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Tips to make COVID-19 isolation and quarantine easier

How to prepare for isolation or quarantine, to make sure you are comfortable and have the support you need to get through the next few weeks.

Isolation and quarantine are important to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Quarantine: Quarantine if you have been around someone with COVID-19. Stay home and watch your symptoms.
  • Isolation: Stay at home alone if you have tested positive for COVID-19. Stay away from others. Stay away from the people you live with.

COVID-19 spreads easily and can be deadly. Staying at home when you are infectious keeps you from giving it to other people. Staying home when you have been exposed to COVID-19 and might get sick keeps you from giving it to other people. COVID-19 can cause many symptoms. Some people do not have symptoms. COVID -19 can feel like you have a cold or the flu. . Most people with COVID-19 do not get very sick and do not go to the hospital.  Some people with COVID-19 get pneumonia and have trouble breathing

An infected person can spread COVID-19 when they cough, sneeze, or even breathe. COVID-19 spreads very easily between people who are near each other. Please speak with your doctor if you have questions about COVID-19. 


Table of Contents

I just got tested for COVID-19. I am waiting for my results. What do I need to do?

You must go home and plan for isolation or quarantine. Get help from family or friends if you need food or medicine in order to stay home. Contact tracers and local resources can help you get these items. Call your local health department or the Community Tracing Collaborative at 857-305-2728 if you need help.

  • Medication. Do you have enough medicine for next few weeks? Who can pick up medication for you?  Do you need help from a contact tracer?
  • Food. Do you have enough food for the next two weeks? Can someone help you get food? There are resources available to provide food assistance if you need it.
  • Your own space. Can you live completely by yourself? Can you stay in another part of your home? Can you stay away from others? Can you maintain a safe distance from others in your household and wear a mask? Contact tracers can help you find space, if necessary.
  • Cleaning supplies. Can you keep areas clean?
  • Help at home. If you need it, do you have help with daily activities like bathing, moving around the house, or preparing meals?
  • Social connections. Do you have family and friends outside your home you can talk to? Do you have internet connection? Do you have a phone?
  • Transportation. Can someone take you to the doctor if you need to go?

I have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to isolate. What do I need to do?

You must self-isolate if you have tested positive for COVID-19. You must be alone, away from everyone. You must stay alone for about 10 days. You no longer can spread COVID to other people after 10 days.

Your isolation helps limit the spread of the virus. Make sure you have access to what you need, without coming into contact with anyone else, so you don’t spread COVID-19.

Keep others safe:

  • Do not leave your home except for urgent medical care. Wear a mask if you must leave.  Call the doctor before you go. Tell your doctor you are diagnosed with COVID-19. Do not take public transportation, ride shares, or taxis.
  • Keep 6 feet away from other people at all times.
    • Avoid other people and stay 6 feet away if you must be in the same room.
    • Wear your mask at all times when around other people.
    • People you live with should wash their hands often and wear a mask when you are in the same room. Limit your time with them to 5 minutes or less.
  • Do not have visitors in your home.
  • Sleep alone in a separate room if possible.
  • Use a separate bathroom if possible.
  • You should use your own plate, bowl, and utensils. Do not share food with anyone
  • Do not share your things with others. Do not share things like combs, toothbrush, cups, sheets/blankets.
  • You do not need to wash your laundry separately. Wash it in warm water.
  • Cover your mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing.  Throw the tissue away after you cough or sneeze into it.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Before and after preparing food for yourself (do not prepare food for others)
    • Before and after eating
    • Before and after administering any medications
    • After going to the bathroom
    • After sneezing, blowing your nose, or touching your face
  • Wipe down surfaces that you touch frequently with disposable cloths using bleach if possible or other household cleaners. Clean your bathroom every day using a household disinfectant. Wear gloves while cleaning.
  • Put your gloves, tissues, masks, and other trash in a bag, tied closed, and put out with other household trash.

If I have COVID-19, what should I do to monitor my health and manage my symptoms?

Take care of yourself while you are in isolation. Call your doctor if it is hard to breathe.

  • Stay home
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Rest
  • If you are working at home, take it easy or stop working so you can give your body the rest needed to help get better
  • Watch your symptoms
  • Follow the advice of your doctor and public health authorities. Call before before visiting your doctor
  • Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. Call 9-1-1 to get emergency medical care immediately if you have:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Bluish lips or face

*This is not a list of all symptoms. Please call your doctor for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Are there people who might get very sick from COVID-19 who I should be worried about?

COVID-19 is more dangerous for some people. Stay away from them to keep them safe. These people may live with you. If you cannot safely isolate or quarantine in your home, consider finding another space where you will not be in contact with anyone. You may be able to get a referral to an Isolation and Recovery Site.

COVID can be more dangerous for people who:

  • Are more than 65 years old
  • Have chronic conditions such as: diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, liver disease, or cardiovascular disease
  • Are immunocompromised (e.g. HIV, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, patients on immunosuppressant drugs)
  • Have extreme obesity
  • Are on dialysis
  • Have received a transplant
  • Are pregnant

How do I know that I can end my isolation?

A public health official will tell you when you can leave self-isolation. Usually, it will be when at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms started OR at least 10 days have passed since your positive COVID test was taken if you have no symptoms; AND

  • You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications like aspirin or Tylenol; AND
  • You are feeling better.

Talk with your doctor when it is safe to be around other people if you were in the hospital.

Should I contact people I was in close contact with when I was contagious with COVID-19?

After you test positive, you should make a list of everyone you were in close contact with (were within 6 feet of for more than 15 minutes while indoors) for the 2 days before you got sick or the two days before your positive test was taken if you don’t have symptoms. Let your close contacts know about their exposure. Every little bit of time matters.

You should also give their information to a contact tracer. Contact tracers are from your local health department or the Community Tracing Collaborative and will call you after you test positive.

Ask yourself these questions to remember who you might have had close contact with:

  • Workplace: 
    • Have you been at a job and spent time with coworkers?
    • Who do you share an office with? 
    • Who do you have meetings with? ​
    • Who is your boss? Who reports to you? 
    • Who do you eat meals with when you're at work? 
  • Social and Recreational Activities
    • Have you had a meal at anyone else's house recently
    • Have you had someone to your house for a meal? 
    • Have you met with any friends to go shopping or do any sports or anything fun recently? 
    • Have you attended any parties, weddings or funerals? 
    • Have you been to a place of worship such as a church or mosque or temple? 
    • What did you do last weekend? 
    • Have you been to any restaurants recently? 
    • Do you go to a gym or exercise classes? 
    • Have you been to any gatherings or social events? 
    • Have you been to any sporting events, or concerts, or any other event where there were a lot of people? 
  • Have you taken public transportation or used a Ride Share, such as Uber?
  • Have you been to a school?
  • Have you been to a health appointment or health facility? 
  • Have you taken any trips? 
    • Any air travel? 
    • Any road travel – car trips, bus, trains? 
    • Has anyone visited you from out of town? 
  • People you live with or close friends
    • Who lives in your household? 
    • Have any family or friends visited you at home? 

One of my close contacts tested positive for COVID-19. I need to quarantine. What do I need to do?

If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 you must quarantine. This means you must stay home and not see people outside your home.

If you have not had any symptoms, there are two options for reducing the amount time you have to stay home.

If you haven’t had symptoms and get a negative test on day 5 of your quarantine or later, you can go back to your normal activities AFTER 7 days of quarantine.

The last day you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 counts as “day 0”.  On day 5, get tested if you haven’t had symptoms. Day 7 is your last day of quarantine if that test s negative and you still haven’t had symptoms. From day 8-14, you can resume normal activities but still monitor for fever and other symptoms; if your temperature is at least 100.0 degrees or if you have any other symptoms, you should get tested and go back into quarantine through day 14. After day 14, your quarantine is finished.

If you haven’t had any symptoms, you can resume your normal activities AFTER 10 days of quarantine, even without a negative test.

The last day you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 counts as “day 0”. You can consider day 10 as your last day of quarantine if you still haven’t had symptoms. On day 11 through day 14, you can resume normal activities but still monitor for fever and other symptoms; if during that time your temperature is at least 100.0 degrees or if you have any other symptoms, you should get tested and go back into quarantine through day 14. After day 14, your quarantine is finished.

When you go back to your normal activities, you must take your temperature every day and check yourself for any symptoms of COVID-19 until the end of quarantine, which is Day 14. Stay home and talk to your doctor about getting a COVID-19 test if you start to feel sick.

I’m unvaccinated and traveled outside of Massachusetts. What do I need to do?

Unvaccinated travelers visiting or returning to Massachusetts should follow the CDC’s travel recommendations for traveling while unvaccinated.

I want to take steps to prepare for Isolation or Quarantine, just in case. What do I need to do?

Create a COVID-19 plan and care kit in case you or a member of your household contract the virus.

Prepare your home:

  • If possible, isolate sick individual in a separate bedroom and bathroom.
  • Have a separate and lined trash for the person with COVID-19.
  • Find someone to be the primary caretaker. Find someone to be a back-up caretaker.
  • Review tips from the CDC for how to care for someone with COVID-19 at home and protect yourself from the virus.

Prepare your COVID-19 Care Kit:

  • Hand soap, hand sanitizer, household disinfectants and other cleaning supplies.
  • Protective gloves, extra face coverings, tissues, and spare trash bags.
  • Medicine, fever reducers with acetaminophen.

Prepare yourself:

  • Get a Primary Care Physician for you and your family.
  • Create an emergency contact list including family, friends, healthcare providers, employers, Local Health Departments, and other community resources.

Where can I find out more about isolation and quarantine?