Test Positive/Contact

What to do if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are suspected to have COVID-19?

If you test positive for COVID-19, or get sick after you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19 to others, by following the guidance below.

Watch for Symptoms

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported- ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, etc.) seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. 

Click here for CDC COVID-19 Symptoms List 

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

Look for emergency warnings signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

*This list does not include all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Call 911 or your local emergency facility and notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone that has or may have COVID-19. 

Participate in the public health contact tracing interview

A public health team member will contact you if you test positive for COVID-19, usually by phone.  This person will help you understand what to do next and what support is available.

In addition, you will be asked for the names and contact information of people you have had close contact with recently.  This information is asked so that they can notify people who may have been exposed.  Your name will not be shared with your close contacts.

Stay home except to get medical care

You should stay home except to get medical care.  Do not go to work, school, or public areas.  Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.  Ask friends or family members to do your shopping or use a grocery delivery service.

If you do not have someone to help you, if possible, arrange for food or other necessities to be left at your door.  If you need help finding free delivery services, social services, or essential items like food and medicines call 2-1-1.

Call before you go to the doctor

Tell your health care provider you have COVID-19, or are being evaluated for COVID-19.  Put on a face covering before you enter the building.  These steps will help keep people in the office or waiting room from getting sick.

Isolate yourself from people and animals in your home

  • People: As much as possible, stay in the specific room away from other people and use a separate bathroom if available.
  • Animals: Limit contact with pets and other animals.  If possible, have a member of your household care for them.  If you must care for your animal, wear a face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.  See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.

How long should I isolate myself?

If you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and have symptoms, you can stop your home isolation when:

  • At least 10 days* have passed since symptom onset and
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and Other symptoms have improved.*A limited number of persons with severe illness may need to isolate beyond 10 days and up to 20 days after symptom onset.

When does my home isolation end?

Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

  • At least 10 days* have passed since symptom onset and
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Other symptoms have improved.

*A limited number of persons with severe illness may need to isolate beyond 10 days and up to 20 days after symptom onset.

Persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 who never develop COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive PCR test.

Click here for Home Isolation Fact Sheet

Release to Work Letter

When your home isolation ends (see above) you are no longer infectious, and you can resume your usual activities, including returning to work. You do not need to have a negative test or a letter from Public Health to return to work or school.

If your employer requires documentation prior to you returning to work, you may print and fill out the Work Release Self Verification letter [ English & Español ]

Prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • Wear a cloth face covering when you are around people or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face covering, people in your household should not be in the same room, or they should wear a face covering if they enter your room.
  • Clean your hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cover our coughs and sneezes. Throw used tissues away and wash your hands.
  • Clean “high-touch” surfaces every day, like counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, and follow the directions on the label.
  • Don’t share personal items with anyone, including dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with people or pets in your home. 

Monitor your symptoms

Get medical help quickly if your symptoms get worse (if you have breathing trouble, etc). If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the dispatcher that you have, or may have COVID-19.  If possible, put on a face covering before emergency medical services arrive.

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

  • Isolation is what you do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, or have tested positive. Isolation means you stay home and away from others (including household members) for the recommended period of time to avoid spreading illness.
  • Quarantine is what you do if you have been exposed to COVID-19. Quarantine means you stay home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case you are infected and are contagious.  Quarantine becomes isolation if you later test positive for COVID-19 or develop symptoms.

More information is available for your household members, intimate partners, and caregivers.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit the Public Health website or call 2-1-1.  Available 24/7.

What to do if you are identified as a Contact to a person who tested Positive for COVID-19

COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and it spreads very easily through contact. It is a new virus and exists in almost every country. It can cause many types of symptoms but usually affects the respiratory system, causing fever and cough. It can spread from an infected person when they cough, breathe or sneeze, or touch a surface that other people then touch. So, COVID-19 spreads pretty easily through close contact with other people. Fortunately, most cases are mild or moderate and most people don’t need to be in the hospital. Some cases can get more serious and cause pneumonia and breathing difficulties.

  • If you are identified as having contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, in accordance with California Health and Safety Code 120175, you are directed to self-quarantine for 10 days from last exposure. Quarantine is separating yourself from others after you have been exposed to a disease, so that others don’t get it too. Even if you get tested and your test results are negative, you still need to stay in quarantine for the entire period because you are still at risk of becoming infected.
  • It is important to separate yourself from others even if you do not have any symptoms, because you can transmit the virus before you develop symptoms or even if you never develop symptoms.
  • During this time period you should actively monitor your symptoms. This includes fever (subjective or measured), chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or new loss of taste or smell. You should have a thermometer and take your temperature twice a day; a fever is considered at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius). At any point if you develop symptoms you should call your provider immediately as you likely will be eligible for COVID-19 testing. It is very critical that you remain in quarantine during this entire time period. If you do not have a provider, please see the following list of Federally Qualified Health Centers.

Below are things you can do to reduce the risk that you transmit the virus to others in your household or family:

  • Do not leave your home except if you need medical care. If you must leave, you must wear a facemask or cloth face covering. Make sure to call your doctor before you leave and tell them you have been exposed to COVID-19. Do not take public transportation, ride shares, or taxis. You are able to go to the grocery store provided you have not symptoms and you must wear a facemask or cloth face covering.
  • Keep 6 feet away from other people at all times.
  • Do not have visitors in your home.
  • If possible, you will need to sleep alone in a room that has a window with good airflow.
  • If possible, use a separate bathroom.
  • You should use your own plate, bowl, and utensils – do not share these or food with anyone
  • Do not prepare food for others
  • Avoid sharing other personal household items (combs, toothbrush, cups, sheets/blankets etc.). Wash your laundry separately with detergent; bleach can be used but is not needed.
  • Cover your mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away
  • Wash your hands frequently 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
  • 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 household cleaners. Your bathrooms should be cleaned every day using a household disinfectant. Wear gloves while cleaning if possible.
  • Your gloves, tissues, masks, and other trash should be put in a bag, tied closed, and put with other household trash.
  • Everyone you come in contact with (including anyone in your home) should be aware of their health and watch themselves for fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

For additional information on COVID-19, please visit the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department COVID-19 Public Information Portal here or call 211. Available 24/7.