Quarantine and Isolation
Quarantine and isolation help prevent the spread of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19. Quarantine and isolation are used to keep people who are sick or who have been exposed to COVID-19 separate from people who have not been exposed.
If you are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-like symptoms, you are not required to quarantine or test following a known exposure. Continue to practice precautions like wearing a mask and staying physically distanced, and get tested if you develop symptoms. Click here for more guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.
If you have not yet been fully vaccinated, you will be required to follow the traditional quarantine guidance as described below.
What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?
Quarantine is for people who are not currently sick but were likely exposed to COVID-19 from a COVID-19 positive individual. People in quarantine may or may not be infectious. Per CDC recommendations, the exposed individual needs to quarantine, which includes staying home*, staying away from others, and monitoring for symptoms. If they do not have symptoms, they can be released from quarantine after 7 days with a negative test result. The test must be collected after day 5 of quarantine.
The length of quarantine is a minimum of 7-10 days, depending on test results. If the individual is tested after day 5 and receives a negative test result, they can be released after 7 days of quarantine. If they are not tested, they must quarantine for 10 days.
Regardless of test results, individuals should continue to practice caution for 14 days after their exposure, including vigilant masking, hand washing, physical distancing, and monitoring for symptoms. Individuals are also encouraged to avoid non-essential activities during the entire 14-day period.
Isolation is for people who have tested positive for COVID-19. People who are in isolation should separate themselves from others living with them by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom if possible. They are required to stay home* and away from others until they meet release guidelines.
Who is considered a close contact?
A close contact is defined as someone who comes within six feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 cumulative minutes. Close contacts could be family members, friends and coworkers who you interact with throughout the day. A close contact also includes someone who has physically come in contact with someone, regardless of the amount of time.
Close contacts do not include infectious people who may walk past you at a place like the grocery store or gas station.
To meet the unprecedented demand for contact tracing, the Health Department has partnered with Virginia-based company Maximus Federal Services, Inc., to monitor individuals who have had close contact with a COVID-19 individual. This means you may not receive a call directly from a Health Department employee, but rather someone from Maximus, if you have been identified as a close contact.
If you had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and have not yet been contacted by Maximus, you should begin self-quarantine by staying at home and away from others even if you don’t feel sick.
You will NEVER be asked for:
- Your social security number (SSN)
- Financial information, including credit card and checking account information
- Personal information not related to your symptoms for the exception of your name, address, date of birth, phone number and email address
When would I be asked to quarantine?
- You come within six feet for at least 15 cumulative minutes of someone who has COVID-19
- You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
- You had direct physical contact with a COVID-19 positive person (touched, hugged, or kissed them)
- They shared eating or drinking utensils with a COVID-19 positive person
What should I do if I am instructed to quarantine?
- Stay home and away from others until you are released from quarantine
- Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19 and immediately report any symptoms to the health department
When will I be released from quarantine?
- If you do not develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, you can be released from quarantine after 10 days from your last known contact with a positive COVID-19 individual.
- If you are tested after 5 days of quarantine and receive a negative result, you can be released from quarantine after 7 days.
Symptoms may appear up to 14 days after exposure, so individuals released from quarantine should continue to practice caution until 14 days have passed since their last known contact. This includes vigilant masking, hand washing, physical distancing, and monitoring for symptoms.
Masking is not a replacement for physical distancing. If you've been within six feet of someone for at least 15 minutes, you need to quarantine.
When would I be instructed to isolate?
- You have symptoms and test positive for COVID-19
- You have no symptoms but test positive for COVID-19
What should I do if I am instructed to isolate?
- Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible
- Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets
- Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils
- Wear a cloth face covering when around other people, if able
When will I be released from isolation if I developed symptoms?
- No fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications
- Improvement in symptoms
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
When will I be released from isolation if I did not develop symptoms?
- 10 days after the date you were first tested
Why am I being instructed to quarantine if I was released from isolation?
Even if an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 is released from isolation, they will be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days anytime they come into close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 cumulative minutes. A close contact also includes someone who has physically come in contact with someone, regardless of the amount of time. More information is needed to know whether immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.