frequently asked questions

If you have a question or concern that is not answered in the Frequently Asked Questions or on COVID-19 Updates and Information, PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR COVID-19 RELATED QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS HERE. Depending on volume it may take a 2-3 business days to get a response.

What defines a close contact?

Being closer than 6 feet from an infectious, confirmed COVID-19 case for at least 15 minutes (cumulative) with or without a mask.  The Health Department will review individual circumstances for school and non- school related cases to determine potential exposure based on age, behavior and type of activity that took place.  Close Contacts are required to quarantine and should get tested.

Close Contact FAQs

How is the Health Department notified of a positive COVID-19 case?

Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network (MAVEN) electronically notifies the Winchester Health Department of all Winchester resident positive COVID-19 cases.  If the case involves a Winchester hybrid/in-person student or staff the school Superintendent is notified. The case is then assigned to by the Health Department to a Winchester Health Department contact tracing nurse who:  

  • conducts a lengthy interview with the positive case/guardian to determine any close contacts over the defined infectious period.  This includes contacts both in and out of school.  
  • determines isolation period for the case
  • monitors case over isolation period for symptom development and severity
  • connects case to support and wrap around services as needed
  • gives clearance for them to return to daily activities 

How is the infectious period for COVID-19 defined?

The infectious period begins 2 days prior to symptom onset. If someone is asymptomatic, the infectious period is considered to begin 2 days prior to the collection of their positive test.

How long do I need to quarantine if someone in my house is COVID-19 positive? 

The most updated information can be found here

What is the difference between ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

What is Isolation?

A process used to separate people infected with the virus, whether exhibiting symptoms or not, from people who are not infected. People that test positive for COVID-19 will be required by the Health Department to remain at home, away from others, including separating from household members and wearing a mask when not possible. This includes, staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom (if available). People who are in isolation must stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others and cleared by the Health Department. 

What is Quarantine?

A process used to keep someone who might have been exposed to or was exposed to COVID-19, away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine must stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

Why are antigen test results not included in Winchester's reporting?

Antigen testing is not as accurate as a molecular (PCR) test; it is best used as a screening tool.  More details on testing can be found here.  If someone has a positive COVID-19 antigen test, it is considered a "probable" case by the state but the Winchester Health Department will manage it as a positive cases by imparting instructions for isolation and conducting contact tracing.  We strongly recommend that anyone who receives an antigen result of positive or negative should get a PCR test as soon as possible to confirm the result.  If the PCR result is positive, it would then be counted in our confirmed case numbers.

An individual in my household has symptoms that might be due to COVID-19 and is undergoing testing but has not had any known exposure to someone with COVID-19. Can I continue to work while awaiting their test result?

Because an individual in your household is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, we recommend you and others in your household also quarantine until the COVID-19 test results are known.

School Related

When can a student/staff person return to school after COVID-19 symptoms?

If a student or staff member has COVID-19-like symptoms, they may return to school after they have tested negative for COVID-19 (PCR test), have improvement in symptoms AND have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications. 


  • Submit note of alternative diagnosis from medical provider that is non COVID- 19 related prior to school re-entry
  • 10 day QUARANTINE  is required plus symptom resolution and being 24hr fever free without fever reducing medicine prior to school re-entry

Will you release the names of positive students or staff to the parents/guardians or public?


Will you release personal health information on positive cases?


Will the identification of individual classrooms occupied by positive cases be released?


If it is determined that my child is not a close contact, will I be informed that a child/teacher in my child’s class has tested positive? 

At this time, no. 

If my child becomes sick at school, why do I have to pick him/her/them up as soon as possible?

If a student is assessed and found to have symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19, it is very important to have your child picked up as soon as possible so that other students and staff aren’t exposed, and potential spread can be contained. In addition, ill students will be monitored in a designated Medical Waiting Room until picked up, and that room will need to be cleaned thoroughly and made available for other students.

What would cause Winchester to suspend in-person learning for a school or the entire district? 

As of September 21st, this is the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education guidance:
"There is no one threshold or metric that indicates a school or district should suspend in-person learning. District and school leaders can work closely with DESE’s COVID Reporting Unit when there is a positive case in their district to determine the appropriate next steps.  These next steps can include implementing existing DESE protocols to notify close contacts for testing and isolation, conferring with local public health and/or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to determine if transmission is occurring in the class or school, or seeking advice on whether to suspend in-person learning for that class, grade, or school. It is important to note that these decisions need to be made based on local context, occur in collaboration with DESE and the local board of health, and may be based on the following factors:

  • If there is a need for an extensive cleaning of the building or other facility mitigation
  • If the mobile testing unit results, or other test results, suggest widespread transmission is occurring
  • If there are widespread absences among students and staff due to illness
  • If the school is in a district reported as “red” on the DPH health metric for the past three weeks, and risk of transmission to students and/or staff is increased

The school department and the local board of health may have other local factors that are important to consider when making this decision."

The Winchester Health Department monitors cases and their potential source of transmission daily.  If they identify a cluster of cases in a class or cohort, or significant school transmission, they will inform the Superintendent who makes the ultimate decision on school responses and closures.