While you wait for your COVID-19 test results
- Stay home and away from others, especially if you have symptoms. Even if you do not have symptoms, it is best to stay home, but if you have to leave, wear a mask and stay 6 feet from others.
- Monitor your symptoms. If they get worse, contact your health care provider. Tell them you were tested for COVID-19.
- Make a list of people you have been in close contact with recently. Tell them you may have COVID-19 and they should stay away from others until they hear from you.
- If you were tested because you were in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you do not have symptoms, you should stay home and away from others while waiting for your test results. If you receive a negative test result, you still need to stay home for 14 days from the time you were exposed, as you could become ill. If you become ill or test positive, you must stay home for 10 days starting on the day you were tested (if you tested positive) or the day of the onset of symptoms.
Quarantine is separating an individual who has been exposed to a communicable disease, such as COVID-19, from other people who are not sick and who have not been exposed. Someone who is exposed to COVID-19 has a higher chance of becoming ill with the disease. When someone quarantines, this can prevent the disease from spreading if the individual becomes ill.
Once you are exposed to germs, there is a period of time between infection (when enough germs are in your body to make you sick) and the time you begin to experience symptoms (in other words, you feel sick). This is known as the incubation period. During the incubation period, you may be infectious (meaning you can make others sick).
The incubation period for COVID-19 is two to 14 days. Three options for quarantine are allowable in the state of Colorado. They are listed here with the safest option first.
Regardless of the option selected, if you develop symptoms at any time in the 14 days after your exposure, you should seek testing for COVID-19 and you must begin isolation for illness with COVID-19.
- Safest option: Remain at home and away from others for a full 14 days. If you stay completely separate from others for 14 days after you were exposed, you will not put anyone at risk of catching COVID-19 from you. People who live in group settings like dorms, barracks or homeless shelters must use this option. People who work with high-risk people, like those in nursing homes, should also follow a 14-day quarantine and contact their occupational health representative for further information.
- Safe option: If you remain symptom-free for 10 days after exposure and don’t live in a group setting, it’s permissible to end your quarantine and continue to monitor yourself for symptoms for the remaining four days of the incubation period. CDC recently released data showing that there is a lower risk of becoming ill and passing on the virus at 11 to 14 days after exposure. While it is lower risk, there is still up to a 10 percent chance of passing on the virus after Day 10. You must not be in contact with people who are elderly or at risk for severe illness for the full 14 days.
- Testing option: The shortest option allowable for quarantine is seven days. To use this option, you must obtain a negative COVID-19 test on Day 5 to Day 7 after your exposure. Testing is a point-in-time measure and you may still become ill with the virus and pass it to others after leaving a 7-day quarantine. For these reasons, 7-day quarantine with testing is the least preferred option and not recommended by EPCPH in most cases.
Isolation is for sick people and people who test positive for COVID-19. It means staying away from others until:
- No fever for 24 hours (without medicine that lowers fevers)
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started or
- you tested positive
- Other symptoms are getting better
Frequently Asked Questions
What to do if you get tested for COVID-19
- People who are concerned that they may be positive for COVID-19 need to isolate at home until they get their test result. You should not be in contact with others while you wait.
- Start thinking about who you might have been in contact with while you were infectious. See below for information on who is considered a close contact.
- Click here for information on how to isolate.
When is a case of COVID-19 able to pass the virus on to others?
- People are infectious for 48 hours before they start feeling sick.
- If you have tested positive but don’t have any symptoms, you are considered infectious for 48 hours before you had your test done.
- People are infectious for at least 10 day after their symptoms start (or 10 days after getting their test if they don’t have symptoms).
- If you have severe illness you may be infectious for longer. If you still have significant symptoms after the 10 days have passed, continue to isolate until you feel better. You can stop isolation when your symptoms have significantly improved.
- It is your responsibility to tell people about your test result if you were with them while you were infectious. This helps them know that they may be at risk for becoming infectious and they can quarantine to keep their friends and family (especially elderly and vulnerable friends and family) safe from the virus.
Who are my close contacts?
- Your contacts are people you interacted with while you were infectious. You are infectious for 48 hours before your symptoms started (or test date) through 10 days after your symptoms started (or test date). You may be infectious for longer if you have a severe case.
- Not every interaction is high risk for passing COVID-19 to others. If you have interacted with someone for a total of 15 minutes within a 24 hour period, they are considered a close contact and they need to quarantine.
- Most of your contacts will be in your home or workplace, but if you met up with friends, went to social events, or visited business while infectious, they may also be contacts.
- Even if you and your contact were wearing masks, they are still considered close contacts. Masks reduce the risk of passing illness but do not eliminate the risk.
What should I tell my close contacts?
- Remember that you are counting people as contacts only if you interacted with them in the 48 hours before your symptoms started (or test date) through 10 days after your symptoms started (or test date).
- Let them know that you have the virus and that you were with them while you were infectious.
- Tell your contact that they have been exposed to the virus and may become ill and infectious with COVID-19 in the 14 days after they interacted with you.
- Everyone who is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 is required by Public Health to quarantine for 14 days, even if they test negative during that time.
- They can seek testing through their doctor or through community testing sites. We recommend that anyone with symptoms seek testing.
- It’s not necessary to get tested if you don’t have symptoms, however, it can be useful to get tested on Day 7 after an exposure to COVID-19. Typically, it is not worthwhile to get tested before Day 7 because it is very unlikely that you would get a positive result at that time.
What about the family members and other contacts of my contact?
- If your contact doesn’t have any symptoms at the time they go into quarantine, their friends and family do not need to quarantine. They can continue to go to work or school but must stay separate from your contact during the 14 days.
- If your contact is feeling ill, they should get tested. They are probably sick with COVID-19 and their close contacts have been exposed to them and need to follow quarantine instructions.
I went to work or school while I was infectious, what should I do?
- If you worked while infectious, notify HR or your Supervisor of the days you worked while infectious and provide them with this guidance.
- If you attended school or university while infectious. Please notify school administration or the school nurse. They will work with Public Health on next steps.
- Your personal information does not need to be shared for your work or school to quarantine close contacts. You can be kept anonymous.
Where can I go for testing?
Please see our testing information page.
Why am I being quarantined even though I was social distancing and wearing a mask?
Distancing and wearing a mask significantly lowers the risk, similar to wearing a helmet while playing football or wearing a seatbelt in a car, however, these steps do not eliminate risk entirely. This is why quarantine may still be necessary even if someone is doing everything “right.”
Why do I have a different quarantine period than someone else I know who was exposed?
Individuals have different quarantine lengths of time based on the last day they were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Different end dates simply mean they were last in contact with someone who has COVID-19 on different days.
What happens if I don’t follow the isolation/quarantine requirements?
Our goal is to protect you, your friends, family and our community. We understand that staying at home or not going to work is a difficult ask, but it protects our community by preventing the spread of illness.
Can I still go on a walk/to the park etc. while I’m quarantining?
- During the quarantine period, it’s OK to do some outdoor activities like taking a walk as long as you can distance from others. Things that we wouldn’t want you to do include traveling, using public transportation, or going to school or work. You can continue with any school/work activities you can do from home.
- We do not recommend using drive-thru services as you would still have contact with the person at the window. To the greatest extent possible, we recommend having groceries and meals delivered.
- Visiting local parks depends on the park and your ability to maintain distance from others while you are there. We recommend not touching any of the park equipment or benches. If you have a less busy place to get outdoors like a yard or a street/sidewalk with low traffic, we recommend using those options.
- Do not visit busy hiking or walking trails. Stick to places near your home to get your outside time in so that you can make sure you are distanced from others.
- Camping is not allowed while on quarantine as there are too many factors that could put others at risk.
If I was (or the other person was) wearing a mask, should I still list them as a close contact?
Yes. Masks lower, but do not completely prevent transmission. Maintaining social distancing and proper hand hygiene are also other prevention methods. It is important to remember that one prevention method should not be used alone.
At the end of my isolation should I get another test to make sure that I don’t have COVID-19 anymore before going back to work?
- You do not need to be retested to leave isolation and return to school or work after having COVID-19. As long as you meet the criteria listed below you may leave isolation:
- At least 10 days since symptoms started OR 10 days from a positive test if you have no symptoms.
- Symptoms are improving.
- Fever-free for 24-hours without using fever-reducing medicines (such as Ibuprofen).
- Some symptoms may linger for a few days or weeks. So long as your symptoms are improving and you meet the other criteria, you may leave isolation.
I feel really anxious/depressed/lonely/scared about being alone for so long. What if I lose my job, or someone else in my family gets sick?
Being sick with or exposed to COVID may cause many different and strong emotions that may feel hard to manage on your own. There are many resources available to help. Please click here for more information and for local resources that are available.
If I/my child tests negative after an exposure, can I/they go back to normal?
A negative test result during quarantine does not end the quarantine early because it can take up to 14 days to become ill and test positive.
Can I get unemployment while I am in isolation or quarantine?
Some employers are required to allow paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave during this pandemic under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Any private employer with less than 500 but more than 50 employees are covered under this act, but there are some exceptions. The US Department of Labor has more information. You can also try calling the Colorado Unemployment Office at 303-536-5615. This call center for pandemic related assistance is open Monday to Friday from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M.