I tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?

The latest guidance from the CDC recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and isolate alone and away from others for at least five days after testing positive, reduced from a 10-day isolation. If you do not have symptoms five days after your positive test, you can leave isolation, but should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others for an additional five days. If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, you should stay home until symptoms resolve.

The CDC’s recommendations are based on the latest scientific data on COVID-19 transmission. Data show that people with COVID-19 are most contagious one to two days prior to experiencing symptoms and two to three days after the onset of symptoms. The new guidance also recognizes the added degree of protection provided by vaccination and a booster dose.

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.

Added December 28, 2021