Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 exposure or testing positive

On August 11, 2022, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidelines. Many of the recommendations remain the same and are rooted in the most effective strategies to protect ourselves against COVID: get vaccinated and stay up-to-date with boosters, test if you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, isolate if you test positive, and wear a mask if you are in an area with a high COVID-19 Community Level. The CDC also continues to recommend that people take additional precautions if they are at higher risk for severe COVID-19.

The CDC updated recommendations for quarantine (staying away from others when you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19) and isolation (staying away from others when you test positive for COVID-19). The recommendations for quarantine and isolation no longer differ by vaccination status.

Quarantine: what happens if you’re exposed to COVID-19?

  • If you are exposed to COVID-19, you should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5. The CDC no longer recommends quarantining if you are exposed.

Isolation: what happens if you test positive?

  • If you test positive for COVID-19, or if you’re sick and suspect you have COVID-19 and are awaiting test results, you should isolate from others, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate from others for at least 5 days. If you had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 and are fever-free after 5 days, you can end isolation and wear a high-quality mask through day 10. But if you had moderate or severe COVID-19 or you are immunocompromised, you should isolate through day 10.
  • If you ended isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, you should restart your isolation period back to day 0.

In most settings, the CDC also no longer recommends testing for COVID-19 if you are asymptomatic and have no known exposure.

Added August 12, 2022 

The latest guidance from the CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and away from others (isolation) for at least five days after testing positive, as this time period is when you are most infectious.

CDC recommendations for ending isolation:

  • If you had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 and are fever-free after 5 days, you can end isolation but should wear a high-quality mask through day 10. 
  • If you had moderate illness (shortness of breath or trouble breathing) or severe illness (you were hospitalized), or you are immunocompromised, you should isolate through day 10. 
  • If you ended isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, you should restart your isolation from day 0.

In addition to isolating, you should notify people you have been in close contact with, which the CDC defines as someone who was less than six feet from you for at least 15 minutes. If you have had symptoms, you should notify all the people you had close contact with, starting from two days prior to the onset of symptoms up until you tested positive and began isolating. If you are asymptomatic, you should notify all of your close contacts within the two days leading up to your positive test.

If you are symptomatic, you should monitor your symptoms. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is elevated for some groups — including older adults, people with underlying medical conditions, immunocompromised people, and pregnant or recently pregnant women. If you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have worsening symptoms over time, you should consult a health provider. If you experience emergency warning symptoms – such as difficulty breathing or chest pain – you should seek medical care immediately.

Regardless of when you end isolation, you should wear a mask through day 10. You can shorten this if you have access to rapid antigen testing and test negative twice, 48 hours apart. 

Updated August 12, 2022 

The CDC recommends that anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask as soon as you find out you were exposed, and for 10 full days after exposure. The CDC recommends that you get tested for COVID-19 after five days. If you test positive, isolate immediately. Even if you test negative, you should continue wearing a high-quality mask when around others at home and indoors in public through day 10. 

Updated August 12, 2022 

Messaging Resources about COVID-19 exposure or testing positive

Toolkit: COVID-19 Testing