COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance
Have you tested positive for COVID-19, had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or do you have COVID-19 symptoms? Information on this page will help you understand if you need to isolate and what steps to take.
Please read the glossary for explanations of terms used on this page.
Select an entry below to view definition
A close contact is someone who is less than 6 feet away from an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
You are considered exposed to COVID-19 if you have been less than 6 feet away from an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
A well-fitting mask covers your nose and chin, without gaps around the face. Masks that are loose, with gaps around your face or nose, are not as helpful in protecting you or others.
Wear the best quality mask you can get. Higher quality masks are better at filtering out the virus. Examples, in order of quality are:
- Certified N95, KN95, or KF94 masks; or
- Surgical masks; or
- Cloth masks with multiple layers of breathable, tightly-woven fabric.
Isolation means staying separate from all people who don’t have COVID-19, even within your home.
Quarantine means staying at home with no visitors, away from people outside your home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. If possible, stay away from people in your household who are at high risk for COVID-19 (unvaccinated, older people, or those with medical conditions).
You are considered up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines when you have completed your initial series of vaccinations and all recommended booster shots that you are eligible for. When you are up-to-date with your vaccines, you get the maximum protection available. Some people with weakened immune systems will need more doses to be up-to-date.
You are NOT up-to-date when you:
- Are unvaccinated
- Haven’t received a second dose of Pfizer/Moderna, or
- Haven’t received a booster after getting second dose of Pfizer/Moderna at least 5 months ago or a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 2 months ago
People can have weakened immune systems because of certain conditions, like AIDS, cancer, and diabetes, or because of certain medications and treatments, like chemotherapy. People with weakened immune systems may be more likely to get very sick from COVID‑19.
What to do if...
- Wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5. It's important to test on day 5 if possible.
- Isolate from others if you are sick and suspect that you have COVID-19 but do not yet have test results.
- If you test negative you do not need to isolate and can leave your home.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, whether you are up-to-date-on your vaccines or not, you should isolate from others and follow the CDC isolation guidance.
- Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after the exposure, distance from others, avoid crowded places and stay away from people at high risk for COVID-19.
- Whether you are up-to-date-on your vaccines or not, anyone who tests positive should isolate from others in their home for at least 5 days. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed or the day you got your test. Isolating for 10 days is the safer option since it's still possible to spread COVID-19 after day 5 (though you will not be nearly as contagious as earlier in your infection).
- After 5 days, if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and have no symptoms or your symptoms are going away, or if you never had symptoms, you can leave your home. Do NOT leave your home if you still have a fever. You must continue to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for 5 more days (for a total of 10 days.) When you end isolation, you should still avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11.
- Optional: If you have access to a test and want to test as an extra safeguard, you should test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period using a rapid antigen test if possible. If your test is positive, you should continue to isolate for another 5 days (for a total of 10). If your test result is negative, you may return to work and should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others.
- If your symptoms last longer than 5 days, continue isolating until your symptoms have improved and you no longer have a fever.
- If you had moderate (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) or severe illness (you were hospitalized), isolate through day 10. If you have severe illness or a weakened immune system, consult your doctor before ending isolation.
We do not recommend testing after 10 days, but if you do a test and it is positive, the safest approach is to continue to isolate until your test is negative. It is helpful to repeat the test within 48 hours to rule out a false positive.
If you are unable to continue isolating, make sure to wear a high-quality mask, maintain distance from other people when you can, and avoid spending time in enclosed spaces around other people. If you have concerns about how long you have been testing positive, contact your health provider.
- You do not need to quarantine or stay home unless you develop symptoms.
- Watch for symptoms until 10 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- If you develop symptoms isolate immediately and get tested. Continue to stay home until you know the results. Wear a well-fitted mask around others.
- Wear a well-fitted mask for 10 full days any time you are around others inside your home or in public. Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask.
- Avoid spending time in the same room with that person until 10 days after their symptoms started.
- When you are in the same room, make it brief, keep 6 feet apart, and you should both wear masks.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Test for COVID-19. If you test positive, follow the guidance from Washington State Department of Health.
- Pay attention for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, immediately isolate and get tested.
- Follow the quarantine instructions listed for "I was in close contact with someone with COVID-19"
If you test positive while isolating, you will need to start a new isolation period:
- Isolate for 5 days. (Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed or the day you got your test.)
- After 5 days, if you have no symptoms or your symptoms are going away, you can leave your home. Do NOT leave your home if you still have a fever. Continue to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask around others for 5 more days (for a total of 10 days).
- After you have ended isolation, if your COVID-19 symptoms worsen, restart your isolation at day 0. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about your symptoms or when to end isolation.
Isolation and quarantine centers are available to provide a safe, clean, and comfortable place to stay for people who can’t safely self-quarantine or isolate in their own home, or don’t have a home. These places are free and confidential for everyone, and your stay is not reported to any authority outside Public Health.
To access services, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977 from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily to see if isolation and quarantine services are right for you. Say your language to be connected to an interpreter.
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).
- Care Connect Washington (for food or assistance while isolating)
- CDC: When to Quarantine
- CDC: Stay Up to Date with Your Vaccines
- DOH: Isolation and Quarantine for COVID-19
If you have additional questions, contact the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977. Staff are available weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on holidays). Please say your preferred language when connected.
Link/share our site at kingcounty.gov/covid/quarantine