Last updated October 6, 2022.
As of August 11, 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends quarantine for people who have been exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. However, CDC recommends that people who have been exposed still take precautions to protect others, such as masking around others for 10 days and getting tested five days after exposure.
Isolation means staying apart from other people when you have COVID-19. This is an important tool for preventing the transmission of the virus. The best place to isolate is in your own home.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive, or have been instructed to isolate and have any questions, please contact your local public health agency.
These isolation instructions apply to the general population in the community, including workplaces. They do not apply to health care settings, correctional settings, homeless shelters, or other high-risk congregate living settings.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should isolate. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are waiting for your test results, or you have symptoms and have not been tested yet, you should also isolate. Isolation means staying at home and away from other people until you are likely no longer contagious. Isolation is usually voluntary, but public health agencies have legal authority to issue isolation orders.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may be mild and feel like a common cold, especially early on. Symptoms can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, soreness, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
If you have any of these symptoms or you have tested positive, you should isolate, even if you are vaccinated.
If you test positive, let your contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so that they can protect themselves and those around them. If you have Exposure Notifications enabled on your cell phone, use the service to anonymously alert people you have had close contact with but may not know.
You may be able to get treatment to help you recover from COVID-19. This can help keep you from getting seriously sick and keep you out of the hospital. Learn more about treatment for COVID-19.
How long should I isolate?
It depends on how you are feeling. For most people, isolation should last five full days, followed by five more days of precautions.
Day 0 is the day you first started to feel symptoms. If you never felt symptoms, day 0 is the day you took a positive COVID-19 test.
Day 1 of isolation is the first full day after you started feeling symptoms or took a test. This is when you start counting full days of isolation.
Day 6 is the first day you can stop isolating if you tested positive but never had any symptoms, or if you have mild symptoms that are getting better and you don’t have a fever. You should continue to wear a mask for five more full days, or until you test negative twice two days apart.
Day 8 is the first day you can stop wearing a mask if you tested negative twice — once on day 6 and once on day 8.
Day 11 is the first day you can stop isolating if you continued to isolate after day 6. If you stopped isolating on day 6, you can stop wearing a mask around others on day 11 (unless you continue to test positive).
If you still have a fever on day 6 or your symptoms haven’t improved, you should isolate until:
- You have had no fever for at least 24 hours (without using medicine that reduces fevers) AND
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, your cough or headache are starting to get better). If you have lost your sense of taste or smell, you may not get it back for weeks after you have started to feel better. You don’t need to wait for your taste or smell to come back before you can stop isolating.
If you didn’t have any symptoms when you tested positive, but you started to feel symptoms AFTER your test, you should reset the calendar at day 0 when you first start to feel sick.
Some health care workers and staff in other high risk congregate settings may be excluded from work for longer. If you are a health care worker or work in another high risk setting, you should follow your employer’s instructions about when to return to work and when to wear a mask.
People with moderate (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) to severe (requiring hospitalization) illness or who are immunocompromised should isolate for at least 10 days and may require testing to determine when you can be around others. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about how long you could be infectious.
Taking precautions on days 6 through 10.
If you stop isolating on day 6, continue taking precautions for five more full days, or until you have tested negative twice at least 48 hours apart.
Wear a well fitted mask around other people, both in your home and in public. Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask.
Avoid eating and drinking around other people.
Avoid contact with people who are at high risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
People who are unable to wear a mask around others, including children under the age of 2 years and people of any age with certain disabilities, should isolate until day 11 even if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
Testing during isolation
Testing is not required to stop isolation, but it can be a useful tool to help make sure you are no longer infectious. If you have access to tests and want to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test (such as a rapid at-home test) on day 6 of your isolation period if you do not have symptoms or are fever-free and your symptoms are improving.
- If the result is negative, test again 48 hours later (on day 8). If the second result is also negative, you can stop wearing a mask around others.
- If the result is positive, continue to wear a mask around others until you test negative twice in a row, with tests taken at least 48 hours (two days) apart. This may mean you need to wear a mask past day 10.
While you are isolating
Stay home except to get medical care. If you have a medical appointment, call ahead and let them know you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms. Some non-urgent appointments may be rescheduled. Be sure to wear a mask to your appointment. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Don’t have friends or family visit you at home. Avoid using public transportation, rideshares, or taxis.
Monitor your symptoms. Many people recover from COVID-19 without needing to go to the doctor. However, some people may get very sick from COVID-19. If your symptoms get worse (e.g., if you start having trouble breathing), if your symptoms recur, or if you are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, call a health care provider or nurse line to find out what to do. If you are at high risk, you may be able to get monoclonal antibody therapy to help you recover.
If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the dispatcher you are isolating for COVID-19. If possible, and safe to do so, put on a mask before emergency medical services arrive.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can. Have another member of your household care for your pets. If you must care for your pet, wash your hands before and after contact with them.
Don’t share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After you use these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
Wear a well-fitted mask around other people or pets, and before you enter a health care provider’s office. If you are medically unable to wear a mask, then people who live with you should not be in the same room with you, or they should wear a mask if they enter your room.
Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. When using hand sanitizer, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Soap and water is preferred if hands are visibly dirty.
Improve ventilation in your home, if possible. Open doors and windows if weather allows, or run your HVAC system.
Enforcement of isolation
- State and local public health agencies request that Coloradans and visitors from other states or countries voluntarily cooperate with isolation instructions.
- State or local public health agencies may issue isolation orders in some high-risk situations or if non-compliance is anticipated.
- If people do not follow the orders, public health agencies can involve law enforcement.
- If enforcement were to become necessary, the entity that issued the order (the state or local public health agency) could file an enforcement action in state district court asking a judge to enforce the order. The court could also levy fines but, on the whole, public health is more interested in compliance with the terms of the order.
- Public health agencies are working hard to make sure the needs of people in isolation/quarantine are being met to help ensure compliance.