Quarantine and Returning to Work or School

This page offers quarantine guidance for individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, but have no symptoms and have not tested positive for the illness.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of symptoms, or have been exposed to COVID-19 and now have symptoms of illness, visit our page on isolation guidance instead.

>> For additional details related to schools, download the Georgia Department of Public Health’s official return-to-school/work guidance document.

If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19

It can take up to 14 days from exposure to COVID-19 for an infection to develop. That’s why a quarantine period is required after exposure to someone with COVID-19.

The best, safest thing you can do is stay home and monitor your health for 14 days. Remain at home, avoid gathering in groups, avoid public activities, and practice social distancing. If you MUST go out, be sure to wear a face mask.

When Can You Go Back to Work or School?

If you have been notified by your school, employer, by public health, or by a close contact that you have been exposed to COVID-19, you must quarantine at home. The length of your quarantine depends on several factors.

The CDC’s current recommendation is a 14-day quarantine. However, CDC has introduced two alternative options to potentially shorten the quarantine period.

If you have no symptoms and do not get tested:

If you’ve had no symptoms of illness during your quarantine, CDC says you can end your quarantine after day 10 even without a test. You must still monitor for symptoms and wear a mask for the full 14 days of the preferred quarantine period.

If you have no symptoms and have access to COVID-19 testing:

If you have no symptoms and have access to COVID-19 testing, another option is to discontinue quarantine after day 7 if you test negative for the virus.

With this option, the specimen may be collected for testing on or after five days of quarantine; however, you cannot discontinue quarantine before the end of the 7th day even if you’ve already received your negative test results.

Click here for information about free testing through your county health department.

In both cases, you must continue to do the following through day 14:

  • wear a mask,
  • social distance,
  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and
  • avoid crowds.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 any time before the end of the 14th day, you will then be considered a presumptive positive case and will need follow isolation rules.

What if I develop symptoms of illness?

You should obtain a test earlier in your quarantine if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 (see below for a list of common symptoms). If you have had exposure to someone with COVID-19 and you begin having symptoms, you must follow isolation orders, which can be found in detail here. Even if you’ve already been in quarantine for several days, your isolation period begins with the first appearance of symptoms.

What if I test positive during my quarantine period?

If you test positive during quarantine, then you must follow isolation orders instead. Even if you’ve already been in quarantine for several days, your isolation period begins with the date your COVID-positive specimen was collected.

Remember, quarantine is for people who may become infected. If you test positive or if you’re having symptoms, then you need to follow the isolation guidance for people who are currently infected.

Review more sample scenarios

Common symptoms of COVID-19

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever (measured temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or you feel feverish)
  • 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

If you develop symptoms, follow the isolation guidance, get tested for COVID-19, and contact your doctor. If your symptoms are severe or you have a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

Go back to the main Quarantine/Isolation Guidance page