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COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine

CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine has changed. The new guidance is meant to reduce the impact on critical infrastructure and staffing while reducing the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about why CDC updated their guidance.

The new CDC guidance below does apply to school settings but some additional guidance applies. See CDC’s Overview of Quarantine Guidance for K-12 Schools.

If you test positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Isolate away from others in your household. See detailed guidance below.
  • Reach out to people you were close to in the 2 days before you had symptoms or tested positive.
  • Treat symptoms like any other respiratory virus such as the flu.
  • Seek help for emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, and other serious medical issues. 
  • Do NOT go to the emergency room for testing.

If you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19:

  • Quarantine away from others. See detailed guidance below.
  • Get tested 5 days after your last contact with the person, or sooner if you develop symptoms. Testing too early may not detect the virus even if you are infected. 
  • Do NOT go to the emergency room for testing. 
  • You may not have to quarantine if you are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from a COVID infection; see below for additional quarantine guidance.

Quarantine and isolation are critical tools for reducing the spread of COVID-19. The new, shortened quarantine and isolation rules are dependent on people wearing well-fitting masks correctly.

For Maryland Department of Health resources:

Isolation – Detailed guidance

You isolate when you have suspected COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms and even if you are vaccinated. Isolating helps prevent COVID-19 from spreading to others. Isolate if you:

  • Have a positive viral test for COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms. This includes at-home tests.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you are waiting for test results or have not been tested. Isolate even if you do not know if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

What to do:

  • 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.
  • Improve ventilation at home, 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 well-fitting mask when you need to be around other people.

Learn more about what to do if you are sick and how to notify your contacts.

To end isolation:

If you had COVID-19 and had symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days.

To calculate your 5-day isolation period, day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms started or after your test was done.

  • You can end isolation after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and your symptoms have improved (except for loss of taste and smell, which may last for weeks or months).
  • If you continue to have fever or other symptoms after 5 days of isolation, wait until you are fever-free for 24 hours without medication and your other symptoms have improved.
  • If you continue to have no symptoms, you can end isolation after at least 5 days.
  • Continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public for 5 more days. If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, isolate for a full 10 days.
  • Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, for at least 10 days.
  • If you didn’t have symptoms when you tested, but then develop symptoms after testing positive, your 5-day isolation period should start over. Day 0 is your first day of symptoms.
  • Do not travel during your 5-day isolation period. After you end isolation, avoid travel until after a full 10 days. If you must travel on days 6-10, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others. If you are unable to wear a mask, you should not travel during the 10 days.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.

If possible, use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period. Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. If you test positive, continue to isolate until day 10. If you test negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.

Negative results should be treated as presumptive. Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions. To improve results, antigen tests should be used twice over a three-day period with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours between tests.

Note that these recommendations on ending isolation do not apply to people with severe COVID-19 or with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised). For additional, detailed guidance, see Full CDC guidance for isolation.

Quarantine – Detailed guidance

You quarantine when you might have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Quarantining helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.

A close contact is someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more in 24-hours. An infected person is someone who has been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19 starting 2 days before they had any symptoms or before they were tested. Learn more about close contact, including exceptions to the definition for K-12 schools.

If you came into close contact with someone with COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine IF:

  • You are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • You had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (meaning you tested positive using a viral test).

To protect others, you should:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the date of your last close contact with someone with COVID-19 (day 0).
  • Get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19. If you test positive or develop COVID-19 symptoms, isolate from other people and follow isolation guidelines.

If you tested positive for COVID-19 with a viral test within the previous 90 days and don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, you do not need to quarantine or get tested after close contact. You should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the date of your last close contact with someone with COVID-19 (day 0).

If you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should quarantine IF:

  •  You are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • You are not vaccinated.
  • You had confirmed COVID-19 more than 90 days ago.

What to do for quarantine

  • Stay home and away from other people for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. The date of your exposure is considered day 0. Wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home, if possible.
  • For 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19, watch for fever (100.4◦F or greater), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and isolate until you receive your test results. If you test positive, follow isolation recommendations.
  • If you do not develop symptoms, get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
    • If you test negative, you can leave your home, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home and in public until 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
    • If you test positive, follow isolation recommendations.
    • If you are unable to get a test, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have had no COVID-19 symptoms. Wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days after your date of last close contact when around others at home and in public.
    • Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days.
  • If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, as well as others outside your home throughout the full 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • If you are unable to quarantine, you should wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days when around others at home and in public.
  • If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, you should continue to quarantine for 10 days. Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days.
  • Do not travel during your 5-day quarantine period. Get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact and make sure your test result is negative and you remain without symptoms before traveling. If you don’t get tested, delay travel until 10 days after your last close contact with a person with COVID-19. If you must travel before the 10 days are completed, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of travel during the 10 days. If you are unable to wear a mask, you should not travel during the 10 days.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until after 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.

After quarantine

  • Watch for symptoms until 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • If you have symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested.

The Health Department makes the final decision on how long quarantine should last in Carroll County, based on local conditions and other factors such as work or school environment.

What is contact tracing

Contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Please cooperate with contact tracers if you are called. It will help protect your family, friends, and the community. We will never ask for financial information, social security number, or immigration status.

Community Medical Resources

Seguimiento Médico Recursos de Proveedores Comunitarios

Learn more about contact tracing in Maryland on the COVID Link site.

What to Do if You are Sick – CDC guidance

How to Care for Someone Sick at Home with COVID-19 – CDC guidance

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home – CDC guidance

Stress and Coping – CDC guidance

Contact Tracing – CDC

COVID-19 Index page