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COVID-19 isolation and quarantine information

Isolating and quarantining are related but distinct approaches to limiting COVID-19's spread. In short: Isolate if you're sick, quarantine if you have been exposed and identified as a close contact.

You must isolate if you are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19. This means you must be alone, without direct contact with anyone else, until you can no longer spread the virus. This typically lasts about 10 days.

You must quarantine if you are unvaccinated:

  • If 10 days after your exposure you have no symptoms, you can end quarantine.
  • You can end your quarantine after 7 days if you get tested and are negative for the virus. Testing should occur on or after the 5th day.

Resources are available to support you if you're required to isolate or quarantine, and need medical, housing, food, or other assistance. 

Table of Contents

Learn about isolating

If you are sick and a healthcare provider tests you for COVID-19, or you are told by a healthcare provider that you have COVID-19, you must remain in isolation until a public health authority (the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, your local Board of Health, or the Community Tracing Collaborative) says that you can leave your home.

A public health authority will be in contact with you to discuss your isolation period and any questions you may have and will conduct another assessment about 10 days after the date your infection is confirmed. A public health authority will confirm that you may leave your home once the risk of infecting others is determined to be low.

Take these steps when self-isolating:

  • Stay at home and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people in the house.
  • Do not leave your house to go to school, work or run errands.
  • Do not have any visitors to your house during this time.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do not share eating or drinking utensils with anybody.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean surfaces that you touch every day with a household disinfectant.
  • Make a list of everyone you have been close to while indoors (within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes), since you first got sick. Those people have been exposed to COVID-19 and should be asked to self-quarantine. 
  • Monitor your health closely while you isolate at home. If your symptoms worsen (such as shortness of breath or respiratory distress), contact your medical provider immediately.
  • If you need to see your healthcare provider, do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares to get to your appointment.

Learn about quarantining

You must quarantine if you are not sick but are a close contact to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you've been traveling outside Massachusetts. You may be contacted by a local health official or the Commonwealth's Community Tracing Collaborative regarding any contact with those who have COVID-19.

  • Please note that individuals who had COVID-19 in the last 90 days (from day of symptom onset or day of first positive test if asymptomatic), AND individuals who have received either two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or a single dose of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, at least 14 days ago are not required to quarantine following an exposure.

Please take these steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while you quarantine:

  • Stay at home and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible.
  • Do your best to stay at least 6 feet away from other people in the house.
  • Do not leave your house to go to school, work or run errands.
  • Do not have any visitors to your house during this time.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not share eating or drinking utensils with anybody.
  • Monitor your health every day.
  • If you get sick with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other signs of respiratory illness, call your healthcare provider and schedule a COVID-19 test. Be sure to tell them you have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • If you need to seek routine medical care, call ahead to your doctor and tell them you are under COVID-19 quarantine.
  • Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares to get to your appointment.

Additional Resources

Information for employers and employees

View Exposure & Return to Work Guidance for health care workers, first responders, critical infrastructure workers, and all other workers in Massachusetts.

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