COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance
Have you tested positive for COVID-19, had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or do you have COVID-19 symptoms?
- Quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus.
- Isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don't have symptoms.
- Everyone exposed to COVID-19 should seek testing.
Getting vaccinated helps to prevent infection, severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, and may affect your quarantine and isolation guidance. See the answers below and visit the CDC website and Washington Department of Health website for the latest updates and more information about how the current guidance applies to you.
The CDC shortened the recommended time for isolation and quarantine from 10 days to five days. See the Frequently Asked Questions below for help understanding how the new guidance applies to different scenarios.
Important note: Those in congregate settings will continue to follow the previous guidance and NOT the new guidance. See the complete list of congregate settings.
When do I need to Quarantine?
"Up-to-date" includes people who have received their booster shot or received the second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine fewer than six months ago or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine fewer than two months ago.
NOT "Up-to-date" includes people who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated; people who completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna more than six months ago but have not been boosted; or people who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago and have not been boosted.
Children younger than 16 years old (for whom booster is not recommended) are considered by the CDC to be "up-to-date". They should follow the guidelines below for someone who has completed their primary series and a booster.
I am not up-to-date with my vaccinations and booster and was exposed to COVID-19. What should I do?
If you are not up-to-date on your vaccinations and booster and have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period), stay home without visitors (quarantine) for 5 days and seek testing on day 5. It's very important to test on Day 5 if possible.
If you do not have symptoms or test negative, after five days you can leave your home but must continue to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for five more days. If you can't quarantine you must wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, distance from others, avoid crowded places, and stay away from people at high risk for serious illness.
You can quarantine in your home or at a public Isolation/Quarantine center. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. If possible, also stay away from people in your household who are at high risk of serious COVID-19 illness.
I am up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters and was exposed to COVID-19. What should I do?
If you are up-to date with vaccinations and boosters, after exposure to someone with COVID-19:
- You do not need to quarantine following an exposure;
- Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after the exposure; and
- Test on day 5, if possible.
Everyone who has been exposed regardless of vaccination status should get a COVID test five days after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a test confirms symptoms are not caused by COVID-19.
I tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms after being exposed. How long do I need to isolate?
For all people who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, CDC shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days to five days.
- If you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are improving after five days, you can leave your house. If you have a fever, stay home until your fever goes away.
- You should continue to wear a high quality, well-fitting mask around others for five additional days.
- High-quality and well-fitting masks are essential and are described here.
- According to the CDC, they are making this change because data demonstrate that the majority of COVID transmission occurs early in the course of illness. CDC states that most transmission occurs in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after onset of symptoms.
While isolating, do not leave your home or public Isolation/Quarantine center, except to receive medical care. At home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others -- stay in a specific "sick room" or area, use a separate bathroom (if available), and avoid sharing personal household items. If you are in the same room as household members, make it brief, maintain a distance, and make sure you both wear a mask.
What is the isolation and quarantine guidance for congregate settings? Does it differ from the general public guidelines?
The Washington Department of Health is currently assessing certain setting-specific isolation and quarantine recommendations for non-healthcare congregate settings. In light of this, Washington Department of Health recommends that people in the following settings continue to follow the previous guidance and NOT the new guidance that was announced the week of 12/27 for the general public:
- Child care
- Commercial maritime settings such as commercial seafood and cargo ships
- Crowded work sites where physical distancing is not possible due to the nature of the work, such as in warehouses, factories, and food packaging and meat processing facilities
- Correctional facilities
- Homeless shelters and transitional housing
- Temporary worker housing
- Institutions of higher education
I recently recovered from COVID-19 and was exposed to COVID-19. What should I do?
If you recently recovered from a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness past 90 days:
- Stay home without visitors (quarantine) for 5 days and seek testing on day 5. It's very important to test on Day 5 if possible.
- If you do not have symptoms or test negative, after five days you can leave your home but must continue to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for five more days.
- If you can't quarantine, you must wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask for 10 days, distance from others, avoid crowded places, and stay away from people at high risk for serious illness.
- You can quarantine in your home or at a public Isolation/Quarantine center. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. If possible, also stay away from people in your household who are at high risk of serious COVID-19 illness.
I live with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, what should I do?
- For 10 days after your household member's COVID-19 symptoms started, avoid spending time in the same room and wash hands frequently. If you are in the same room, make it brief, maintain distance, and make sure that you both wear a mask.
- Seek testing. If you test positive, follow the instructions on kingcounty.gov/nextsteps.
- Monitor for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, separate yourself from others (isolate) and get tested right away.
- This guidance also applies if multiple members of a household become infected during the same time period or outbreak.
- If you are NOT up-to-date on your vaccinations and booster: Stay home without visitors (quarantine) for 5 days and seek testing on day 5. It's very important to test on Day 5 if possible. If you test positive while you are quarantining, you will need to start a new isolation period. If you do not have symptoms or test negative, after five days you can leave your home but must continue to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for five more days.
- If you are up-to date with vaccinations and boosters: You do not need to quarantine. Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask for 10 days and test on day 5, if possible.
For healthcare professionals
If you are a healthcare professional who thinks or knows you had COVID-19, you should notify your employer and follow the same recommendations listed above for when you can resume being around others outside the workplace. When you can return to work depends on different factors and situations—ask your employer for guidance. For information on when you can return to work, see: Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection (CDC Interim Guidance).
What if I can't afford to take time off work to isolate or quarantine?
If you are experiencing economic hardship and test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to someone who tested positive, you may be eligible to receive a one-time direct payment to vendors for up to $1500 towards utilities, phone, and internet bills. No application is necessary and there is no citizenship or income requirement.
Local Health Officer Directive and Order
Effective March 28, 2020, individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and have a test result pending must remain in quarantine or isolation to prevent further spread, as described above. Individuals who fail to comply may be subject to involuntary detention pursuant to public health authority under RCW 70.05.070 (2)-(3) and WAC 246-100-036 (3).
For more information, see the complete order for additional details, including conditions of quarantine and isolation.
- IQ Surge – Admissions Eligibility Criteria Based on Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness (updated 1/14/2022)
- DOH Isolation and Quarantine for COVID-19
- King County Isolation/Quarantine and Assessment/Recovery Facilities
- CDC When to Quarantine
- CDC Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People
If you have additional questions, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Interpretation is available.
Link/share our site at kingcounty.gov/covid/quarantine