Quarantine & Isolation

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Staying home to prevent spread of infection when you have or might have COVID-19 

Isolation is for 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. 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. See instructions below.

View Isolation Instructions

 

Quarantine is for people who have been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Many people exposed to COVID-19 will not need to quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms, but will still need to take important precautions. See the instructions below to find out what you need to do.   

View Quarantine Instructions

See the County of San Luis Obispo Health Officer Orders of April 21, 2022: Order to Isolate and Order to Quarantine

 

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COVID-19 Treatments

If you are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (age 65+ or have certain medical conditions that increase your risk), it's a good idea to talk with your doctor about treatment options that may help reduce your risk. Treatment is most effective when started within the first few days of illness, before symptoms become severe. 

Learn about COVID-19 Treatments

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COVID-19 Navigator

Not sure whether to isolate or quarantine, or for how long? The COVID-19 Navigator can help guide you through your next steps based on the latest guidance.

Use COVID-19 Navigator

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Isolation Instructions

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 leave isolation except to get necessary medical care, and do not have any visitors. Do not travel until a full 10 days after your symptoms started or the date your positive test was taken if you had no symptoms. (See CDC instructions regarding travel.)
  • Wear a high-quality, well-fitted mask around others, both indoors and outdoors, for a total of 10 days. 
  • If you are at higher risk of severe disease (this includes those who have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or who are age 65 or older), contact your doctor and ask about treatment options. Treatment is most effective when started in the first days of illness, so it is important to test early and notify your doctor as soon as possible after a positive test.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Notify your close contacts that they have been exposed. A close contact is anyone who was in the same room or vehicle (indoors) with you for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during your infectious period. The COVID-19 infectious period begins two days before your symptoms began (or before your test) and continues until you complete your isolation as directed below.  
  • Report your result. If you used an at-home test (rapid antigen self-test), you will need to report your test result if you have not done so already. If you were tested at a healthcare facility or other testing site, you don't need to report your test result.
  • Optional: request a release-from-isolation attestation. Does your employer or school require documentation or a letter showing that you have completed your isolation period? Use this form to request documentation of your release from isolation.  

 

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 lack of access to testing) must isolate for 5-10 days and wear a well-fitted mask when around others for all 10 days. 

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; AND
  • COVID-19 test taken on Day 5 (or later) of isolation is negative. An antigen test is preferred for the Day 5 follow-up test.

If you are unable to test or choose not to test on Day 5 or later, isolation can end after 10 full days if you've had:

  • No fever for the last 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine; AND
  • No symptoms are present, or symptoms are improving.

If you have a fever, continue to isolate until your fever resolves. If you have symptoms other than fever, continue to isolate until symptoms are resolving 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 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 and ask to speak with the nurse.  

Isolation Calculator (En Español)

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.

 

What if my symptoms return after I recover? (What is “COVID-19 rebound”)? 

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. This brief return of symptoms may be part of the natural course of the illness. Though reported cases have been patients who completed treatment of antiviral pills (Paxlovid), COVID-19 rebound may be independent of treatment with Paxlovid and regardless of vaccination status. If this happens to you, regardless of treatment or vaccination, you should re-start your isolation period 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 and ask to speak with the nurse. 

 

In what settings does this guidance apply?

This guidance is intended for members of the general public. This guidance may not apply in certain settings including health care environments, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters, schools and some workplaces. These settings have their own specific guidance for isolation and quarantine.

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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Quarantine Instructions

If you have been in the same room or vehicle as someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period, you should take precautions and may need to quarantine. Everyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should: 

  • Get tested on Day 5 after last exposure to the person with COVID-19.  This could be a lab test or a home test. (See no-cost testing sites in SLO County.)

  • 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.

  • Watch for symptoms. If you develop any symptoms, test and stay home. 

  • If you test positive, isolate.

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.

For the general public outside of work or school settings: 

You must quarantine if you: 

  • Are a resident in a high-risk setting, such as emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers; healthcare settings; correctional facilities and detention centers; homeless shelters; long term care settings; and adult and senior care facilities.

In addition, it is recommended that you quarantine if you: 

  • Experienced a high-risk exposure. Examples include exposure from someone in your household or from an intimate partner, or from unmasked activities with increased exertion, voice projection, or face-to-face contact such as indoor group singing or contact sports.
  • Are more likely to become infected because you are immunocompromised or not vaccinated.


How do I quarantine?

Follow these steps to quarantine:

  • Quarantine (stay home or in a separate room away from others) for at least 5 whole days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days after exposure.
  • Test on Day 5 after your most recent exposure.
  • If you do not have symptoms and if a test on Day 5 or later is negative, quarantine can end after Day 5.
  • If you are unable to test or choose not to test, and do not have symptoms, quarantine can end after Day 10.
  • If you test positive, follow isolation instructions.
  • If symptoms develop, test and follow isolation instructions. A PCR test is preferred.
  • Optional: request a quarantine order or release-from-quarantine attestation. Use this form to request a quarantine order, or this form for a release from quarantine attestation. ​

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Quarantine After Travel 

Everyone should get tested 1-3 days before travel and 3-5 days after travel, regardless of vaccination status.

See CDC recommendations regarding quarantine after travel.  

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Videos

En Mixteco:

 

What's the difference between quarantine and isolation?

 

 

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