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San Francisco Health Network

Isolation and Quarantine

Staying home to prevent spread of infection when you have or might have COVID-19

Last updated on September 4, 2021

 

Summary of changes since August 17, 2021

  • Calendars added to show how long to stay home.
  • Fully vaccinated people should consider getting tested after exposure.
  • Students with modified quarantine may ride school buses and public transportation to and from TK-12 schools. They may not play wind instruments in class.

On this page:

What are isolation and quarantine?

Who must stay home to prevent spread of COVID‑19?

Caring for yourself and protecting your loved ones while you must stay at home

How long to stay home

Summary Chart

What are isolation and quarantine?

Both isolation and quarantine refer to staying at home and away from other people, when you have or might have COVID‑19. Isolation and quarantine are used to keep people who have or might have COVID‑19 away from others, to keep the infection from spreading.

You isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you have symptoms that could be from COVID‑19, you also must isolate until you know you are not infected, usually after you have a negative COVID‑19 test.

You quarantine when you have had close contact with someone with COVID‑19 and might be infected.

Close contact is being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more in 24 hours, even if both people were wearing masks.

An infected person can spread COVID‑19 starting 2 days before they have symptoms or test positive for COVID‑19. They stay contagious for at least 10 days after their symptoms started (if they never have symptoms, 10 days after their positive test).

Who must stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID‑19?

  • People with COVID‑19
  • People with symptoms of COVID‑19 who haven’t been tested or are waiting for their test result
  • People who had close contact to someone with COVID‑19 and aren't fully vaccinated for COVID‑19

You are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your 2nd dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine, or 2 weeks after one dose of the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

Caring for yourself and protecting your loved ones while you must stay at home

See the following CDC links for steps to keep infection from spreading and how to take care of yourself:

   If you have symptoms of COVID‑19

   If you were around someone diagnosed with COVID‑19

   If you tested positive for COVID‑19 or were diagnosed with COVID‑19

How long do I have to stay at home? (Ending Isolation and Quarantine)

If you tested positive or were recently diagnosed with COVID‑19

If you had a positive COVID‑19 test or were diagnosed with COVID‑19, you must stay home, except to get needed medical care, until all of the following are true:

  • 10 days have passed since your symptom(s) started AND
  • You had no fever in the last 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever AND
  • Your symptoms are getting better.
    You can be around others even if changes in taste or smell are not improving. Loss of taste or smell can last for weeks to months.

If you never had any symptoms, you must stay home for 10 days after your positive test.

Isolation Calendar Example: Your symptoms began on the 1st. You must stay at home for 10 days after your symptoms started. You can leave home on the 12th.

If you have symptoms of COVID‑19

For people who are fully vaccinated for COVID‑19 and

Unvaccinated people who haven't had close contact to COVID‑19

For people with close contact to COVID‑19 in the last 14 days who weren't vaccinated, see "If you were exposed to COVID‑19"

If you have symptoms of COVID‑19, you must stay home except to get tested or get needed medical care, even if you are fully vaccinated for COVID‑19. You must stay home, away from other people, while waiting for your test result.

You can leave home after one of the following:

  • You have a negative COVID‑19 test result, collected after your symptoms started.
    You are encouraged to stay home until you feel better, so that you don't spread other illnesses.
  • You get a doctor's note or clinic note* that you do not need to isolate.
    A healthcare provider can give you a note that allows you to end isolation and leave home in two situations:
    • They decide that your symptoms are caused by a medical condition that you already have, like allergies or asthma.
    • They determine that your symptoms are caused by another disease, like strep throat.
  • Or after all of the following are true, if you don't get tested or cleared by a healthcare provider:
    • 10 days have passed since your symptoms began AND
    • No fever in the last 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever AND
    • Your symptoms are getting better.

If your COVID‑19 test is positive, see If you tested positive or were diagnosed with COVID‑19.

If you were exposed to COVID‑19 and weren't vaccinated.

If you had close contact to someone with COVID‑19, and weren't fully vaccinated for COVID‑19, you can leave home after one of the following:

  • You have a negative test, collected on or after day 6, AND no symptoms for 7 days after your last* close contact (The day of your last close contact is day 0.)
  • You have no symptoms for 10 days after your last* close contact, if you didn't get tested on or after day 6.

Keep watching for COVID‑19 symptoms for 14 days after your last close contact.

If you develop symptoms of COVID‑19 within 14 days of your last close contact:

You should get tested, even if you tested negative earlier during your quarantine. You must stay at home. You can leave home after one of the following:

  • A negative test, collected after your symptoms started, AND 14 days have passed since your last* close contact.
  • Or after all of the following are true, if you don't get tested:
    • 14 days have passed since your last* close contact AND
    • 10 days have passed since your symptom(s) started AND
    • You haven't had a fever for 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever AND
    • Your symptoms are improving.

If your test is positive, see If you tested positive or were diagnosed with COVID‑19.

* If you cannot stay away from the infected person (for example, someone you live with), you must quarantine for 7-14 days after the person with COVID‑19 is no longer infectious.

Seven Day Quarantine Calendar Example 1: Quarantine, with a test on or after day 6
You had close contact to someone with COVID‑19 on the 1st, and you were tested on the 7th (day 6 of your quarantine). If your test is negative and you've had no symptoms, you can leave home on the 9th (on day 8).

Ten Day Quarantine Calendar Example 2: Quarantine, no test on or after day 6
You had close contact to someone with COVID‑19 on the 1st. You didn't get tested, but you've had no symptoms. You can leave home on the 12th (on day 11).

Ongoing close contact calendar Example 3: A young child cannot be apart from a parent with COVID‑19.
The parent starts to have symptoms on the 1st and gets tested. When the parent's test result comes back positive on the 3rd, the child stay home with the parent.

The last day that the parent is contagious is the 11th. The child gets tested 6 days later, on the 17th. If the test is negative and the child hasn't had any COVID‑19 symptoms, the child can go back to school or daycare on the 19th.

Exceptions and special situations for quarantine

People who are fully vaccinated for COVID‑19

If you were fully vaccinated for COVID‑19, you don’t have to quarantine after close contact as long as you don’t have symptoms.

  • Consider getting tested 3-5 days after your last close contact. CDC and SFDPH now recommend this because the delta variant can sometimes infect fully vaccinated people.
  • Watch for symptoms for the 14 days after your close contact. If you have symptoms, get tested and stay at home until you get the test result. See "If you have symptoms."

People who had COVID‑19 in the last 3 months

If you develop new COVID‑19 symptoms, you must stay at home until you can consult a health care provider about whether you should get tested and if you need to stay at home. Your health care provider will decide whether you must isolate, and for how long.

If you don't get tested or consult a health care provider, you must stay at home until all of the following are true:

  • 10 days have passed since your symptom(s) started AND
  • You had no fever in the last 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever AND
  • Your symptoms are getting better.

You do not need to quarantine after close contact, as long as you do not have COVID‑19 symptoms.

People who live or work in shelters, jails, nursing homes, or hospitals:

Nursing homes (skilled nursing facilities or residential care facilities for the elderly), hospitals, other inpatient health care facilities, jails and shelters are higher-risk for the spread of COVID‑19. Shelters includes general homeless shelters, family shelters, youth shelters and domestic violence shelters.

If you live or work in one of these places, and you have close contact to someone with COVID‑19, you should get tested, even if you are fully vaccinated.

If you live in a shelter or jail, and you aren't fully vaccinated, you must quarantine away from other residents for 14 days after close contact with someone with COVID‑19. If you live in a nursing home, hospital, or other health care setting, you must quarantine even if you are fully vaccinated or had COVID‑19 in the last 3 months. You must quarantine for the full 14 days even if you have no symptoms or test negative for COVID‑19 during this time.

If you work in one of these places, your employer may ask you wait 14 days before returning to work after close contact to COVID‑19 if you aren't fully vaccinated for COVID‑19 or didn't have COVID‑19 in the last 3 months.

When community levels of COVID‑19 are high, healthcare settings, jails and shelters may consider more restrictive measures to prevent spread of COVID‑19. These may include:

  • Testing asymptomatic vaccinated staff with close community contact twice- once on day 3-5 after exposure, and again on day 8-10.
  • Increasing the frequency of surveillance testing of vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.

Children who are exposed to COVID‑19 in school (modified quarantine)

Students in TK-12 schools who are not fully vaccinated for COVID‑19 and have close contact in an indoor classroom setting at school can leave quarantine to attend school if both the student and the infected person were wearing face masks consistently and correctly at the time. They can also ride school buses and public transportation to go to and from school.

This "modified quarantine" applies only to students who were exposed to COVID‑19 at school, because of the low risk of transmission between students in school classrooms. It does not apply to students who were exposed to COVID‑19 at home, outside of school, or during extracurricular activities like school sports.

To attend school during quarantine, the student must:

  • Get tested for COVID‑19 twice a week, and
  • Remain free of any COVID‑19 symptoms during this time.
  • Wear a face mask in school, except to eat

Students must quarantine except to attend school. During modified quarantine, students must not participate in activities outside of school or extracurricular activities at school, including sports. They also must not play wind instruments in class. Quarantine can end on day 8 if a test collected on or after day 6 is negative (The last close contact is day 0).

For more information, see CDPH schools guidance and CDPH Schools Q and A.

Outdoor exposures in schools, childcares and other supervised programs

If the close contact is only outdoors at a school, childcare, or other supervised program, unvaccinated children and youth do not have to quarantine in most situations. They must quarantine only if the total time spent within 6 feet of the infected person was at least 15 minutes; regardless of the duration of the activity; AND

  • The outdoor close contact happened while the child and infected person were unmasked and stationary (i.e. sitting or standing), such as eating together or singing in a group, OR
  • The outdoor close contact happened during high contact sports or dance.
    High contact sports and dance are activities with frequent or sustained contact. Examples include football, basketball, soccer, water polo, and partner dancing.

Travel

San Francisco encourages you to follow CDC recommendations for quarantine after travel, but does not require you to do so. However, workplaces, schools, camps and other businesses and organizations may require that you wait until the CDC-recommended quarantine period ends before they allow you to be at their facility in-person.

Summary chart: How long do I have to stay home and away from other people?*

A. COVID‑19
(positive test or clinical diagnosis)

B. Symptoms of COVID‑19
(no known close contact)

C. Close Contact to COVID‑19
(no COVID‑19 symptoms)

D. Close Contact AND Symptoms

If you had symptoms, you must stay home until

  • 10 days have passed since your symptoms started and
  • You haven't had a fever in the last 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever, and
  • Your symptoms are getting better.

If you never had symptoms, you must stay home for 10 days after your positive test.

You must stay home until one of the following happens.

  1. You have a negative COVID‑19 test result, collected after your symptoms started.
    You should still stay home while sick as much as you can, to prevent spread of other illnesses.
  2. You get a doctor's note or clinic note that you do not need to isolate.
  3. If you don't get tested or cleared by a healthcare provider, you must stay home until all of the following are true:
    • 10 days have passed since your symptoms started and
    • You haven't had a fever in the last 24 hours, without taking medicine for fever, and
    • Your symptoms are getting better.

Fully vaccinated for COVID‑19

You do not have to quarantine.

  • Consider testing 3-5 days after close contact.

Watch for symptoms for 14 days. If you develop symptoms, see Column B.

See Column B.

Unvaccinated or partly vaccinated for COVID‑19

You must stay home until one of the following happens.

  1. 10 days have passed since your last close contact, and you had no COVID‑19 symptoms during that time
  2. 7 days have passed since your last contact; you had no symptoms during that time, and you have a negative COVID‑19 test, collected at least 5 days after your last close contact.

Keep watching closely for symptoms for 14 days after your last contact. If you develop symptoms, see column D.

If you test positive, see column A instead.

You must stay home until:

  • 14 days have passed since your last close contact and
  • You meet the criteria under column B

 

* Special rules apply to (1) health care settings, jails and shelters and (2) children and youth in schools, childcares, and other supervised programs