COVID-19 is very contagious and for some people can lead to severe sickness. If you have tested positive, there are a few very important steps you can take to keep both yourself and those around you safe: (1) isolate by staying home and away from other people, (2) inform those you may have exposed, and (3) watch for symptoms and seek healthcare if needed.
Your employer (PDF), place of residence, or local health department may have different requirements, especially if you live or work in a healthcare setting.
If you have tested positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate (stay home and away from other people) to prevent spreading the disease to your family, friends, co-workers customers, and community. Even if you are vaccinated or had COVID-19 before, you should isolate for at least 5 full days. Day 1 is the day after symptoms start (or after the day of your first positive test, only if you never have symptoms). Count from Day 1 and test on Day 5 (or later), to see if you can end isolation after Day 5.
You may end isolation AFTER Day 5 (that is, Day 6 or later) IF:
- You take a test on Day 5 (or later) and receive a negative result (antigen test preferred); AND
- You have not had a fever for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication; AND
- Any other symptoms are improving (or you have no symptoms).
It is strongly recommended that you wear a well-fitting mask around others, especially indoors (even at home) and around those at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, for a total of 10 days, even if you end isolation earlier. Learn more about masking and get masking tips for children (PDF).
Situations where you should isolate longer than 5 days:
- If you test positive on Day 5 (or later), if you do not get tested during isolation, or if you have symptoms that are not improving: you should remain in isolation until you test negative with no fever and symptoms improving OR until you complete 10 full days of isolation.
- If you have a fever, you should not end isolation, even after 10 days, until the fever has been gone for 24 hours (without using medicine that reduces fevers).
NOTE: People who are immunocompromised may continue to carry the virus and remain infectious longer than 10 days. If your symptoms worsen or fever continues, you should consult your healthcare provider.
Learn more about CDPH testing guidance, visit the Testing Task Force Homepage for more information and to find a testing location or order a at-home test online.
Stay in a separate room away from other people in your household to keep them safe and prevent them from getting ill. Do not attend work or school in person; do not travel (PDF), do not use public transportation, and do not go to the store or other public places. But DO stay in touch with friends and family through phone calls, texts, and the internet.
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.
You can be infected and able to spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not have symptoms, so it is recommended that you notify people who you may have exposed as soon as you test positive so they can take steps to protect themselves and others. You are likely to be infectious starting 2 days before your positive test (or 2 days before your symptoms started) until you are done with isolation. Read the Isolation and Quarantine Q&A to learn more about calculating your infectious period.
If you have been onsite at work or school while you were infectious, be sure to inform these locations as soon as possible, and provide them with the dates you were onsite while infectious.
Notify any close contacts who you may have exposed. You can do this by calling, texting, or emailing them, or you can notify them anonymously through the Tell Your Contacts website. They can visit What to Do if You Are Exposed to COVID-19 to learn more about what actions they should take to protect themselves and others.
Even if you inform all of the close contacts you know about, it is still important to inform CA Notify of your positive test, if you have this Exposure Notification tool activated on your cellphone. CA Notify will be able to anonymously inform those people you may have exposed but may not be aware of.
Learn more about contact tracing on the CDPH What is Contact Tracing webpage, and if you receive a text from the Virtual Assistant (23393) and have questions, read the Virtual Assistant Q&A.
Proper home care (like resting and drinking fluids) helps most people recover from COVID-19 without the need for hospitalization. You can take over-the-counter medications as directed on the bottle to provide relief from fever and pain.
If you are at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19, treatment may be appropriate for you. Learn more about COVID-19 treatments, and contact your healthcare provider to discuss your options.
Monitor your symptoms while isolating and seek medical care if your symptoms get worse or if you have any questions about your care. Call ahead before visiting your medical provider and let them know you have tested positive for COVID-19. If you need help finding health care, call your county's Information line, 2-1-1 or visit the 2-1-1 website.
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.
This information is also available in a one-page, printable version in English(PDF) and Spanish(PDF).
Originally Published on February 8, 2022