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

This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.​​​​ For more information ​see the Respiratory Viruses page.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19

COVID-19 is very contagious and for some people it can lead to severe illness or death. If you have tested positive, there are important steps you can take to help keep 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.​
  3. Wear a mask when around other people indoors.​
  4. Take precautions and inform your contacts.  ​

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

1. Seek COVID-19 treatment immediately if you have symptoms​

Medications to treat COVID-19 are free, widely available, and effective for stopping COVID-19 illness from getting serious.

Everyone 12 years and older who has symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19 should speak with a healthcare provider about treatment. Treatments 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 may help you clear the infection and test negative sooner.

Act quickly. COVID-19 medications work best when started within the first 5-7 days of symptoms. Medications are currently free regardless of insurance or citizenship status, but you must have a prescription.

Options for getting a prescription for COVID-19 medication include:

  • Contact your doctor, urgent care center, or insurance provider for an appointment, including a video or phone appointment.
  • Call the statewide COVID-19 hotline at 833-422-4255.
  • Find a Test-to-Treat location near you. These sites can provide COVID-19 tests and prescribe COVID-19 medications. To find a site, use the COVID-19 Test-to-Treat-Locator.
  • Some pharmacies may be able to give you a prescription for treatment. Call your pharmacy to see if they offer this service.

If you don't have insurance or the options above don't work:

Visit Sesame Care or call 833-686-5051 to make a free phone or video appointment through California's COVID-19 telehealth service.

Note: If you are not able to get a prescription from your doctor but think you should be eligible for treatment, visit Sesame Care or call 833-686-5051 to make a phone or video appointment with California's free COVID-19 telehealth provider. You can also show your doctor CDPH's recommendations on treatment. ​

Moni​tor your symptoms

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 tested positive but do not yet feel sick, you should monitor yourself for any COVID-19 symptoms. If you start having any symptoms, speak with a healthcare provider about treatment (see sec​​​tion above​ on how to seek treatment) or any questions you may have about your care.

If you still have symptoms or are not getting better in the weeks after testing positive, read more about post-COVID conditions (long COVID) or learn about long COVID and workers, and speak with a healthcare provider about symptoms. ​

2. Isola​​te​

If you test positive, you are strongly encouraged to isolate (stay home and away from other people) for at least 5 full days, to prevent spreading the disease to others. Isolation is recommended even if you have been vaccinated or have had COVID-19 before.

You should isolate for at least 5 days counting from the day you began feeling sick (Day 0 is the day you began feeling sick; Day 1 is the next day). If you have no symptoms, then isolate for 5 full days after the day you tested positive (Day 0 is the day you took your positive test; Day 1 is the day after).

Tip: Use the Personalized Testing and Isolation Calculator to help you determine how long you should isolate.

You may end isolation AFTER Day 5 IF:

  • You have no symptoms, or your symptoms are mild and getting better; AND
  • You have not had a fever for 24 hours without taking medicine that lowers fevers.

Even if you end isolation earlier, you should continue to wear a mask through Day 10 unless, after ending isolation, you have two negative antigen tests at least a day apart without a positive test in between.

Important:  There are some situations where you should isolate longer than 5 days:

  • If you have a fever, do not end isolation until the fever has been gone for 24 hours (without using medicine that lowers fevers), OR
  • If your other symptoms are not improving, you should keep isolating until you feel better or until after Day 10.

After you have ended isolation, if your symptoms come back or get worse, use an antigen test to test again. If you test positive, restart your isolation at Day 0.

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 and seek medical treatment.

When you are isolating, stay in a separate room away from others in your household to help prevent them from getting sick. Do not attend work or school in person; do n​​ot tra​vel, do not use public transportation, and do not go to the store or other public places. DO stay in touch with friends and family virtually through phone calls, text messages, and the internet.

If you need help obtaining food or other essential items while you're in isolation, call 2-1-1, your county's Information line, or visit the 2-1-1 website. The COVID19.ca.gov page offers additional resources, including financial help; food assistance; housing and homelessness, emotional support, and childcare resources​; and support for immigrant communities.​

3. Wear a m​​ask​​​​​

​​Wearing a mask is an effective tool to help keep the people around you from getting sick. If you have to be around others indoors, you should wear a well-fitting mask​ through Day 10, especially when you are around those at higher risk for getting infected (like people living in your home) or at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

Even if you end isolation earlier, continue masking for 10 days.

  • You should wear a mask starting when your symptoms began (Day 0) or the day you took your positive test (Day 0 if you never had symptoms) through Day 10.
  • If you end isolation after isolating and masking through Day 5, you may remove your mask if you have two negative antigen tests at least one day apart, without a positive test in between. If you do not test, or if you test positive, then you should continue masking through Day 10.
  • Even with two negative tests, you may still be required to continue masking through Day 10 when at work, according to Cal/OSHA regulations, local health department guidance, or your worksite's policies.
  • If your antigen test (such as an at-home test) result is positive, you may still be infectious. Continue wearing a mask and wait at least one day before taking another test.

You should wear a mask that fits your face well and provides good filtration, ideally a respirator (N95, KN95, KF94) or surgical mask. Learn more ab​​out masking.

Tip: Use the Personalized Testing and Isolation Calculator to help you determine how long you should continue masking.​

4. Take precaution​​s and inform your contacts​

You can be infected and able to spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not have symptoms. You are likely to be infectious starting 2 days before your symptoms began (or 2 days before you took your positive test if you never h​ad symptoms) through the time you end isolation. This is the time period when you are most likely to expose others to COVID-19. However, you may still be infectious after ending isolation and should continue taking precautions for 10 days. 

Additional measures to take after testing positive for COVID-19:

  • Improve ventilation (air flow) at home: see CDC'S webpage on ventilation for more information on improving your home's air quality.
  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; or if you can't wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean or disinfect “high touch" surfaces at least once daily; visit CDC's webpage for more information on cleaning your home.

For more information, visit CDC's webpage on what to do if you have COVID-19, and for more information on safer travel, see CDC's Travel webpage.

Informing your contacts

Letting people you may have exposed to COVID-19 know that you have tested positive allows them to get tested, wear a mask to protect others, and seek treatment early if they become sick.

Your workplace, school, or place of residence may have policies for reporting when you were on-site while likely infectious. Please refer to the guidelines of your employer, school, facility, or local health department on reporting positive testing.

Your close contacts are the people you were near or in a room with when you were likely infectious, for long enough that you may have exposed them to COVID-19. The time you are considered infectious is from 2 days before your symptoms started (or 2 days before you took your positive test if you never had symptoms) through the day when you ended isolation.

Quickly letting your contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 helps them get tested, wear a mask, and find out if they are infected in time to get treatment, while taking steps to protect their family members, coworkers, and others from the virus. 

You can inform your contacts by calling, texting, or emailing them, or you can notify them anonymously through the Tell Your Contacts website. They can visit the CDPH COVID-19 Calculator to learn more about what actions they should take to protect themselves and others.

You may be notified by someone or by a local health department text message that you have been exposed to COVID-19.

  • After recovering from your current infection, if you get an exposure notification within 30 days of your recent positive test or start of symptoms, you do not need to get tested unless you develop new symptoms. 
  • If you are told you have been exposed and it has been 31-90 days since your prior infection, you should use an antigen test to get tested regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.

You can visit the CDPH COVID-19 Calculator​ to learn more about what to do if you are notified of a future exposure. If you receive a text from the Virtual Assistant (23393) and have questions, read the Virtual Assistant Q&A.​

​​Originally Publis​​​hed on February 8, 2022​