If You Are Sick or Exposed to COVID-19

If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, feel sick or know someone who is, it’s important to act quickly to protect your health and the health of others. By testing, isolating if you are having symptoms and quarantining if exposed, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

To download and print this chart, please visit Feeling Sick of Exposed to COVID-19 - Now What? (PDF):

On this page:

If you are sick or test positive for COVID-19, stay home and isolate

  • COVID-19 is highly contagious. Testing positive means you are at risk of spreading the virus to others. If you test positive, stay home and away from others, even if you do not have symptoms. Do not leave your home except to get medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas and avoid using public transportation, ride sharing and taxis.
  • Separate yourself (isolate) from other people and animals in your home. Try to stay in a specific "sick room" or area, away from other people and pets. Use a separate bathroom, if available. If you must care for your pet, CDC’s pet guidance recommends washing your hands before and after you interact with pets and wearing a facemask.
  • Symptoms may appear up to 14 days after you are exposed to COVID-19. Please know that you can spread COVID-19 to others two days before you have symptoms, or even if you never have symptoms.
  • If you have been fully vaccinated and test positive for COVID-19, you still need to stay home and isolate from others. Infection is less common in vaccinated individuals but is possible. These are known as “breakthrough cases.”
  • Let your health care provider know you have COVID-19. They may have specific advice for you and may suggest treatment.
  • Seek medical care immediately if your symptoms get worse or you have difficulty breathing. Before going to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms. They will tell you what to do.
  • If you are helping care for someone or are yourself in isolation, have masks, gloves and disinfection and cleaning supplies handy. For more details, visit the CDC's webpage, If You Are Sick or Caring for Someone.
  • For more information, please visit this DHSS flyer, What to do after a positive COVID-19 test (PDF).

If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, take steps to prevent spread

  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 or have been told you are a close contact (see definition below), you should get tested 5-7 days after your exposure and take steps to prevent further spread.
    • If you have no symptoms and are not vaccinated, you will need to quarantine. The safest length of quarantine is 14 days. For guidelines on ending quarantine earlier, see this CDC webpage or talk to a public health official. A negative test early in the quarantine period (before day 5) does not end your quarantine period early.
    • If you have no symptoms and are vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine but you should still get tested 5-7 days after your exposure. Carefully monitor for symptoms and wear a mask around others.
    • If you have symptoms and are not vaccinated, you will need to get tested and isolate while waiting for your results. If your test is positive, isolate for 10 days since your symptoms started. If it’s negative, stay home and finish your quarantine or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Consider retesting if symptoms do not resolve.
    • If you have symptoms and are vaccinated, you will need to get tested and isolate while waiting for your results. If your test is positive, isolate for 10 days since your symptoms started. If it’s negative, stay home until symptoms resolve. Consider retesting if symptoms do not resolve.
  • To reduce the risk of exposing others while in quarantine, you should stay home and avoid close contact with others. This includes staying away from household members (especially people who are at higher risk from becoming severely ill from COVID-19) and wearing a mask when in common areas. Household members should wash hands often and frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
  • Household members (close contacts of close contacts) do not need quarantine too. However, unvaccinated household members who are unable to stay apart from you will need to quarantine if you test positive. If this does happen, quarantine for unvaccinated household members begins on the date of the last close contact with you (before effective separation began).
  • If you do test positive and are unable to effectively isolate from household members, quarantine for unvaccinated contacts in the home begins after you end isolation.
  • Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 or tests positive and others in the household have had close contact with that person, unvaccinated household members will need to restart quarantine.
  • For further information, see CDC guidance on Quarantine and Isolation and this DHSS flyer, What to do if you have been exposed to COVID-19 (PDF) and this DHSS graphic explaining quarantine options (PDF).

Definition of a close contact

  • Generally, if someone with COVID-19 was within six feet of you for a total of 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period, while they were infectious, you have had an exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 and are considered a “close contact.” This is true whether or not you were wearing masks and whether or not they were symptomatic.
  • Exception: In the K-12 indoor classroom setting, students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student are not considered close contacts if both students correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks during their entire exposure time.

Contact tracing

  • A public health nurse or another public health official may call you for an interview about your illness to provide support and to help identify close contacts who may have been exposed to, and possibly infected with, the virus. However, when cases counts are high, these contact tracing calls may be delayed or may not occur.
  • Please notify your own close contacts immediately that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and that they may have been exposed so they can monitor their own health, seek testing, and quarantine (if they are unvaccinated). The faster they are notified, the faster they can test, quarantine or isolate, and the better they can help prevent further spread.
  • If you or someone you know has recently tested positive for COVID-19 and has not yet spoken to a contact tracer with public health, you can call 907-531-3329 for education, resources, and a contact tracing interview.
  • For more information, please visit this DHSS Contact Tracing webpage.

Where and when to test

  • All people, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
  • For vaccinated close contacts, the best time to get tested is 5-7 days after exposure.
  • You can quickly locate testing sites near you using the Alaska DHSS Testing Site Locator.
  • You can also call your local health care provider, clinic or public health nurse for more information. To find your local public health center, visit this Public Health Nursing Locations webpage.
  • If you are negative for COVID-19, you could still test positive later. If symptoms persist or get worse, talk to your health care provider about whether you should get another test. If you have a fever or other symptoms, stay home and stay away from others except to get medical care. Always wear a face mask and practice social distancing.
  • For more resources and information related to COVID-19 testing visit our Testing page.

COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain (myalgia), decreased appetite, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose (increased mucus), loss of taste or smell, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms. People with COVID-19 may have several symptoms, or they may have only one or two. These may feel like a mild cold or allergies. Some people may not have any symptoms.
  • It is important to get tested if you have even minor symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
  • Use CDC’s self-checker tool to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. For more information, visit the CDC’s webpage on COVID-19 symptoms.

Taking care of yourself/emergency signs

  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and can take care of themselves at home. Some have no symptoms.
  • Get rest and stay hydrated. Call your healthcare provider or doctor to report your positive result as well as any symptoms you may have.
  • If you need help getting food and essential items or financial assistance call 2-1-1.
  • If your symptoms get worse or you develop shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider right away. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call your local urgent care. Let them know you have COVID-19.

If it is an emergency, call for help

If someone is showing any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Severe trouble breathing (gasping, wheezing, nostrils flaring)
  • Dry mouth, dry eyes, very little urine, feeling very thirsty
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake, passing out, losing consciousness
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

These are not all of the possible signs/symptoms.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

Read CDC guidance on Caring for Someone Sick at Home.

Consider treatment

Consider vaccination

  • Once you are recovered, it is recommended to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. Vaccination helps protect you even if you’ve already had COVID-19 by reducing the chance of getting it again.
  • If you get treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • For information on additional vaccine doses for people who are older or otherwise immunocompromised, read CDC guidance on COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People.

Communication Resources: Posters/Flyers

Communication Resources: Videos

These videos do not contain specific guidance for vaccinated individuals but are good general advice.


  • Isolation separates someone who is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 (or presumed to be infected because they have symptoms) away from people who are not infected, including household members.
  • Quarantine separates people who were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 from others, including household members, during the time when they could become sick and infect others.