What to do if You're Sick or Exposed to COVID-19

UPDATED 11/10/21 

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who has tested positive, you might not get a call from the Health Department right away. Follow these guidelines to prevent spreading COVID-19. 

Stay home when you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19, except to get medical care. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, as well as severe tiredness/fatigue, sore throat, muscle or body aches, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, runny nose/congestion, nausea or vomiting or diarrhea. Call ahead before going to your healthcare provider. 

What to do if you've tested positive for COVID-19

See a printable PDF with this information (Spanish, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, French)

If you've tested positive for COVID-19:

  1. Start isolating yourself right away. Stay home except to get medical care. Stay away from everyone else in your household (stay in a separate room, use separate bathroom if possible, etc.). Tell your employer you have COVID-19.
  2. Tell your close contacts so they can quarantine themselves. A close contact is anyone who had face-to-face contact (or other physical contact) with an infected person within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. Please note there may be exceptions to this criteria in certain cases where the risk of transmission is higher (e.g. contact during high impact sports). 
  3. You can resume normal activities when 10 days have passed since your symptoms started (or since your test date if no symptoms), you don't have a fever for 24 hours, AND your symptoms have improved. See CDC guidance on when you can be around others after you had COVID-19.

Recommendations for Isolating a Sick Person to Protect Other Household Members

  • Stay in a separate room from the rest of your household members. 
  • Use a separate bathroom if possible. 
  • Keep toothbrushes separate if you must use the same bathroom. 
  • Family and roommates should avoid contact with sick person and practice self-quarantine. 
  • Wear a mask if you go into shared spaces.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects. Learn about disinfecting your home if someone is sick from CDC.
  • Review our specific recommendations for Isolation, Quarantine, Self-Monitoring and Social Distancing:  English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic

Managing Symptoms at Home

  • Many can manage mild symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, fatigue, abdominal cramps, mild nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, at home. Consult with your health care provider about managing your symptoms.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) for fever. Follow label instructions and do not exceed the maximum dose per day for any medication. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about your personal health.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water or sports drinks. Eat when possible. 
  • Avoid other family members and friends by following the Isolation instructions.
  • Review 10 ways to manage respiratory symptoms at home from CDC.

When to Seek Medical Care

Call your doctor if you have: 

  • Fever that does not come down with medication. 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours or any bloody diarrhea. 
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Symptoms that keep getting worse and feel unmanageable.
  • Other reported symptoms include: chills, repeated shaking with chills, severe tiredness, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, runny nose, and/or a new loss of taste or smell

Call ahead to the Emergency Department or Call 9-1-1 if you have: 

  • Difficulty breathing/inability to catch your breath. 
  • Chest pain or persistent pressure. 
  • Feel faint, light-headed, new confusion, or unstable in any other way.
  • Bluish lips or face

When Seeking Care at a Health Care Facility:

  • Call ahead to get instructions from your health care provider. 
  • Avoid using public transportation to get to your medical provider or emergency department. Do not use busses, Uber, Lyft, or taxi cabs. If you are unable to drive yourself and do not have a ride, call 9-1-1 for transport by ambulance. Inform them of your symptoms ahead of time. 
  • If a family member or friend is giving you a ride, wear a mask or fabric that covers your mouth and nose while you are in the vehicle with them. 
  • If you are driving yourself, apply a mask or fabric that covers your mouth and nose before exiting your vehicle.

What to do if you've been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19

If you're a "close contact" of someone with COVID-19 (meaning you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19) AND you have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, follow these quarantine instructions:

We recommend the general public quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with an infected person. This option is the safest for everyone. However, a growing body of data shows that the risk of illness is greatly reduced between days 11-14. Therefore, your quarantine can end after 10 days if:

  1. You do not develop symptoms within 10 days AND
  2. You continue to monitor your symptoms for 14 days

To be clear, there is still a risk of developing an illness between days 11-14; it is simply lower than the first 10 days. 

During quarantine:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Remember: you cannot test your way out of quarantine. It can take up to 14 days after exposure for an infection to develop, so you could end up testing positive later on. 

If you're a "close contact" of someone with COVID-19 (meaning you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19) AND you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, follow these instructions:

Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  1. They are fully vaccinated, meaning it has been at least 14 days since receiving the final dose in the vaccine series (2 doses of Moderna; 2 doses of Pfizer; or 1 dose of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) and
  2. They have not developed any symptoms since their exposure to someone with COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated people who are exposed should get tested 5-7 days after their exposure. They should also wear a mask in indoor public settings for 14 days after their exposure or until their test result is negative.

Quarantine exemptions:

  • Close contacts who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days do not need to quarantine as long as they do not have ANY symptoms since their exposure.

COVID-19 Testing Information

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