Isolation & Quarantine
Helping prevent spread of infection when you have or might have COVID-19
If you have COVID-19: You must isolate yourself away from others even if you have been vaccinated, have been infected before, or do not have symptoms. This includes people who have tested positive for COVID-19, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are likely to have COVID-19 (based on symptoms and lack of access to testing). This includes positive results from at-home tests or tests from a lab. See the instructions below for detailed steps on what to do.
Isolation Instructions: If You Have COVID-19
If you have been exposed to COVID-19: People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 do not need to stay home if they don’t have any symptoms, but still need to take precautions to protect others. See the instructions below to find out what you need to do.
Instructions: If You've Been Exposed to COVID-19
Medicine to treat COVID-19 is available at no cost for most people in California. This medicine includes pills you take at home for five days. Treatment can:
- Stop the illness from getting serious
- Help you test negative sooner
- Help reduce the risk of long COVID symptoms.
It's important to start treatment early, within the first five days of symptoms.
Free telehealth service
If you've tested positive for COVID-19 and can't reach your regular health care provider within 24 hours, you can talk to a telehealth provider for free: visit https://sesamecare.com/covidca or call 833-686-5051. If appropriate, this provider can prescribe COVID-19 treatment to pick up at a pharmacy. This program (including appointment and medication) is free of charge and does not require health insurance. Interpretation in Spanish and Mixteco is available upon request. Learn more at https://sesamecare.com/covidca or from videos in Spanish and Mixteco.
Learn about COVID-19 Treatment
If you have COVID-19, you must isolate yourself away from others even if you have been vaccinated, have been infected before, or do not have symptoms.
- Stay at home. Do not go to school, work, church, stores, or social get-togethers. Do not travel on public transportation (See CDC instructions regarding travel). Do not leave isolation except to get medical care, and do not have any visitors.
- Wear a high-quality, well-fitted mask around others, both indoors and outdoors, for a total of 10 days.
- If you live with others, separate yourself as much as possible. Stay in a separate "sick room" or area, and use a separate bathroom, if possible. Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets. Don't share household items like cups, towels, and utensils.
- Ask about treatment. Treatment for COVID-19 is widely available at no cost. It is most effective when started in the first few days of illness, so it is important to notify your doctor as soon as possible after you test positive. If you are unable to reach your regular doctor within 24 hours, you may talk with a telehealth provider for free: visit https://sesamecare.com/covidca or call 833-686-5051. If appropriate, this provider can prescribe COVID-19 treatment to pick up at a pharmacy. This program (including appointment and medication) is free of charge and does not require health insurance.
- Care for mild symptoms. Whether or not you take prescription medicine to treat COVID-19, you can address symptoms at home by resting and drinking plenty of fluids. You can take over-the-counter medications (like Tylenol or Ibuprofen) as directed on the bottle to provide relief from fever and pain. See guidance from the CDC for steps to take when you are sick with COVID-19.
- Monitor your health. For many people, COVID-19 illness does not require emergency medical attention, but if you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing, chest pressure or severe confusion), seek emergency medical care immediately.
How long do I need to isolate?
Everyone who has COVID-19 (tested positive, has been diagnosed, or is likely to have COVID-19 based on symptoms and history of close contact) must isolate for 5-10 days and wear a well-fitting mask when around others for all 10 days.
To calculate your isolation period, Day 0 is your first day of symptoms or the day of your positive test (if you are asymptomatic). Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms develop, or the first full day after your positive test if you do not experience symptoms.
If you develop symptoms after testing positive, your isolation period starts over. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.
Isolation Calculator (If you have COVID-19| En Español)
Isolation can end after 5 full days if you've had:
- No fever for the last 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine (like Tylenol or Ibuprofen); AND
- No symptoms are present, or symptoms are improving.
If you have a fever, continue to isolate until 24 hours after your fever resolves. If you have symptoms other than fever, continue to isolate until symptoms are improving or until after Day 10.
A small number of people who recover from COVID-19 may experience “COVID-19 rebound” in which symptoms return and you test positive again, after testing negative. If you experience this rebound, you should re-start your isolation period from Day 0 and contact your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns. If you do not have a regular health care provider, you may contact the Public Health Department at 805-781-5500 with your questions.
In what settings does this guidance apply?
This guidance is intended for members of the general public. This guidance may not apply in health care, long-term care, corrections, homeless shelters, and other indoor high-risk settings. These settings have their own specific guidance for isolation and quarantine. See local guidance for high-risk settings and CDC guidance for Congregate Living Settings.
Additionally, an employer or institution may have more restrictive policies in place than those described here. It is best to check with your organization for their rules.
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If You've Been Exposed
If you have been in the same room or vehicle (any indoor space of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor) as someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, you should take precautions to protect others. In larger spaces (such as a warehouse or open plan office of more than 400,000 cubic feet per floor), you should take precautions if you were within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Everyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should:
Watch for symptoms. If you develop any symptoms, test and stay home. If you use a home antigen test and the result is negative, you should test again after 48 hours.
Get tested. This could be a PCR test or a home antigen test. If you do not have symptoms:
Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days following your last exposure. This means avoiding situations where you would need to remove your mask around others, such as eating at a restaurant. It is especially critical in indoor settings and when near those at higher risk for severe COVID-19.
- If you test positive, isolate.
In addition, you may choose to temporarily avoid contact with people at higher risk of severe illness to protect them from possible exposure.
Specialized guidance applies to work and school settings:
See the links below and check to see if your work or school has additional requirements:
Additionally, a specific employer or institution may have more restrictive policies in place than those described here so it is best to check with your specific organization for their isolation and quarantine rules.
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