Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Exposure or Testing Positive

The CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and away from others for at least five days after testing positive, as this is when people are most infectious. You should wear a mask through day 10 to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to other people.

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 before symptoms started 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 higher for some groups — including older adults, people with underlying medical conditions, immunocompromised people, and pregnant or recently pregnant people. 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.

CDC recommendations for ending isolation after testing positive for COVID-19:

  • 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), severe illness (you were hospitalized), or you are immunocompromised, you should isolate through day 10 and consult with a healthcare provider about extending or ending isolation. 
  • If you ended isolation but your COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, you should restart your isolation.

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

Updated November 22, 2023 

If you came into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you 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 five full days after exposure.

If you test positive, you should isolate immediately.
Even if you test negative, you should continue wearing a high-quality mask when indoors and around other people through day 10.

Masking is essential to limit the spread of COVID-19.. If you have a weakened immune system, you should isolate through day 20. The CDC recommends repeat COVID-19 testing and speaking with your healthcare provider before ending isolation.

Updated November 22, 2023 

Messaging Resources about COVID-19 Exposure or Testing Positive

Toolkit: When to Take an At-Home COVID-19 Test

Toolkit: COVID-19 Testing