(NEXSTAR) — With so many people catching the coronavirus right now, it can feel like it’s only a matter of time before you’re exposed. If you’ve gotten the call or text that someone you know and have seen recently has tested positive, you may or may not need to quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on who needs to quarantine and for how long can be a bit confusing. Here’s what you need to know.
Isolate vs. quarantine
Do you have to isolate or do you have to quarantine? The difference here is mainly semantics. You isolate yourself from others if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or if you’re experiencing symptoms. You quarantine yourself from others if you’ve been exposed to the virus but don’t know if you have it or not.
If you’ve tested positive for the virus, click here to read more about how long you need to isolate. If not, keep reading for quarantine rules.
Do you need to quarantine?
Not everyone who has had close contact with a COVID-positive person needs to quarantine, according to the CDC.
You don’t need to quarantine if:
- You’re an adult (18 or older) and you’ve gotten all vaccines you’re eligible for, including a booster shot if it’s time (check if you’re caught up on COVID shots here)
- You’re between 5 and 17 years old and have gotten two Pfizer shots
- You’ve tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 90 days
Everyone else should self-quarantine if they’ve had close contact with a COVID case. “Close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.
When quarantining, you should stay home and away from others, says the CDC. Wear a mask whenever you need to be around people in your household, if possible.
How long do you need to quarantine?
CDC guidelines state you should quarantine away from others for five full days after your exposure.
For another five days after that, you should continue to monitor yourself for symptoms, then keep wearing a mask for another five days.
When can you end quarantine? Do I need a negative COVID test?
If you still aren’t feeling any symptoms after five full days, the CDC says you should get tested for the virus. If you test negative, you can reenter the world. Just continue to wear a mask anytime you’re around other people and monitor yourself for a fever or any other COVID-19 symptoms until it has been 10 days since your exposure.
Because COVID tests are hard to come by right now, they are suggested to exit quarantine but not required.
If you can’t find a COVID test, the CDC says you can still re-enter the world after five days of quarantine, as long as you’re not feeling sick and keep wearing a mask for another five days.
What if I test positive or start feeling sick?
If you test positive or start to feel sick, it’s time to restart the clock and enter isolation. Stay home, get some rest, and click here to read more about what to do next.