Staying home and avoiding contact with other people when you are sick and after you have close contact with a person who has COVID-19 is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?
Quarantine and self-isolation both involve staying home and avoiding contact with other people.
- Quarantine keeps a person who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person develops symptoms.
- Isolation separates individuals who have COVID-19 from people who do not have COVID-19. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 need to self-isolate, even if they experience no symptoms.
What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19?
If you were in close contact with a person who has COVID-19, you will need to stay home for a 14-day quarantine period.
Close contact means that you were exposed to COVID-19 by any of the following:
- Living with or caring for someone who has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19
- Being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes
- Sharing utensils, kissing, being coughed or sneezed on by a person with COVID-19
UW students, staff, and faculty and other academic personnel from all campuses should report close contact with any person who has COVID-19, including non-UW close contacts, to the EH&S Employee Health Center (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.685.1026, option 0).
During quarantine, you should:
- Stay home for 14 days after the last date you spent time with the COVID-positive person, whether or not you have symptoms.
- Get tested. Notify your doctor and also contact a UW Employee Health Center.
- Wait 3 to 5 days to get tested after being exposed to COVID-19 if you have no symptoms.
- If you develop symptoms during quarantine, get tested immediately. Get tested again if you had previously tested negative.
- Watch for symptoms of COVID-19, including fever (temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher), cough, shortness of breath, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, headache, muscle pain, chills, loss of taste or smell, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you develop symptoms, get tested, continue staying at home and contact a UW Employee Health Center.
- Stay away others, especially people who are at higher risk of serious illness.
For more information about how the University follows up with UW community members who have been tested, tested positive, or have been close contacts of a COVID-positive person, read the FAQ on the University’s Novel coronavirus & COVID-19 webpage.
How long should I be in quarantine?
Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19, even if you have no symptoms or if you test negative for COVID-19 during the 14-day quarantine. The virus can be in your body for up to 14 days before it’s detectable.
Below is information about quarantine timelines under different circumstances:
- If you had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 and you no longer have contact with that person, your last day of quarantine is 14 days from the date you had the close contact.
- If you live with a person who has COVID-19 and you can avoid any further contact with that person, your last day of quarantine is 14 days from when the person with COVID-19 began home isolation.
- If you live with a person who has COVID-19 and you cannot avoid being in close contact with that person, your 14-day quarantine period begins after the person with COVID-19 meets the criteria to end home isolation.
- If you have close contact with a person who has COVID-19 while you are staying at home in quarantine, restart your 14-day quarantine starting from the last day you had close contact with that person. Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and you have close contact, restart your 14-day quarantine after that household member meets the criteria to end home isolation.
Should I quarantine after traveling?
A 14-day quarantine period is recommended (but not required) for UW personnel and students:
- After returning to Washington state from personal or work-related travel in another state that is not contiguous with Washington state
- After returning from personal or work-related travel in any location with a higher incidence of COVID-19 than the county to which you are returning.
A 14-day quarantine period is required after returning to the U.S. from international travel according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Level 3 Travel Warning.
- Refer to the UW Global Travel Security Program webpage for pre- and post-travel requirements for UW employees and students.
- The COVID-19 Quarantine and Testing Risk Framework for Field Work contains additional requirements for University personnel engaged in field research.
During the quarantine period, you should stay home for 14 days and avoid contact with other people. UW personnel may talk with their supervisor about working from home during the quarantine period.
What if I develop symptoms?
If you develop even mild symptoms of COVID-19, contact your health care provider and report it to your Employee Health Center:
- UW Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma students, staff, faculty and other academic personnel should contact the UW Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) Employee Health Center at email@example.com or 206.685.1026. The EH&S Employee Health Center can arrange for testing through UW Medicine.
- UW Medicine personnel should contact Employee Health Services (UWMC – Montlake at 206.598.4848, UWMC – Northwest at 206.668.1625, or Harborview Medical Center at 206.744.3081).
What should I do if I have been told to self-isolate?
If your health care provider suspects or confirms that you have COVID-19, stay home except to get medical care, even if you are not experiencing symptoms.
- Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible. Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
- Don’t share personal items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
- Wear a cloth face covering when around other people.
For more information, read the FAQ “What do I do if I feel sick?” on the University’s Novel coronavirus & COVID-19 webpage.
UW students, staff, and faculty and other academic personnel from all campuses should notify the EH&S Employee Health Center (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.685.1026, option 0) if a health care provider confirms or suspects COVID-19 illness.
How long should I self-isolate?
If your health care provider confirms or suspects you have COVID-19 and you have symptoms, you can be around other people after:
- At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
- Symptoms have improved
If you tested positive for COVID-19 but you have not experienced symptoms, you can be around other people after 10 days have passed since you tested positive.
Depending on your healthcare provider’s advice and availability of testing, you might get tested to see if you still have COVID-19. If you will be tested again, you can be around others after you receive two negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart.
People with conditions that weaken their immune system might need to stay home longer than 10 days. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.
UW students, staff, and faculty and other academic personnel from all campuses may contact the EH&S Employee Health Center (email@example.com or 206.685.1026, option 0) with questions.
UW Medicine contacts: UWMC – Montlake (206.598.4848), UWMC – Northwest (206.668.1625), Harborview Medical Center (206.744.3081).