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COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines for Employees - Positive Test with Symptoms

(Day 0 is day of symptom onset)

When to Start Isolation

  • With onset of COVID-19 symptoms (be sure you have tested)

Where to Isolate/Precautions

  • At home


  • Isolate regardless of your vaccination status
  • Separate as much as possible from others (including roommates)
  • Use a separate bathroom, if available—if shared bathroom space, wipe the area thoroughly after each use
  • Do not go to school, work, or public areas except for medical care (see how to obtain meals below)
  • Do not travel—for travel guidance see the CDC's travel webpage
  • Take steps to improve ventilation at home or in your residence space, if possible
  • Do not share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils
  • Monitor your symptoms—if you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing) seek emergency medical care immediately
  • Avoid use of public transportation
  • Wear a high-quality mask (e.g., N95 or KN95) for five days of isolation and five days after isolation ends (Day 6-Day 10)
    If you have access to antigen tests, you should consider using them Days 6-10. With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10.
    Note: If your antigen test results are positive, you may still be infectious. You should continue wearing a mask and wait at least 48 hours before taking another test. Continue taking antigen tests at least 48 hours apart until you have two sequential negative results. This may mean you need to continue wearing a mask and testing beyond day 10.
  • Avoid anyone who is immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease

When to End Isolation

  • Five full days after symptom onset (Day 6)
    Isolation and Quarantine Calculator WA DOH
  • If fever free (no fever reducing medicines) for 24 hours
  • Symptoms improving (loss of taste and smell may persist but does not delay the end of isolation)
  • Wear a high-quality mask (e.g., N95 or KN95) for five days after isolation ends (Day 6 – Day 10)
  • If symptoms are not improving, continue isolation until the above conditions are met
  • If you have moderate illness (you experience shortness of breath or breathing difficulty), isolate through Day 10
  • If you have serious illness (you have been hospitalized), contact your healthcare provider before ending isolation 

How to Obtain Meals While Isolating

(Always alert others that contactless delivery is needed)

  • Ask others to do your shopping or use a grocery delivery service
  • Ask others to do your meal prep—deliver contactless
  • Use DoorDash, GrubHub, or other meal delivery services

Notifying Close Contacts

  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you must notify any close contacts
    (A close contact is someone you have been around, less than six feet away for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.)

How to notify close contacts:

  • Talk to them directly
  • Use anonymous close contact exposure notification systems
    • Use the Tell Your Contacts notification system, an anonymous online tool, and send a text or email

Reporting Your Positive Test

  • If you test positive, please report your positive (or negative) COVID-19 status at the following link. The process takes approximately 2-3 minutes.
    Say Yes! COVID Test Digital Assistant
    Reporting to the State of Washington is a way for public health entities to know the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 in the state. It is also a way for the state to provide supports when and where needed.

Other Actions/Information

If you have high-risk family members (immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease) and no private space or bathroom, take extra precautions including masking for those at high-risk and contacting a healthcare provider as needed.

  • If you experience moderate to severe illness or you are immunocompromised, isolation requirements may differ.
  • Use cleaning supplies to wipe down multi-user surfaces (e.g., bathroom).

Other Resources

Mental Health

Information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at CDC COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) at DOH COVID-19, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration At-Home COVID-19 Antigen Tests.