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What to Do After Testing Positive for COVID-19


COVID cases have gone up across Illinois in the last few months. As of Thursday, 19 counties in total were at high-risk. Last week, there were only 15 counties, according to the CDC. However, some areas in Chicago that were at high-risk the previous week have come down to a medium risk level.

Cases of COVID-19 remain persistent throughout the state. As a result, some health professionals recommend mask-wearing and other precautions to avoid the virus.

For the individuals who have contracted COVID-19, there might be numerous questions and uncertainties. For example, how long should they quarantine, and when will they be aware that it is time for isolation to end? Also, do they have to test negative for COVID-19 to end quarantine?

Answers to COVID-19 Questions

An individual with the COVID-19 virus is considered contagious two days before a positive test without symptoms or two days before showing signs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

No matter the symptoms, people who test positive for the COVID-19 virus, are advised to take specific measures of precaution for a minimum of 10 days.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Public Health Commissioner, said during a live Facebook video if someone is diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus and is in a setting where they may be infectious, for the first five days, they need to isolate because they can spread the virus to others at that time. After five days, they must wear a mask outside for six to 10 days to prevent spreading COVID-19.

Courtesy of Chad Davis (Flickr CC0)

People who may have come into contact with someone with the COVID-19 virus and are not vaccinated needs to isolate. According to the CDC, individuals who test positive, whether vaccinated or not, need to quarantine.

The CDC also expresses that those who are COVID-19 positive need to stay home until it is safe to be around other people, including other home members.

Health officials recommend having a sick room and a separate bathroom in the home if possible. This decreases the likelihood of spreading the virus through the house.

Furthermore, isolation is not just for those who test positive or are exposed. It is also for those who are pending a COVID-19 test result. Even if they are unsure if they have come into contact with the virus, they are still recommended to isolate by the CDC.

When to End Isolation

Isolation can end after five days if someone remains free of a fever for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicines. Also, other symptoms need to be improved. However, the loss of smell and taste may continue for months following recovery. That does not need to improve to end isolation.

If the symptoms do not improve and the fever does continue for more than five days, then remain in isolation. Contact health professionals for concerns or questions.

Do not go to areas where masks cannot be worn. For example, in gyms and restaurants, avoid eating in others’ homes, around others at home, or work for 10 days after the first symptom.

Based on information from the CDC, day zero is the first day of COVID-19 symptoms. The five or more days start the day after the first symptom. For those asymptomatic, day zero is the day of a positive COVID-19 test. Also, for individuals who start getting symptoms after a positive test, then the day zero begins the day symptoms start.

What to Do in Quarantine

Under CDC guidelines, those who quarantine are encouraged to,

  • Monitor symptoms and go to the emergency room if dangerous warning signs develop.
  • Remain in a separate area from other members in the home if able.
  • Use a separate restroom if able.
  • Take steps to ventilate the house better.
  • Avoid contact with pets or household members.
  • Do not share personal items such as utensils, towels, and cups.
  • Wear a mask that fits well if needing to be around others.

Testing for COVID-19 to end quarantine is not a requirement. However, if people decide to, they should only test after 24 hours of no fever and symptoms are improved.

Written by Marrissa Kay
Edited by Sheena Robertson


NBC 5 Chicago: COVID Isolation Guidance: What Steps to Take Once You Test Positive
CDC: Quarantine and Isolation
California All COVID-19: Quarantine and isolation

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Chris Peters’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Chad Davis’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


Cathrine Osborne, DM

Infectious Disease Physician

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