Someone who is sick with COVID-19 can spread it to others from two days before they show any symptoms until about one day after they recover. Not everyone with COVID-19 will get sick. Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but never had symptoms, may still be able to spread it to others.
Protect yourself and others. Have you been . . .
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, even if you don't have symptoms, you will need to separate yourself from other people in your home, also called "isolation." You will also self-monitor until you are no longer able to spread COVID-19 to others. Your local health department will contact you with specific instructions for how to practice isolation and self-monitoring at home, and what your friends and family should do to protect themselves. For more information, see our What do I do if I am Diagnosed with COVID-19 flyer.
How do I isolate at home?
- Stay home. It is important that you avoid contact with others. We now know that you can spread COVID-19 to others beginning two days before symptoms start until several days after symptoms start and about one day after you recover; this is known as the “infectious period.” You can spread COVID-19 to others, even if you never develop symptoms.
- If you are sick, you should remain in isolation for:
- At least 24 hours after you are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved, and
- At least 10 days after the date you first had symptoms.
- See our Isolation release flyer for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- If you do not have symptoms but tested positive, you should remain in isolation for:
- At least 10 days after your test date.
- See our Isolation release flyer for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but never felt sick.
- Note: For some people who develop serious illness from COVID-19, a longer period of isolation may be required before it is safe to be around others or go back to work. Your health care provider will make this determination in consultation with your local public health department. See the CDC Discontinuation of Isolation in Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings for additional information.
- For most people, testing to see when they can be released from isolation is not recommended. This may actually extend your isolation period unnecessarily. Testing to see when isolation should be completed may be useful in some people who are severely immunocompromised due to a medical condition or certain medications. Your health care provider will make this determination in consultation with your local public health department. See the CDC Discontinuation of Isolation in Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings for additional information.
- If you are sick, you should remain in isolation for:
- Take steps to prevent others in your household from getting sick.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Wear a face mask or covering if you have to be around other people.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean high-touch surfaces everyday. See our Cleaning and Disinfecting flyer. More can be found at: CDC COVID-19: Disinfecting your home.
- Keep a list of people you had contact with while you were sick. Your local health department will contact you to determine the people you had contact with during your infectious period. This would include people you were in contact with the two days before you developed symptoms through the day your symptoms resolved. If you never developed symptoms but tested positive, this would include the two days before your test collection date through ten days after your test collection date. This is called “contact tracing” and is one way public health staff identify people who could have been infected. People in your family, and others you had close contact with, will be asked to stay home and monitor their symptoms to make sure they don’t get sick and infect others. More can be found at: CDC COVID-19: If you are sick or caring for someone.
How do I self-monitor during isolation?
- Watch for worsening symptoms. Seek medical care if your illness worsens or if you develop emergency warning signs. Call 911 immediately if you need emergency medical care and tell them that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- If you were diagnosed, but never felt sick, monitor for any symptoms of COVID-19 that may develop during your isolation period. Report any new symptoms to your local health department, as this may affect your instructions for home isolation. If you previously tested positive for COVID-19 while you were well, you do not need to be tested again if you develop symptoms during your isolation period.
CDC's website has more detailed information about ending isolation specific to certain groups (health care personnel, immunocompromised people). In some circumstances, a test-based strategy for release from isolation may be implemented:
In close contact with someone diagnosed?
If you had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (at home, work, school, or anywhere else), you may be at risk of infection. Follow these recommendations for 14 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19 even if you test negative during this period. It is important to self-quarantine and self-monitor to protect yourself, your family, and your community. Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 is encouraged to get tested.
You are a "close contact" if any of the following situations happened while you spent time with the person with COVID-19, even if they didn't have symptoms:
- Had direct physical contact with the person (for example, a hug, kiss, or handshake).
- Were within 6 feet of the person for a total of more than 15 minutes in a single day.
- Had contact with the person's respiratory secretions (for example, coughed or sneezed on; contact with a dirty tissue; shared a drinking glass, food, towels, or other personal items).
- Live with the person or stayed overnight for at least one night in a house with the person.
*DHS currently recommends that everyone wear a face mask or face covering in public, even if you don't feel sick, to help reduce your risk of spreading COVID-19 to others by blocking respiratory droplets. Wearing a face mask or covering while you spend time with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, even if the person with COVID-19 was also wearing a mask, likely reduces your risk of getting COVID-19, but may not prevent it entirely. If you and/or the person with COVID-19 was wearing a face mask or covering during any of the above situations, you are still considered a close contact.
How do I self-quarantine?
- Stay home as much as possible. It is important that you avoid contact with others to prevent spreading the infection. If you live with someone who has COVID-19 and you are at higher risk for serious illness, you should find an alternative living arrangement separate from the sick family member, if possible.
- Most people should not go to work if they have to be around other people. Talk with your employer about the possibility of working remotely. Health care workers should contact their employee health for their current policy.
- Avoid travel. If travel is absolutely necessary, and you become ill, you may not be able to return home until after you recover. When you get home, you will be asked to continue to self-quarantine and self-monitor for 14 days.
- Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
- Go out only if absolutely necessary. Instead, see if someone can drop off essentials at your house. If you need to go out, limit your travel for essential needs, for example, going to the doctor, getting groceries, or picking up medication. Remember to always wear a cloth face covering.
- Postpone all nonessential medical appointments until your quarantine is over. If you have an essential appointment during quarantine, call your doctor about what arrangements can be made.
- Do not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Wear a face mask or covering if you have to be around others. This helps protect others by preventing respiratory droplets from getting into the air.
- How long do I need to quarantine? The answer may depend on whether you live with someone who has been diagnosed. Since it may take up to 14 days for you to have symptoms after infection, you should self-quarantine for 14 days from when you last had contact with the infected person, or for 14 days from when the infected person in your household has recovered. Even if you test negative for COVID-19 during your 14-day quarantine, it is important to continue to quarantine for the full 14 days. You could have been exposed to COVID-19 at some point and not enough time has passed for the test to pick it up. You may test positive at a later date.
See our quarantine release flyer for those who:
- Had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Live with someone who has COVID.
- Live with someone who has COVID, but never got sick.
- What if someone in my household is diagnosed? If someone who lives in your household gets sick or is diagnosed with COVID-19 and is 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.
How do I self-monitor during quarantine?
- Check your temperature twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. If you don't have a thermometer, watch for symptoms of fever like chills or sweats.
- Watch for cough, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms of COVID-19. Write down any symptoms you have and when they begin. Your local health department will give you instructions if they want you to report your symptoms to them regularly through a phone call or email. The What should I do if I had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 flyer includes a chart you can use to log your daily symptoms.
What if I get sick? If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine, isolate yourself from other members of your house, contact your doctor, and ask to be tested. Tell them your symptoms to determine if you need medical care. Do not go to your doctor's office without contacting them first.
- If you don't have a doctor or are having difficulty reaching your doctor, complete an online health screening assessment, and a licensed health practitioner will contact you.
- Community testing sites are available throughout the state to get yourself tested quickly and easily. While awaiting your test results, take steps to keep yourself and others safe in order to slow the spread of the virus.
- If you get tested during your quarantine period and you test negative, you will still need to complete your full 14-day quarantine before it is safe to go back to work or be around others.