Given the latest research about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the CDC shortened recommended isolation and quarantine periods for most people. Our experts break down what you need to know to protect yourself and those around you.

Coronavirus Updates, News, Your Health | one month ago

Tested Positive, Showing Symptoms or Exposed to COVID-19? What to Do Next.

With rising COVID-19 cases in our area, there may be some confusion surrounding CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine. Our experts break down what you need to know to protect yourself and those around you.

This article was reviewed by Atrium Health Vice President and Enterprise Chief Epidemiologist Katie Passaretti, MD, and is current as of May 17, 2022.

We’re currently seeing an increase in cases of COVID-19 in our community due to the omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1. Fortunately, COVID-related hospitalizations are only seeing a mild uptick. But if you do test positive, have been exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on what to do.

While the omicron variant and its subvariants are highly contagious, data shows that the virus mostly spreads early in the course of the illness. Right now, scientists say that most COVID-19 infections from omicron are spread in the 1-2 days before symptoms begin and in the first 2-3 days after symptoms appear. This means the timeframe for the greatest risk of infection is 3-5 days long.

Wondering what to do if you develop symptoms, test positive or are exposed to someone with COVID-19? Follow this guide to help reduce your chances of spreading the virus.

If you tested positive, but you don’t have symptoms.

  • Stay home for 5 days. Isolate in a separate room if you can. If you need to be around other people in your home, wear a well fitted mask.
  • If you never develop symptoms, you can leave your home after 5 days. However, you should continue to wear a well fitted mask around other people for 5 more days, including the people you live with if they haven’t also been infected.
  • This guidance applies regardless of your vaccination status.

If you tested positive and you have symptoms.

  • Stay home for at least 5 days. Isolate in a separate room if you can. If you need to be around other people in your home, wear a well fitted mask.
  • If your symptoms are going away, you can leave your home after 5 days. However, you should continue to wear a mask around other people for 5 more days, including the people you live with if they are not also infected.
  • If you have a fever, stay home until your fever goes away completely for at least 24 hours off of fever lowering medicine.
  • This guidance applies regardless of your vaccination status.
  • If you don’t feel better after 5 days, you should continue to isolate until your symptoms improve. This practice, along with wearing a well fitting mask in the 5 days after your isolation ends, helps to avoid an unanticipated spread of infection.

If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Remember, your risk of getting infected when you are exposed to someone who has COVID-19 increases based on how close you are (less than 6 feet) and the amount of time you spend with the person while they are infectious (15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period).

In this situation, what you should do depends on your COVID-19 vaccination status.

  • For people who are unvaccinated or are more than 6 months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose (or more than 2 months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) and not yet boosted:
    • Stay home for 5 days and quarantine. If you have to be around other members of your household wear a well fitted mask. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days.
    • Test on day 5 following your exposure if possible.
    • If you can’t quarantine (stay home), you must wear a mask around other people for 10 days.
    • If you develop symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 and stay home. If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.
  • For people who are vaccinated and have received a booster shot, or are less than 5 months from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose, (or less than 2 months from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine):
    • You do not need to stay home if you do not have symptoms.
    • Wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. If you have to be around others in your household wear a well fitted mask.
    • Test on day 5 after the exposure, if possible.
    • If you develop symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 and stay home. If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.

If you have symptoms, but you don’t know if you were exposed to someone who tested positive or not.

  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you can.
  • If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.

Once you are infected with COVID you can continue to shed pieces of the virus for weeks and sometimes months. Unless you recover from your initial illness and then develop new symptoms of COVID-19, you should not repeat COVID-19 testing for 90 days after your infection.  Some people choose to repeat an antigen test while still in their 10-day isolation timeframe as another piece of information to use to help assess risk to others. This is up to the individual, but if you do repeat an antigen test prior to day 10 of isolation and the result is positive you should remain in isolation until day 10 from symptom onset.   Please note that these guidelines do not apply to healthcare workers. Healthcare workers should follow COVID-19 guidance from their organization.

For more information about COVID-19, including testing and care options, visit AtriumHealth.org/Coronavirus.