If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home until it is safe to be around others, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines. This is called “isolation.”
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, public health staff may contact you with specific instructions for how to isolate and watch for symptoms at home. As soon as you are diagnosed, contact a doctor or a Test to Treat site and learn if COVID-19 treatments are right for you.
Who should isolate?
If you have COVID-19, you should isolate. You should also isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 but haven't been tested yet or are waiting for your test results.
How long to isolate
Stay home for at least five full days and isolate from other people in your home. Day 0 is the first day symptoms began or the day that your positive COVID-19 test was taken (if you don’t have symptoms).
You can end isolation after five full days if:
- You are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and
- Your other symptoms are improving.
If you continue to have a fever or if your other symptoms are not improving after five days of isolation, you should wait to end isolation until these symptoms improve. Continue to wear a well-fitting mask and contact a doctor if you have questions.
If you do not have symptoms
You can end isolation after five full days if you continue to have no symptoms.
If you develop symptoms after testing positive, your five-day isolation period should start over. Day 0 is your first day of symptoms.
Follow instructions for isolation if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
If you have moderate or severe illness due to COVID-19, or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate for a full 10 days. People with severe illness or weakened immune systems should talk to a doctor about when they should end isolation.
- Stay home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Do not travel.
- Wear a well-fitting mask if you have to be around other people.
- Watch for new or worsening symptoms. Call ahead and 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.
- Prevent others from getting sick.
- Separate yourself from other people and pets in your home. If possible, use a separate bathroom.
- Do not use public transportation.
- Postpone nonurgent medical appointments.
- Take steps to improve ventilation in your home, if possible.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid sharing personal household items (for example, dishes, towels, bedding, cups).
- Clean high-touch surfaces every day.
- Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask.
- Notify people you may have exposed. People in your household, and others you had close contact with need to wear a well-fitting mask, get tested, and watch for symptoms.
- Wear a well-fitting mask when around others for an additional five days.
- Avoid being around people at higher risk of severe illness until at least 10 days have passed since you developed symptoms or tested positive.
Removing your mask
- When you are around others, wear a well-fitting mask for an additional five days after your isolation period.
- After Day 6, if you test negative with an antigen test two times at least 48 hours apart, then you may remove your mask sooner than day 10.
- If your antigen test results are still positive, you may still be able to spread COVID-19. Continue to wear a mask and wait at least 48 hours before taking another test. Continue taking antigen tests at least 48 hours apart until you have two negative tests in a row. This may mean you need to continue wearing a mask beyond day 10.
Frequently asked questions
What if my COVID-19 symptoms last weeks or even months?
While most people with COVID-19 do not report ongoing symptoms and return to their normal state of health within a week or two, some people have symptoms that can last for many weeks or even months. Symptoms lasting longer than four weeks are considered post-COVID conditions.
If you think you have Long COVID, or another post-COVID condition, talk to a doctor about options for managing or treating your symptoms and resources for support. Visit our Post-COVID conditions webpage for more information.
Note: Loss of taste and smell may last for weeks or months after you recover from COVID-19 and need not delay the end of isolation.
What if I have symptoms of COVID-19 but cannot get tested?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate immediately, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines or if you haven’t had close contact with someone with COVID-19. You should also get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible if you have symptoms. If you are unable to get a test, you should isolate to avoid spreading the illness to others. Monitor your symptoms and follow instructions of isolating if you have symptoms of COVID-19 above.
When you are well and are no longer in isolation, consider getting vaccinated against COVID-19. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, free, and now widely available.