Daily Life During COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Updated December 28, 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 are the new NH Governor’s Guidelines?

As of May 7, 2021, these NH Universal Best Practices replace all of the state’s prior “Safer at Home 2.0” business operations guidance. These Universal Best Practices are recommendations for all individuals, businesses, and organizations to consider and implement.

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.

The CDC updated their guidance on December 27, 2021 with the following recommendations:

CDC guidance on exposure and testing

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 “cohorting”?
“Cohorting” involves creating small groups of individuals, keeping those individuals consistently together in one group, and preventing interaction between people of different groups. It is a mitigation/control strategy against the spread of COVID-19 further described in the NH Best Practices document.

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. NH DHHS is no longer contacting every person diagnosed with COVID-19 but may contact those whose tests reveal one of the Variants of Concern, and/or break-through cases where someone who is fully vaccinated tests positive.
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.

What is meant by “fully vaccinated”?

According to the CDC, “fully vaccinated” means 2 weeks after the second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Any condition or medication that weakens the immune system may limit protection provided by vaccination. Individuals with these issues should discuss with their healthcare provider.


No one in my household has been exposed to COVID-19. What steps can we take now to help keep our household safe?

Get a vaccination. Safe, effective vaccines are now available, at no cost, to anyone age 12 or over who wishes one. For more information, see the Vaccine FAQs.

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.

The three C's

FOLLOW “the 3 W’s”: Wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands frequently. See below for lessened restrictions for those fully-vaccinated.

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 COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, see the Vaccine FAQs.

Mask wearers

When should I wear a mask?
The NH DHHS continues to urge the use of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) – masks, distancing and hand hygiene -- to control the spread of COVID-19. The NH Universal Guidelines allow businesses, organizations and event organizers to require face masks.

On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.

The new CDC guidance for those who have been vaccinated recommends that  residents in areas with “High” or “Severe” Community Transmission rates should consider wearing masks indoors, whether they are vaccinated or not, due to the higher infectiousness of the Delta variant. New research published in the CDC weekly report found that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant of COVID-19. The CDC’s masking recommendation was updated "to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones." For the latest NH DHHS currently levels of community transmission on the Seacoast, click here

Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. However, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others. To reduce their risk of becoming infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others: CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people:

  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. NOTE: For the latest NH DHHS information on local community transmission levels, click here: https://www.covid19.nh.gov/dashboard/map
    • Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or is at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions.
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Get tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.


Fully vaccinated individuals CAN:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues.

CDC prevention measures continue to apply to all travelers, including those who are vaccinated. All travelers are required to wear a mask on all 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.



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. Cleaning and disinfection in business settings is guided by Universal Best Practices

What are the regulations and recommendations for travel to or from NH?

NH DHHS guidelines continue to urge caution while traveling, whether or not you are fully vaccinated, for example:

  • 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. 

    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.

  • 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 state or territorial and local health department where you are, along your route, 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 and those within 90 days of an active infection documented by a COVID-19 test do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel.

RESTRICTED TRAVEL FROM SOUTH AFRICA -- As of November 26, 2021 the US government has decided to suspend and restrict the entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States (“noncitizens”) who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

The CDC issued the following guidance, effective December 3, 2021:

Non-U.S. citizens who are not immigrants to the United States are required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to fly to the United States. There will be very limited exceptions to this vaccination requirement for certain non-U.S. citizens who are not immigrants, including children under the age of 18.

Fully vaccinated air passengers, regardless of citizenship, are required to show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test taken no more than ONE day before they board their flight to the United States. Passengers who are not fully vaccinated already require a test taken no more than one day before departing to the United States.

All air passengers to the United States are required to provide basic contact information to airlines before boarding flights to the United States. This will allow airlines to better coordinate with public health agencies to share information when needed to keep the public safe and informed, and strengthen their ability to rapidly identify and contact people in the U.S. who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, such as COVID-19.

  • All international travelers over the age of two years, regardless of vaccination status, must be tested no more than 1 day 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 employees returning to NH from outside New England is detailed here (as of May 7, 2021).

  • The CDC and US State Department revised their international travel guidance on June 14, 2021 and moved 58 countries and territories out of the "Do Not Travel" (Level 4) category. CDC advises that unvaccinated citizens should avoid nonessential travel to the Level 3 "Reconsider Travel" category and that those who do decide to travel to those countries should be vaccinated. Canada and Mexico are in the Level 3 category. Note: On June 11, 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau ended the requirement that Canadians returning from visits to the US must quarantine for 2 weeks.

Additional guidelines offered through the links below:

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.

Sport risk

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 "substantial," think carefully about decisions you make about whether to participate in these activities.

The Universal Best Practices document provides general guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in various settings, including sports and other group activities. A separate Best Practices document provides additional guidance for children’s overnight activities in congregate settings. See that document here.

Outdoor activities carry a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 compared to that are activities that take place wholly or partially indoors. Two of the benefits of outdoor activities are open ventilation and the neutralizing effect of sunshine on the virus. Outdoor activities consistent with NH’s Universal Best Practices guidance provide an opportunity to keep kids active in a lower risk setting.

Sharing of sports or other activity related equipment is discouraged. If this occurs the equipment should be disinfected between users. 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. Even if the equipment has not been used by others disinfecting at the end of the activity is highly recommended.


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 


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
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.

Symptoms of "Long-COVID 19"

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?

Please follow this link to find detailed information about testing for COVID-19, including types of tests, how testing is done, when you should consider being tested, and local test sites.



For more information, see the Vaccination FAQ document on the City website.

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. Anyone age 12 or over can make an appointment to receive a vaccination (click here). NOTE: Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in those age 12 to 17, so be sure to choose a vaccination site that offers Pfizer vaccine. Starting May 17, NH will offer walk-in vaccinations at its state vaccination sites. Several local pharmacies also offer same-day vaccinations. For more information, visit this webpage of Vaccination FAQs.

The basic information provided here is just a start. For more information and the most current guidance, visit:

To contact the Blue Ribbon Committee on Health, please email hotline@cityofportsmouth.com. ​​​​