COVID Isolation Guidance: What Steps to Take Once You Test Positive

COVID Isolation Guidance: What Steps to Take Once You Test Positive

COVID-19 cases have risen across Illinois within the past month, and most recently, the number of counties at a “high” risk level status increased for yet another week.

A total of 19 counties were considered at a “high” community level as of Thursday, which was up from 15 the week prior, according to the latest CDC update. However, some Chicago-area counties that were under a “high” alert level last week have since dropped down to “medium.”

Still, COVID cases continue to across the state, with some recommending masking and other precautions.

For those who contract COVID, there may be uncertainty and plenty of questions. For instance, how long you should isolate, and when will you know it’s time to end your isolation period? Furthermore, is testing required to get out of isolation?

Here’s the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

What is the Incubation Period for COVID and How Long Are You Contagious?

“A person with COVID-19 is considered infectious starting two days before they develop symptoms, or two days before the date of their positive test if they do not have symptoms,” according to the CDC.

Regardless of symptoms, those who test positive are advised to take specific precautions for at least 10 days.

“Lets say somebody is diagnosed with COVID and they are in a setting during a time that they might be infectious, we know that with COVID, for the first five days you need to be isolated because you can definitely be spreading COVID at that point,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live in April. “And then you need to be out in day six-10 in that mask.”

How Long Should You Isolate?

Those who believe they have been in contact with someone who has COVID and are unvaccinated should quarantine. Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, people who are positive for COVID should stay home until it’s safe for them to be around others, including even other members of their home.

Health officials recommend a “sick room” or area for those who are infected and a separate bathroom, if possible.

But isolation may not just be for those who test positive. The CDC also recommends those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting test results or have not yet been tested isolate, “even if they do not know if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.”

How do you end isolation?

  • You can end isolation after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved (Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​).
  • If you continue to have fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, you should 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. Continue to wear a well-fitting mask through day 10. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.

So how do you calculate your isolation period?

According to the CDC, “day 0 is your first day of symptoms.” That means that Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.

For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive must start their calculations over, however, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.

Under the CDC guidance, those in isolation should:

  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.
  • Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Take steps to improve ventilation at home, if possible.
  • Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
  • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when you need to be around other people

Do you need to test out of isolation?

While testing out of isolation is not required, the CDC says those who choose to should use an antigen test and not a PCR test. These can be taken toward the end of the isolation period.

“Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved,” the CDC states. “If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.”

What should you do after isolation?

After ending isolation, the CDC recommends individuals continue wearing a mask through day 10, or continue isolating for a full 10 days if masking isn’t an option. They also urged these individual to avoid anyone with a weakened immune system or those at higher risk of infection for the full 10 days.

How Long After COVID Exposure Could Symptoms Start?

According to the CDC, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.

But guidelines state those who were exposed should watch for symptoms until at least 10 days after the last close contact with someone who had COVID.

Anyone with symptoms should get tested.

Which Symptoms Should You Watch For?

According to the CDC, the following are symptoms of a COVID infection:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

It remains unclear if certain symptoms are associated with BA.2.12.1 infections. However, when it comes to BA.2, some symptoms seem to largely mirror a small number of symptoms commonly reported in omicron infections, including cough, fatigue, congestion and runny nose.

For some people, coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple weeks. For others, it may cause no symptoms at all. The virus can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia and death, for some.

When it comes to those who’ve been vaccinated and boosted, the cold-like symptoms experienced following an omicron infection are mostly the same regardless of the subvariant.

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