If more than one person in a household tests positive for COVID-19, do the positive people need to isolate from each other?

Families/Kids Infection and Spread

A: Isolation is meant to keep others from getting infected. If multiple people in a household are positive, it is OK for them to isolate together.

It gets a little more complicated when some people are infected, and others aren’t. Read on for tips and tricks to help you navigate this tricky situation.

Many folks are testing positive and find themselves needing to isolate. Isolation keeps people who are contagious and infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus away from people who are not. Isolation means not leaving the house (except to get medical care) and no sharing of either physical space or air with other people. This helps prevent others from getting sick. Isolation is different from quarantine, which separates people who have been exposed but may be too early to test positive or show symptoms. This is another strategy to prevent spreading the virus and getting others sick.

If everyone in the home is positive, the whole household can isolate together. While there is not strict guidance on this subject from organizations like the CDC, there is unlikely to be any significant additional risk if everyone is already positive. People in the same home will probably have the same variant (in the US, it is almost all Omicron), and the risk of catching a different variant from each other while sick seems pretty gosh darn low (antibodies to one variant do provide some protection against another). There are a few things to consider though when choosing to isolate with other sick people:

😷 You do not need to mask around each other, but a well-fitting mask must absolutely be worn if anyone else needs to be present at any time during the isolation period. Cloth masks won’t cut it and an N95, KN95, or KN94 is best if you have access to one. Surgical masks are the next best choice.

🤧 Take care of each other! Having COVID-19 is lousy, and can be physically, mentally, and emotionally hard. Support each other and keep on eye on how each of you are doing. Encourage each other to seek medical attention if needed.

🚫 If you have COVID-19, do not assume that someone who lives at home with you is positive too. It is not inevitable that everyone will get it! Isolate from them to the best of your ability unless they become positive. That person should follow the quarantine guidelines (CDC quarantine recommendations can be found here) and get tested.

It gets a little trickier if someone in the house is NOT positive. If the sick person can isolate safely, do so. If possible, the sick person should have a separate bedroom and bathroom, sometimes called a sick room. (I think “sick room” sounds terrible. I prefer something less ominous sounding, like “healing space.”) Isolation is the best strategy to keep everyone else in the house from getting sick.

Sometimes it is not possible to isolate from someone in house, like if you have children or there isn’t a physical space to go. We get it. Sometimes reality and what is “ideal” don’t always intersect. It’s all about doing the best that you can. (Check out our earlier post from Dr. Jones who does a great job talking about this.)

➡ If one person in the household is high risk for getting really sick, try to isolate the sick folks away from that person to keep them as safe as possible.

😷 Wear well-fitting masks.

🥣 Don’t share utensils, dishes, towels, and bedding. Avoid sharing tablets and cell phones, too.

🖐 Wash hands.

🩸 Wear gloves when you touch the sick person’s blood, poop, saliva, vomit, and pee. If it’s sticky and gross, put a glove on. 😉

↔️ Physically distance (when possible).

🏠 Caregivers should follow the quarantine and testing guidelines.

🤒 Negative folks should watch out for symptoms and signs that they might be getting sick too.

It can be really challenging to figure out what to do and how to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Everybody’s needs are unique. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care clinician for help navigating your special circumstances.

Stay safe. Stay sane.

Those Nerdy Girls


Dear Pandemic Isolation Explainer

CDC Isolation and Quarantine

CDC Caring for Someone with COVID-19

Health.com Article “Can COVID positive people isolate together?”

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