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state or local health department.
When making your travel plans, please consider obtaining travel insurance, including coverage for charter flights if commercial airlines will not allow you to board because you or family members are ill.
Because of the rapidly evolving situation, while you are traveling, it may be possible that an outbreak occurs in the area where you are visiting. That may impact your ability to obtain medical care, you may find yourself subject to quarantine orders by that area, and traveling out of that area may be challenging.
I need to travel in a car with someone who is not a member of my household. Are there any measures we can take to reduce the risk of transmission while in the vehicle together?
Traveling with another person in a vehicle increases the risk of transmitting infection due to its enclosed space. Wearing a mask and putting as much distance as possible between driver and passenger -- passenger in right rear (RR) seat diagonally distant from the driver in the front left (FL) -- helps.
New research on air flow in the cabin of the vehicle has provided important new information:
- All 4 windows fully open provides the maximum air exchange (ACH), but may not be practical, especially in winter.
- Having the driver and the passenger each roll down their “own” windows (FL and RR) provides more air flow than keeping all the windows closed, but offers only a limited reduction in the possible transmission of aerosol droplets (e.g. the virus).
- The maximum benefit in air exchange that reduces transmission between driver and passenger is to open the front RIGHT and rear LEFT windows.
The New York Times reported the results of this study along with further information from one of the researchers. In additional work, researcher Varghese Mathai found that opening the windows halfway seemed to provide about the same benefit as opening them fully, while opening them just one-quarter of the way was less effective. He said the general findings would hold for most four-door, five-passenger vehicles. The flow in trucks and the effects of opening sunroofs/moonroofs are not yet reported.
What about travel sports team or participation in an activity such as dance, music, art, martial arts, etc. Where can I find the guidelines to be followed? Should I disinfect sports gear after each team event whether or not his/her equipment was shared with other players or coaches?
As the community transmission of the virus remains high, think carefully about decisions you make about whether to participate in these activities. New Hampshire’s “Safer at Home 2.0” guidance remains in place.
Families should make travel decisions based on the needs of the family and an understanding of the quarantine requirements for international (including Canada) or cruise ship travel. This is especially important as children attending in-person school would be required to learn remotely during the quarantine period.
Sharing of sports or other activity related equipment is discouraged and if this occurs the equipment must be disinfected between users as well as at the end of the activity. Even if the equipment has not been used by others disinfecting at the end of the activity is highly recommended.
Be sure your child understands the need to use only his/her own equipment and knows who to ask for help with disinfection should another person use the equipment.
Find more detailed answers to these questions in the Governor’s Reopening Guidelines.
I live alone. What else should I be thinking about?
In addition to the steps for every household listed above, it may be in some ways more difficult for a person living alone to stay indoors and away from other people during the pandemic. The City website provides this list of resources for those in need of support:
My workplace has closed temporarily for COVID-19 quarantine and cleaning. But now I’m out of work and am having a hard time paying my bills. Where can I get help?
Start with your city’s welfare office. They are connected to a network of resources that can help you pay electric bills, meet rent or mortgage payments, find food banks and other resources. In Portsmouth, for confidential assistance, call 603-610-7267 or email WFDept@CityofPortsmouth.com
COVID-19 SYMPTOMS & TESTING
What are common symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with the symptoms below may have COVID-19. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. The most common symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- 18 years of age and younger
- 65 years of age and older
- Members of racial and ethnic groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
- Those associated with long-term care facilities, schools or healthcare facilities
- Those associated with an identified cluster or outbreak.
How can I tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?
Flu is a respiratory disease that usually comes on suddenly and often has a higher fever with overall body aches. Flu generally lasts for 5-7 days and most people recover completely.
COVID-19 symptoms can be mild or severe and often include fever, difficult breathing, and cough.Many people have no symptoms; if a person has symptoms they usually appear 2 – 14 days after exposure.
As the symptoms are similar it’s important to see your health care provider and get a test to determine if your symptoms are the flu or COVID-19.
This CDC website explains how flu and COVID-19 symptoms compare.
What is “long COVID-19”? What are “long-haulers”?
Some people with COVID-19 continue to experience symptoms three or more months following initial COVID-19 infection (see graph below). Sometimes the symptoms are new and sometimes they linger beyond the usual recovery period. The medical profession is using the term “COVID-19 long-hauler” to describe this phenomenon.
The best way to prevent long term complications is to avoid infection in the first place:
- get a COVID-19 vaccination
- continue to wear masks
- maintain physical distancing
- wash your hands frequently
- avoid crowds and poorly-ventilated spaces
Where can I get a COVID-19 test in the Portsmouth area?
All testing sites require preregistration or an appointment made by phone or online as listed below. All of these testing locations offer Molecular (PCR) testing.
This site uses the drug store’s drive-thru window where you receive instructions from the pharmacist on taking your own sample from your nose using a swab. Test results take 2-7 days and you will receive a phone call if your test is positive.
Call: (833) 263-0131
PCR test: Either a nasal swab and throat swab are collected by a medical person once you arrive at Convenient MD. The swab is then sent to the lab and results come back in 3-7 days. You will receive a phone call if your test is positive for the virus.
Antigen test: Also known as a rapid test, you will need a referral from your health care provider to get the antigen test. This test is only available to those that have been experiencing symptoms for 5 days or less. Results are given in person; the wait time is 15 minutes.
When you arrive for your appointment, a medical aide will take a nasal swab. This site also offers antibody testing.
Call: (603) 294-1231
For more information on types of tests and other frequently asked questions, visit the City website page on Testing FAQs.
What should I do if I learn that I may have been exposed to the virus (for example, at a restaurant)?
Contact tracing is the process of identifying persons have come into contact with an infected person and the collection of further information about these contacts. If you believe that you have been exposed, the safest thing to do is to get tested (click here for testing sites and contact info). The NH DHHS may be in contact if you test positive. However, with the recent surge in cases, NH DHHS is no longer contacting every person diagnosed with COVID-19, but instead will contact only the individuals who fall into the following categories:
In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible, the Health Department may contact you to help the State expedite contact tracing (at the request of the State). If you have questions or concerns, you may contact the Health Dept. If you are contacted, it is very important that you reply to NH DHHS so they can keep track of the spread of COVID-19 within different communities and try to reduce the risk.
You can get a COVID-19 test on your own at any time. The following locations in Portsmouth offer testing. Most testing sites require preregistration or an appointment made by phone or online as listed below. All of these testing locations offer Molecular (PCR) testing and Convenient MD also offers antigen testing for those who have had symptoms for 1-5 days. A referral from your health care provider is required for antigen testing.
What about the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC and FDA have approved three safe and effective vaccines, all of which are being distributed by the State of NH. The first phases of the vaccination schedule allowed for healthcare providers and the most vulnerable populations (phase 1A), those over 65 years of age (phase 1B), school staff and childcare providers (phase 2A) and those over 50 (phase 2B) to be vaccinated. All of these categories can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine. On March 25, NH DHHS accelerated the schedule for vaccinating the balance of the NH population (every resident age 16 or older).
For more answers to questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations, visit this webpage of Vaccination FAQs.
The basic information provided here is just a start. For more information and the most current guidance, visit:
- State Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 website.
- State Hotline: dial 2-1-1
- The Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 website.
- The City of Portsmouth’s Health Department special page dedicated to the latest information about COVID-19.