Return to Work or School: Sample Scenarios

Understanding exactly how long you need to stay home and away from others can be challenging. Several factors can affect the length of your quarantine or isolation. Here we’ll provide some sample scenarios which may aid in understanding the guidance.

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

Quarantine Scenarios

I was in quarantine for 5 days and feeling fine, but now on day 6 I have a fever. What should I do, and when can I return to school?

If you have been exposed to the virus and begin having symptoms, you may have a COVID-19 infection. Instead of following quarantine rules, you must now follow the isolation rules. As for returning to school, your 10-day-minimum isolation period starts on the day you developed symptoms, regardless of how long you’ve already spent in quarantine.


I’ve been in quarantine for 6 days, but I just got tested and my test results are negative. When can I return to work?

You can discontinue quarantine after day 7 if you test negative for the virus and you’ve had no symptoms. The specimen cannot be collected for testing until the 5th day of quarantine. Also, you cannot discontinue quarantine before the end of the 7th day even if you’ve already received your negative test results.

Because COVID-19 has such a long incubation period, if you get tested too early you could test negative but still be infected. It takes time for enough virus to develop in your body to show up on a test.


I’ve been in quarantine with no symptoms, and was tested on the 6th day of my quarantine period. I just got my results and they’re positive for COVID-19. I still feel fine – when can I return to school?

If you test positive for COVID-19 during your quarantine, you must begin following the isolation rules instead of quarantine (Remember – quarantine is for people who may become infected. Isolation is for people who are infected).

If you have no symptoms, your 10-day-minimum isolation period starts on the day your specimen was collected for testing, regardless of how long you’ve already spent in quarantine.


Isolation Scenarios

I have been in isolation for 8 days after testing positive for COVID-19. I didn’t have symptoms before, but now I’ve developed a cough. When can I go back to work?

If you test positive for COVID-19 with NO symptoms, then your isolation period is for 10 days after your specimen was collected for testing. But if you develop symptoms during isolation, you must stay in isolation for at least 10 days after developing symptoms, regardless of how much time you’ve already spent in quarantine or isolation.


I’ve been in isolation with a fever and cough. It has been 10 days, but my symptoms are not better. When can I go back to school?

You cannot return to school until your symptoms have improved AND it has been at least 10 days since your symptoms began. If 10 days have passed but you’re not feeling better, you should stay in isolation until your symptoms improve and you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication. Contact your doctor if you have concerns or need help managing your symptoms. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 right away.


I was really sick with COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized for shortness of breath, but I’m at home doing better now. When can I go back to work?

If you had severe illness, your isolation period will be longer than someone who had no symptoms or more moderate symptoms. If your illness was severe, you must stay in isolation for at least 20 days after your symptoms first appeared, your symptoms must have improved, and you must be fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.


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