Do I still need to isolate when I have COVID?

Infectious Diseases

A: Yes! If you test positive for COVID-19 you should isolate for 5 days and wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days.

Most COVID news these days is good: for example it has dropped from the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. to number 7. U.S. excess deaths have recently returned to pre-pandemic levels. But as we see an uptick in cases, hospitalizations, and wastewater levels, it’s a good idea to review best practices if you have symptoms or get that dreaded positive test.

While we realize many people have job and other commitments that make isolating hard, we encourage our Nerdy community to strive not for perfection, but for doing the best you can. For risk reduction, a little bit better is… a little bit better.

✅ Testing: If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, fatigue), you should test. This allows you to make a plan to get a treatment like Paxlovid, and protect those around you from transmission. If you get a positive test on either a PCR or antigen test, you should assume you have COVID-19 (false positives are rare).

If you test negative on an antigen test, you should repeat the test in 48 hours to reduce the risk of a false negative (getting a negative test result when you actually have the illness).

Although the public health emergency has ended, free tests are still available in the U.S. through the ICATT program (Increasing Community Access to Testing–see link below), and over the counter in many pharmacies.

✅ Isolation: If you test positive, the CDC recommends these steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID to others:

➡️ Stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home. (Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the day you test positive)

💥You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days, though many are infectious longer.

➡️ Wear a high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) if you must be around others at home and in public.

➡️ Avoid places where you are unable to wear a mask.

➡️ Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.

➡️ Use a separate bathroom, if possible.

➡️ Take steps to improve ventilation at home (open windows, use a HEPA air purifier, set your HVAC fan to ON rather than AUTO, spend time outside).

➡️ Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.

➡️ Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

If your symptoms are gone after 5 days, current guidance is that you can leave isolation but should continue to mask for 5 more days. For those who want to be more cautious, we recommend waiting for a negative antigen test before ending isolation and masking.

People at higher risk (older adults, children and adults with chronic medical conditions) should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible after a positive test or symptoms to ask about Paxlovid or other antiviral treatment. This can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death and has so far been underutilized. Most drug-drug interactions can be safely managed by your provider.

✅ Exposure Precautions: If you have contact with someone within two days of when they test positive for COVID-19, you should take precautions. This includes masking when around others for 10 days and avoiding contact with sensitive populations (older adults, unvaccinated, immunocompromised). Testing is recommended, but not until day 5 after exposure to allow time for the illness to develop.

You can still do your part to minimize the impact of COVID on your family and your community!

Stay safe, stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Further Resources:

Current CDC Guidance for Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19

Understanding At-Home OTC COVID-19 Antigen Diagnostic Test Results

No cost testing locator

Previous post on benefits of Paxlovid

Help! It’s Day 10 and my rapid antigen test is still positive. Am I contagious?

Link to Original FB Post