What-to-do-if-You-Test-Positive-for-COVID-19 What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms, call a healthcare provider or urgent care center right away about treatment. COVID-19 treatments must be taken within 5-7 days of the start of symptoms. Get treatment even if your illness is still mild. Do not wait for symptoms to get worse. Learn more at covid19.ca.gov/treatment or call the statewide COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-422-4255.

What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19

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) Seek COVID-19 treatment immediately if you have symptoms, (2) isolate by staying home and away from other people, and (3) inform those you may have exposed.

Your employer (PDF), place of residence, or local health department may have different requirements, especially if you live or work in a healthcare setting.

Seek COVID-19 treatment immediately if you have symptoms

COVID-19 treatments are safe, free, and widely available. They have been shown to be up to 88% effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.  Early evidence also suggests that COVID-19 treatment may decrease the risk of developing Long COVID symptoms, which can last for weeks, months, or years after a COVID-19 infection.  Additionally, COVID-19 treatments can help you clear the infection and test negative sooner.

COVID-19 treatments are free. You do not need to have insurance or share your immigration status to get treated. You just need to have COVID-19 symptoms and a positive COVID-19 test result.  

To get treatment, you have three options:

  • Call your doctor or an urgent care center. If you have insurance, you can call the number on your insurance card to get help with making an appointment.
  • Find a Test-to-Treat location, like a free Optum Serve Center, near you. To find a site, call the statewide COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-422-4255 or use the COVID-19 Test to Treat Locator
  • If you don't have insurance or are not able to make an appointment quickly using either of the above options, you can make a free phone or video appointment through California's free telehealth provider. To talk to a health care provider within 24 hours call 1-833-686-5051 or go to sesamecare.com/covidca.


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. 

If you still have symptoms or feel you are not getting better in the weeks or months after testing positive, read more about post-COVID conditions (Long COVID) or learn about Long COVID and workers


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 your symptoms start (or, if you do not have any symptoms, Day 1 is the day after your first positive test). 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; 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).

If you do not test, stay in isolation for at least 10 days. To end isolation before 10 days, use an antigen test like those found in rapid test kits, either at home or at a testing center, since PCR tests may remain positive long after recovery. Use the Personal Testing and Isolation Calculator to help you determine how long you should isolate.

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. 

It is strongly recommended that you wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially indoors (even at home) and around those at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, 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 with 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 contact 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 an at-home test online.

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 websiteCOVID19.ca.gov offers additional resources, including financial helpfood assistancehousing and homelessnessemotional supportchildcare, and support for immigrant communities.

Inform your contacts

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 if you had symptoms before you tested positive) through the time when you finish 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. If you receive a text from the Virtual Assistant (23393) and have questions, read the Virtual Assistant Q&A.

This information is also available in a one-page, printable version in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF). 

Originally Published on February 8, 2022