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What to do after exposure to COVID-19

Quarantine - COVID 19

After being exposed to COVID-19, you can spread the virus even if you don’t show any symptoms. Quarantine keeps people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 away from other people. This helps prevent the spread of the illness.

If you need to quarantine, you should stay at home until it is safe to be around others. Learn when to quarantine and when it is safe to be around other people.

When to Quarantine

You should quarantine at home if you have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. This includes close contact with:

  • People who previously had COVID-19
  • People who have taken the antibody test and have antibodies to COVID-19

Examples of close contacts include:

  • Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer
  • Providing care at home to someone who has COVID-19
  • Having close physical contact with someone with the virus (such as hugging, kissing, or touching)
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses with someone who has the virus
  • Being coughed or sneezed on, or in some way getting respiratory droplets on you from someone with COVID-19

Some places in the United States and other countries ask travelers to quarantine for 14 days after entering the country or state or upon returning home from travel. Check your local public health department website to find out what the recommendations are in your area.

While in quarantine, you should:

  • Stay at home for 14 days after your last contact with someone who has the virus
  • As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can.
  • Keep track of your symptoms (such as fever [100.4 degrees Fahrenheit], cough, shortness of breath) and stay in touch with your doctor.

You should follow the same guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Use a face mask and practice social distancing anytime other people are in the same room with you.
  • Wash your hands many times a day with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not share personal items and clean all "high-touch" areas in the home.

When to End Quarantine

You can end quarantine after 14 days of your last close contact with a person who has COVID-19.

Even if you get tested for COVID-19, have no symptoms, and have a negative test, you should remain in quarantine for the entire 14 days. COVID-19 symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure.

If, during your quarantine, you have close contact with a person with COVID-19, you need to begin your quarantine over from day 1 and remain there until 14 days have passed with no contact.

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 and can't avoid close contact, you can end your quarantine 14 days after that person has been able to end home isolation.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call your health care provider:

  • If you have symptoms and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • If you have COVID-19 and your symptoms are getting worse

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion or inability to wake up
  • Blue lips or face
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concern you


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Considerations for travelers - coronavirus in the US. Updated June 28, 2020. Accessed July 25, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Quarantine if you might be sick. Updated July 16, 2020. Accessed July 25, 2020.


Review Date: 7/25/2020

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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