What-to-Do-If-You-Are-Exposed-to-COVID-19 What to Do If You Are Exposed to COVID-19

What to Do If You Are Exposed to COVID-19

Updates as of May 5, 2022:

  • To align with new CDPH guidance regarding quarantine, testing and recommendations for high risk settings.


If you have just learned of a possible exposure to COVID-19, then someone you have been in close contact with has tested positive. They may have been able to spread the disease to you and others. Being exposed does not mean that you have COVID-19 or will get COVID-19. It DOES mean you should take steps to protect yourself and those around you in case you have been infected.

  • Test 3-5* days following your exposure. If your test result is positive, follow isolation recommendations.
    • Consider testing as soon as possible (especially if you have symptoms) to see if you are already infected; but if you test before day 3, you should test again during the 3–5 days following exposure.
    • If you had COVID-19 before and that infection was within the last 90 days, you do not need to test unless you have symptoms.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask around others (even at home) for 10 days* following your exposure, even if your test result is negative, especially indoors and when near those at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
  • Monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days. If symptoms develop, stay home and get tested.
  • Consider getting vaccinated or boosted if you have not done so yet. The best way to protect yourself from getting very sick from a future COVID-19 infection is to get vaccinated and boosted now.

What to do if you are exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms

Here's what you should do if you are exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms:

  • Test 3-5* days following your exposure.         

See below for additional exemptions.

*Day 0 is the day you were last around the person with COVID-19. Count from Day 1 (the day after your last exposure) and test during Days 3-5.

What to do if you are exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms or test positive

You should isolate (PDF) if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

  • If you have symptoms, get tested right away. Isolate (PDF) while waiting for test results.
  • If you test negative using an antigen test (such as an at-home test kit), you should consider continuing to isolate and retesting in 1-2 days, especially if you tested during the first 1-2 days of your symptoms starting (see below for additional testing information).
  • If you test positive, continue to isolate (stay home and separate yourself from others) for at least 5 days, except to get medical care. Start counting isolation days with Day 1 being the first full day after your symptoms began (or the day after your positive test if you have had no symptoms). 
    • Visit What to Do if You Test Positive for COVID-19 for more information on what to do when isolating, including when to end isolation. 
    • Visit Get the Facts for more information on COVID-19 treatments.
    • Contact a healthcare provider with any questions concerning your care, and potential treatment, especially if you are at higher risk for getting more sick with COVID-19.
    • If you need help obtaining food or other essential items during your isolation, call 2-1-1, your county's information line, or visit the 2-1-1 website. COVID19.ca.gov offers additional resources, including financial help, food assistance, housing and homelessness, emotional support, childcare, and support for immigrant communities.

Call 911 if you start to have emergency warning signs, including difficulty breathing; pressure or pain in your chest; bluish or grayish lips, face, or nails; confusion or difficulty waking; or other serious symptoms.

Testing Information

You can find testing sites in your area or can check your local pharmacy or retail store for test kits that you can buy and use at home (also called "over-the-counter" or "at-home" tests).
Learn more about types of tests and recommendations on the CDPH testing guidance webpage.
For more information on testing:

Ways you might be notified that you have been exposed

There are a few ways that you might be informed about a possible exposure to COVID-19. You may:

  • Be notified directly by a personal contact who recently tested positive.
  • Be notified by your work or school setting.
  • Receive an anonymous notification from TellYourContacts.org.
  • Receive a call from a public health contact tracer.
  • Receive a digital alert or text message from one of California's notification tools, including CA Notify and the Virtual Assistant.

When you may need to follow different guidelines

Your employer (PDF), place of residence, or local health department may have different requirements, especially if you live or work in a high-risk setting (such as a healthcare setting or a shelter). Local health jurisdictions may continue to implement additional requirements that go beyond this statewide guidance based on local circumstances, including in certain higher-risk settings or during certain situations that may require additional isolation and quarantine requirements (for example, during active outbreaks in high-risk settings).

In the workplace, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard (PDF), and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements. Additional information about how CDPH isolation and quarantine guidance affects ETS-covered workplaces may be found in Cal/OSHA FAQs.


Originally published on February 10, 2022