Isolation and quarantine are key strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, or are identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, you should isolate or quarantine as appropriate.
This page outlines the difference between isolation and quarantine and explains why both are important. The guidance below is for the general public use.
For more details on isolation and quarantine, including activities you should avoid during your isolation or quarantine period, please see DOH's guidance What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 and What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19. You can also visit CDC's Quarantine and Isolation page.
What is isolation?
Isolation means you stay home and away from others (including household members) for the recommended period of time (see below) to avoid spreading illness. Isolation is for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have symptoms of COVID-19, or who are awaiting test results.
How long does isolation last?
See DOH's guidance What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 (PDF) for more information.
If you tested positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days* after your symptoms first appeared. You can leave isolation after 5 full days if:
If you continue to have a fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, wait to end your isolation until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved.
If you tested positive for COVID-19 but have not had any symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days* after you tested positive for COVID-19. You can leave isolation after 5 full days if:
If you develop symptoms after testing positive, your isolation period should start over from when your symptoms began. Follow the recommendations above for ending isolation if you have symptoms.
*If you cannot wear a well-fitting mask: You should isolate at home for 10 days after your symptom onset date (or date tested for COVID-19 if asymptomatic).
Calculating Your Isolation Period
If you have symptoms, day 0 is your first day of symptoms. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed. If you have not had any symptoms, day 0 is your positive viral test date (the date you were tested). Day 1 is the first full day after the specimen was collected for your positive test. Please see the Isolation and Quarantine Calculator for assistance.
What is quarantine?
Quarantine describes when someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case they were infected and are contagious. Quarantine becomes isolation if the person later tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms.
How long does quarantine last?
See DOH's guidance What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 (PDF) for more information.
You should quarantine at home for at least 5 days* after your last contact with the person with COVID-19. You can leave quarantine so long as you don't develop symptoms and continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home and in public through day 10.
*If you cannot wear a well-fitting mask: you should quarantine at home for 10 days after your last contact with the person with COVID-19.
Monitor your symptoms during this time, and if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, isolate and get tested.
You do not need to quarantine if you:
COVID-19 vaccines must be authorized for emergency use, licensed, or otherwise approved by the FDA; or listed for emergency use or otherwise approved by the World Health Organization.
While you do not need to quarantine, you should take the following steps:
Additional considerations during isolation and quarantine
People doing the 5-day isolation or quarantine should avoid activities where you cannot wear a mask, and avoid being around people who are at high risk for severe disease until after day 10.
Certain high-risk settings or groups may need to use the 10-day isolation or quarantine option. Please refer to DOH's guidance What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 and What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 for recommendations pertaining to these groups.
- Correctional or detention facility
- Homeless shelter or transitional housing
- Commercial maritime setting (e.g., commercial seafood vessels, cargo ships, cruise ships)
- Crowded work setting 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
- Temporary worker housing
Other settings or groups with different isolation and quarantine recommendations:
- Students and staff in K-12 schools should follow the K-12 requirements.
- People who are staying or working in a health care facility should follow the guidance from CDC's Interim Guidance for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and CDC's Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.
Consult with your local health jurisdiction or health care provider to determine the best option for your individual circumstances.
What kind of support is available if I need to isolate or quarantine?
If you need support to safely stay at home, or you need a safe place to isolate or quarantine, your local public health department may be able to connect you with available services in your area. Support is also available through Care Connect Washington.
If somebody does not have a doctor or health care provider: many locations have free or low-cost testing, regardless of immigration status. See the Department of Health's Testing FAQ or call the WA State COVID-19 Information Hotline.