Toolkit - COVID-19 Close Contacts

If someone tells you you're a close contact (you have been exposed to COVID-19), the following information will help guide you on what to do:

First, you'll want to make sure you really are a "close contact"
Someone you know has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and that person believes they were within six feet of you for 15 minutes or more while they were contagious. This makes you a close contact and means you were potentially exposed to COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before they have any symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

What is a Close Contact

I am a Close Contact, what should I do?
You should quarantine* at home and away from others to monitor for symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others in case you are infected. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (2 days) before they have symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. 


If symptoms develop, you should call your doctor to ask about COVID-19 testing.

*People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. Fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. 
Someone is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after getting their second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

How long should I quarantine?
A 14-day quarantine is the safest option for all close contacts, however, current federal guidance allows for a shortened quarantine period in certain circumstances. 

Per the federal guidance, people who are in quarantine and do not live or work in a high-priority setting — including long-term care facilities, health care facilities, food processing facilities, jails, schools and child care facilities — may shorten their quarantine in the following circumstances:

•   If a person who is in quarantine has no symptoms, quarantine can end after Day 10.
•   If a person who is in quarantine receives a negative COVID-19 test and has no symptoms, quarantine can end after Day 7. The person must be tested on or after Day 5, and quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than Day 8. Even if a negative test is received before Day 8, the quarantine period should still be a full seven days.

People who live or work in a high-priority setting should quarantine for the full 14-day period due to the increased risk for a potential outbreak in congregate settings.

Quarantine Guidance (click on image to open in new tab to view larger)

Should I get tested for COVID-19?
If you have symptoms and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are made by healthcare providers. The CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page has more information on testing. Additional guidance is available for people who have or think they may have COVID-19:

•  What to do if you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19: (English), (Spanish), (Russian)
• What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19: (English), (Spanish), (Russian)
• What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been around anyone diagnosed with COVID-19: (English), (Spanish), (Russian)
• Recommended guidance for daily COVID-19 screening of employees and visitors: (English), (Spanish), (Russian)
• Interim guidance for implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or con­firmed COVID-19: (English)

What if I don’t have everything I need to stay home and quarantine?
If you find you need something that would take you out of your home, the Community CarePort program through Cascade Pacific Action Alliance may be able to help. Please call 1-800-662-2499 to request assistance.

How do I get a letter excusing me from work while I quarantine?
You will need to reach out to your healthcare provider’s office to request a work exclusion letter.

What is the difference between “Quarantine” and “Isolation”?
Quarantine: is the term used when people need to stay home because they have been potentially exposed but they do NOT have any symptoms. While staying home they need to monitor themselves for symptoms and limit their exposure to others in case they have the virus and could be contagious but don’t know it yet. More on quarantine below.

•  Isolation: is the term used when people need to stay home because they DO have symptoms (or have tested positive for COVID-19) and are considered contagious.  When you are in isolation, you are or have been feeling sick. Your family members who live in your house with you are quarantined. They need to stay in the house but away from you! More on isolation below.

Quarantine Information
For COVID-19, the quarantine* period begins the day after you were last exposed. If you do not have any symptoms after your quarantine period ends, you no longer need to quarantine. If you do get symptoms at any point during the quarantine period, your quarantine will switch to isolation.

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be asked to quarantine. This means staying in your home for 7-14 days (see above “How long should I quarantine?” to determine how long you should quarantine).

If you have kids or other family members in your household, they can still leave the house, but if you get sick, they will have to stay home too. During this time, you are feeling just fine. Maybe worried. Maybe jealous because your family members can leave the house. You’ll be monitoring your health — taking your temperature every day. 

Count down the days! After your quarantine period is complete, and if you have been healthy this whole time — no fever, no cough, no other symptoms associated with COVID-19 — you can leave your house again!

But, if you do get sick, you should isolate yourself from other people as completely as possible. More information about how to isolate if you are sick is available in our Toolkit for Positive Cases. To learn how to get tested for COVID-19, see our COVID-19 Testing webpage.

*People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. Fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. Someone is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after getting their second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Isolation Information
For people that have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, the isolation period is at least 10 days from:

•  The very first day your symptoms started AND
•  You have gone at least 24 hours with no fever (without fever-reducing medication) AND
•  Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving, with the exception of loss of taste and smell, which may persist for weeks or months after recovery (this will not delay the end of isolation)

Isolation is very important so you do not spread COVID-19 to anyone else. When you are in isolation, you are feeling sick. Your family members who live in your house with you are quarantined*. They need to stay in the house but away from you! You will need to stay isolated for at least 10 days and until your fever has been gone for 24 hours, and the rest of your symptoms are much better.

*People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. Fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. Someone is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after getting their second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

 Click here to calculate your isolation or quarantine period
COVID-19 From Exposure to Feeling Better 1
COVID-19 From Exposure to Feeling Better 2