Quarantine and isolation

A person can be contagious with no symptoms or before symptoms begin, making isolating and quarantining critical strategies for containing the spread of COVID-19.

Requirements on isolation and quarantine will be decided by the case investigators and contact tracers in the context of your individual case. Note that outside of health care settings, wearing a face covering does not necessarily preclude you from being identified as a close contact for the purposes of case investigation and contact tracing when you have been in close contact (less than 6 feet for 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour period) with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

What is the difference?

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who might have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

When to isolate

Isolate if you are sick. Stay home until it is safe to be around others. While at home, separate from members of your household by staying in your room and use a separate bathroom (if available).

Who needs to quarantine?

People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 — excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months or who are fully vaccinated.

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  • People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
  • People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease and show no symptoms.

What counts as close contact?

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them).
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils.
  • They sneezed, coughed or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.
person covering cough with tissue

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19:

If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should stay home and contact your health provider.

If you are asymptomatic but have been a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, quarantine immediately and monitor your symptoms.

How long should I quarantine?

The recommended quarantine time period is 14 days from your last exposure to a person with COVID-19, and is still the safest option to reduce the spread.

There are two additional options to reduce the length of quarantine, if you have NO symptoms and wear a mask at all times you are around others, even others in your household:

  • 10-day quarantine with no symptoms, followed by 4 days of monitoring symptoms and mask wearing at all times.
  • 7-day quarantine with a negative PCR test, followed by 7 days of monitoring symptoms and mask wearing at all times.
    • You will need to get tested on or after Day 5 of your quarantine. Getting tested before Day 5 could result in a false negative.

Even if you stop quarantining early, continue to watch for symptoms the full 14 days.

During both quarantine or isolation, you should restrict activities with others. This means staying home and remaining at least 6 feet away from others.  If possible, arrange for food, prescriptions, and other necessities to be delivered and left at your door.

 

Testing information

 

If you test positive for COVID-19

Regardless of symptoms, prior infection or vaccination status, isolate immediately. People who test positive should stay home and at least 6 feet away from others, even those who share their residence, for at least 10 days. A public health official will determine your release date. Arrange for food, prescriptions and other necessities to be delivered and left at your door.

Students can move to isolation housing for positive students (if you live on campus).

  • If you are an employee, notify your supervisor. Your supervisor will then report the necessary information to Human Resources through the COVID-19 Tracking Form.
  • If you are a student, self-report your positive result to the university within four hours of being notified of your positive test.
  • Begin making a list of your close contacts, which helps contact tracers notify them quickly, so they reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. People in your house and caregivers as well as people who were within 6 feet of you for a cumulative 15 minutes (with or without a face covering) are considered to be close contacts.