General Isolation and Exposure Precautions


This informational document is intended to provide guidance to individuals who have been exposed to, or have a mild or suspected case of, COVID-19. This is not intended for individuals who need to be hospitalized and cannot receive care at home. This document also contains information for household contacts (i.e., family members, roommates, intimate partners, and caregivers) of these individuals.


Isolation is a way to limit interaction with others and prevent the spread of disease.

Follow the steps below to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
  • Stay home except to get medical care
    • Take care of yourself by getting rest and staying hydrated
    • Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, may help you feel better
    • Avoid public areas, including work and school
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when around other people
    • Make sure the mask fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin
      • Choose a mask with a nose wire
      • Use a mask fitter or brace
    • Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out
    • Add layers of material
      • Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask
    • Make sure you can see and breathe easily
    • Knot or tuck ear loops of a mask
  • Separate yourself from other people
    • Stay in a separate room and away from other people and pets in your home
    • If possible, use a separate bathroom
  • Cover your nose and mouth
    • If you are sick, wear a face covering when you are around other people or pets
    • Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissues in a lined trash can
  • Clean your hands often
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or before eating or preparing food
    • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and other people with unwashed hands
  • Do not share
    • Do not share dishes, cups/glasses, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or electronics with other people
    • After using personal items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your separate “sick room” and bathroom 
    • If possible, wear disposable gloves while cleaning
    • Someone else should clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas
    • If a caregiver or someone else needs to clean and disinfect, it should be done on an as-needed basis
    • Caregivers should wear a well-fitting mask and disposable gloves
    • Clean and disinfect areas that might have blood, stool, or bodily fluids on them
  • Monitor your symptoms
    • Seek medical attention immediately if your symptoms get worse, especially if you experience any of the following:
      • Severe trouble breathing (such as being unable to talk without gasping for air)
      • Continuous pain or pressure in your chest
      • Feeling confused or having difficulty waking up
      • Blue-colored lips or face
  • Any other emergency signs or symptoms
  • If you seek medical attention, be sure to call ahead before visiting the facility. This will help the facility keep other people from possibly getting infected or exposed.
    • Tell any healthcare provider that you may have COVID-19
    • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis
    • Put on a face covering before you enter any healthcare facility

Isolation Guidelines

The below information is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms of COVID-19.

Regardless of vaccination status, if you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate from others. You should also isolate if you are sick, but do not yet have test results. If you receive negative results after testing, you can end your COVID-19 isolation precautions.

Otherwise, follow the full isolation recommendations below:

Regardless of symptoms or vaccination status, if you test positive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home. You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days.

During isolation, you should:
  • Wear a high-quality mask if you must be around others at home and in public.
  • Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask, including travel and public transportation settings.
  • Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Take steps to improve ventilation at home, if possible.
  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

Learn more about what to do if you have COVID-19.

If you have symptoms:

  • You may end isolation after day 5 if:

    • You are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication)
    • Your symptoms are improving

    If you still have fever or your other symptoms have not improved, continue to isolate until they improve. Note: Loss of taste or smell may last for weeks or months and should not delay ending isolation.

    If you had moderate illness  (if you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing), or severe illness (you were hospitalized) due to COVID-19-, or you have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate through day 10.

    If you had severe illness or have a weakened immune system, consult your doctor before ending isolation. Ending isolation without a viral test may not be an option for you.

    If you are unsure if your symptoms are moderate or severe or if you have a weakened immune system, talk to a healthcare provider for further guidance.

If you do not have symptoms:

  • You may end isolation after day 5 
  • If you develop symptoms within 10 days of when you were tested, the clock restarts at day 0 on the day of symptom onset

Removing Your Mask:

Regardless of when you end isolation, wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others through day 10. If you have access to antigen tests, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10 if you have 2 sequential negative tests 48 hours apart.

If your antigen results are positive, you may still be infectious. You should continue wearing 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 sequential negative results. This may mean you need to continue wearing a mask and testing beyond day 10.

Please note that people who had severe illness from COVID-19 or people with a weakened immune system due to a health condition or medication may need to be isolated for longer or may require testing to determine when they can be around others. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine when you can discontinue home isolation.

These recommendations should not be used as guidance about when to return to work after home isolation. The decision about when to return to work should be determined by you and your employer based on a number of factors. Please contact your employer for further information.

Visit here for CDC guidelines.

Exposure Guidelines

The below information is for individuals without symptoms of COVID-19 but may have been exposed.

Regardless of vaccination status, you should start taking precautions immediately if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

  1. Wear a mask as soon as you find out you were exposed
    • Start counting from Day 1
      • Day 0 is the day of your last exposure to someone with COVID-19
      • Day 1 is the first full day after your last exposure
  2. Wear a high-quality mask or respiratory (N95) any time around others, including inside of your home
    • Avoid places where you are unable to wear a mask
  3. Monitor your symptoms for symptoms of COVID-19:
  4. If you develop symptoms:
    • Isolate immediately
    • Get tested
      • If you test positive, follow isolation procedures
    • Stay home until you know your test result
  5. On day 6, take a COVID-19 test
    • Get tested at least 5 full days after your last exposure
    • Test even if you don’t have symptoms
      • If you test positive, follow isolation procedures
      • If you test negative, continue to wear a high-quality mask when around others at home and indoors in public until day 10

You can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed.

For additional questions about what to do when you are exposed, visit CDC or contact your healthcare provider.