Isolation and Quarantine – Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: October 18, 2022

En Español

What does isolation mean?

Used to separate someone infected with the virus (sick with COVID-19 and asymptomatic) from people who are not infected. Individuals should stay home from work, school and activities. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others by staying in a specific ‘sick room’ or area and use a separate bathroom (if available). Practice physical distancing from household members and pets, improve ventilation and do not share personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils.

What does quarantine mean?

A strategy used to prevent COVID-19 transmission by keeping people who have been exposed apart from others.

How do I determine if I am a close contact?

Someone who has been within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 (laboratory-confirmed or clinical diagnosis) for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period, regardless of face coverings or other physical barriers, starting 48 hours prior to:

  • Symptom development.
  • Test date for asymptomatic cases.

Anyone who lives, or lived temporarily with the COVID-19 case for at least one night in the same room or household during the infectious period should be reported as close contacts.

What does it mean to be up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations?

If you have received an additional dose if immunocompromised or received a booster at regular time points as recommended. A booster is a subsequent dose administered to enhance or restore protection by the primary vaccination which might have waned over time. All persons 5 and older should receive a COVID-19 booster. Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary and booster dose. Getting a second booster shot is not necessary to be considered up to date at this time. Ensure you are optimally protected against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and staying up to date with booster shots.

What does it mean if I am not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations?

When you are not vaccinated, you have only received one dose or just the 2-dose series of a COVID-19 vaccine or a single dose of Janssen vaccine and not the booster per the recommended schedule.

Do people who are not eligible for their booster need to quarantine?

No. CDC guidance recommends that individuals, regardless of vaccination status, no longer quarantine. Individuals with a known exposure, should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five.

When does the 5 days start for isolation or the 10 day masking period after a known exposure?

When calculating isolation, day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected.

When calculating how long to wear a high-quality mask, the date of last exposure is considered day 0. Day 1 is the first full day after the last contact with a person who has COVID-19.

Why were the isolation and quarantine guidance changed?

The CDC continues to evaluate recommendations as evidence and data become available. With so many tools available to us for reducing COVID-19 severity like vaccinations, boosters and treatments, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic. Evidence also shows that high-quality masking, testing and proper ventilation protect people from being exposed to the virus. The CDC streamlined COVID-19 guidance to help people better understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive for the virus.

Isolation Guidelines

Individuals who test positive, regardless of vaccination status should:

  1. Stay home for 5 days. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected.
  2. Stay in one room of the home, physically distance from household members and pets, use a different bathroom if possible, improve ventilation and not share personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils.
  3. Wear a high-quality mask while in isolation if you must be around others.

When can I end isolation?

  1. If you had no symptoms, you can end isolation after 5 full days.
  2. If you had symptoms, you can end isolation after 5 full days if fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist weeks or months after recovery). You may leave your house at this time.
  3. If symptoms have not resolved or improved, continue to stay home until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist weeks or months after recovery).
  4. Wear a high-quality mask around others for 5 additional days (day 6 through 10).
  5. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.

Individuals who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, who were severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system should:

  1. Isolate through day 10. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected.
  2. Consult with a health care provider before ending isolation.

Exposure to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or if you have had a previous infection, with a laboratory confirmed COVID-19 case should:

  1. Not quarantine.
  2. Wear a high-quality mask around others through day 10.
  3. Continue to monitor for symptoms for 10 days from the date of exposure (date of last close contact is day 0).
  4. Get tested at least 5 full days after the last exposure.
  5. Get a COVID-19 test and stay home if symptoms develop within the 10 days.
  6. Isolate immediately if the test is positive.

What populations should follow the shortened guidelines?

The general population in the community, including workplaces and K-12 schools. It does not apply to health care settings, correctional institutions or homeless shelters. The CDC provides separate, specific guidance for these settings.

Who is not included in the shortened guidelines?

People who cannot wear a mask, including children <2 years old and people of any age with certain disabilities, should isolate (if infected) for 10 days.

People with severe COVID-19 illness (e.g., requiring hospitalization, intensive care or ventilation support) should isolate for at least 10 days and may need to isolate longer after symptom onset. Consult a health care provider to determine the duration of isolation.

Am I able to travel when isolating or after being exposed?

No. Avoid travel for at least 10 days after symptoms started or a positive test when in isolation.

If you are traveling following an exposure, do not travel to places where you are unable to wear a high-quality mask. It is recommended to get tested 5 full days after last exposure and make sure the test result is negative and there are no symptoms before traveling. Do not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses and trains if you will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator when around others indoors for the full duration of your trip.

Can I visit family in a nursing home while in isolation after an exposure?

No. Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days.

Can I remove my mask after the 5 days of isolation?

No. Avoid places where you are unable to wear a high-quality mask, until 10 days after last exposure.

What does a high-quality mask mean?

It fits snugly against the face. Masks should not have gaps which can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges. A mask should have layers to stop respiratory droplets from getting in and others’ out. Click here for more information.

I am unable to wear a high-quality mask. How does that affect isolation and the recommendation for wearing a mask after an exposure?

You should quarantine for 10 days if unable to wear a high-quality mask. Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days. Do not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses and trains if you will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator when around others indoors for the full duration of your trip.

General Prevention Recommendations for COVID-19

The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including variants, include:

  • Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. Vaccines are safe, free and effective.
  • Having at-home tests to use any time you have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, and isolating if positive.
  • Visit your doctor or go to an urgent care center as soon as you become positive, especially if you are at a higher risk for severe disease. Treatment is most effective within the first 5 days of symptoms.
  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Practice proper respiratory etiquette, including coughing and sneezing into the back of your elbow or into a tissue. Immediately throw away the tissue and wash your hands.

For more information about Isolation and Quarantine, click here.

Contact Us | Directory of Services | Employment Opportunities | Employees Only

Anne Arundel County Government | Maryland Department of Health | Site Use Policy and Disclaimer | ADA Notice


Anne Arundel County Department of Health | 3 Harry S. Truman Parkway Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-222-7095 | TTY (Relay): 7-1-1 | © 2023