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How long does it take after exposure to test positive for COVID
It can take almost a week after exposure to COVID-19 to have a positive test result.
If you aren’t fully vaccinated, quarantine right away after you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you develop symptoms, get tested right away. Otherwise, wait five to seven days.
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“If you aren’t vaccinated, it’s important to quarantine to limit the spread of the virus if you were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more,” said Steven Patton, D.O., family medicine physician at Norton Community Medical Associates – Preston. “The length of time spent with the person is irrelevant if you hugged or kissed, shared utensils or a drink, or were on the receiving end of a sneeze or cough.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that you may be able to stop quarantine after 10 days if you didn’t get tested and don’t have symptoms. If you got tested on the fifth day after exposure or later and the result was negative, you can stop isolation after seven days.
While in quarantine, watch for a fever, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 symptoms. Those who are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms should seek emergency care immediately.
When Should You Get Tested for COVID
If you've been exposed to COVID, the recommendations for getting tested will depend on whether you're vaccinated.
To help curb the spread of the virus at any time of year—but especially headed into the holiday season—experts want to make sure that people know the current guidelines for COVID testing.
Here's what you need to know about getting tested for COVID, including how the guidelines differ depending on your vaccination status.
The guidelines for testing change as scientists learn more about the COVID virus, but as of the beginning of November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get tested after a known or suspected exposure. However, the timing of the test will depend on whether a person is vaccinated or not.
After being exposed, the earliest that a person can test positive for COVID is between 24 and 48 hours.
Klausner says that someone who is unvaccinated and has had a known exposure to COVID "should quarantine, avoid contact with others, and consistently wear a mask so they do not spread infections to others until they obtain their test result."
Why Testing Still Matters
Research has suggested that around 59% of COVID-19 transmission is asymptomatic, with 35% coming from presymptomatic people (before they feel sick) and 24% from people who never develop symptoms.2
“PCR tests are able to detect even very low quantities of virus and have a higher sensitivity as compared to rapid tests," says Schrank. However, “they have the disadvantage of taking longer—in some cases up to a few days to result.”
Rapid antigen tests are faster and easy to administer, allowing people to get results back as soon as the same day. Robert G. Lahita, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health, tells Verywell that a rapid test "can be done within minutes of exposure." However, a caveat is that these tests may not detect low levels of the virus, as a PCR test can.
Rapid tests and PCR tests are both useful but each has its pros and cons. If you've been exposed to COVID or have symptoms, the best test to use is the one that you can access as soon as possible.
“Both types of tests are useful, and I would encourage individuals who are testing because of symptoms or an exposure to use the test most quickly available to them," Schrank says.
If someone tested negative for COVID-19 despite having COVID-19 symptoms, Schrank recommends a second antigen test 24 to 36 hours later and a PCR test as a follow-up.
If you're planning on gathering indoors for the holidays, Klausner says that there are steps that you can take to help keep your loved ones safe. He recommends ventilating your spaces by opening windows, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.
Schrank says that “the safest way to enjoy the holidays together with friends and family is for everyone who is eligible to be fully vaccinated." Importantly, he says it's "best way to protect young children who are not yet eligible [for vaccination] or more vulnerable adults like the elderly or immunocompromised that remain at higher risk even after vaccination.”
What This Means For You
If you are exposed to someone who has COVID or may have COVID, you will need to get tested. If you are vaccinated, you should get tested 5 to 7 days after you were exposed. If you're unvaccinated, you should get tested right away as soon as you learn that you were exposed.
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How Long Do You Have to Quarantine? What to Know for COVID Exposure Ahead of Holidays – NBC Chicago
As coronavirus cases rise in Illinois and across the country in the lead-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays, questions over how long someone might be...
What should you do if you or someone you have been in close contact with tests positive for coronavirus? How long are you contagious, what are the quarantine guidelines and when can you see people again?
As coronavirus cases rise in Illinois and across the country in the lead-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays, questions over how long someone might be contagious or how long they need to quarantine have risen.
Here's a look at the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on quarantining, isolating and exposure timelines.
How Soon Might Symptoms Appear?
According to the CDC, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.
Anyone with symptoms should get tested for COVID.
When Should You Get a COVID Test?
Those who have been fully vaccinated and around someone who has COVID-19 are recommended to get tested between three and five days after their exposure.
Those who develop symptoms should get tested as symptoms develop, but if a test is negative and symptoms persist another test might be needed a few days later, particularly for those who use at-home test kits.
"So if someone is having symptoms and they get a negative test, one, it depends on the severity right? If you're having severe symptoms we don't want you to just do a home test either," said Dr. Nimmi Rajagopal, the associate chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine for Cook County Health. "We want you to call your doctor's office and make sure that they have an opinion here because there are of course other things like the flu that are out there that can mimic symptoms or have similar symptoms. But if you're having symptoms and they're kind of mild and lingering and you use the [at-home] test and it's negative, we want you to take the precautions and then retest in three to five days. And that's why most of these kits actually come with two tests."
When is Someone With COVID Contagious?
A person with COVID-19 is considered infectious starting two days before they develop symptoms, or two days before the date of their positive test if they do not have symptoms.
How Long Should you Quarantine or Isolate?
First things first, those who believe they have been in contact with someone who has COVID and are unvaccinated should quarantine. Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here's the breakdown:
Those who have been within 6 feet of someone with COVID for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period should stay home for 14 days after their last contact with that person and watch for symptoms. If possible, those quarantining should also stay away from the people they live with, particularly those who are at an increased risk of developing more severe COVID illness.
If symptoms appear within the quarantine window, isolate immediately and contact a healthcare provider, the CDC's guidance states.
Those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine, according to the CDC, but they should get tested anywhere from five to seven days following their exposure regardless of symptoms.
Local health authorities can also make the final determination about how long a quarantine should last, however. And testing can play a role.
For example, in Chicago, those who travel to or from certain parts of the country and are unvaccinated must quarantine upon arrival to Chicago, but the length of time they should do so for depends on whether they get tested for COVID.
The city's travel advisory recommends those who travel from the designated warning states must:
Illinois' health department states that:
"Due to the risk of severe illness and congregate transmission, IDPH recommends the full 14-day quarantine period rather than the shortened options described above in congregate living settings with vulnerable populations, such as skilled care and correctional facilities," the Illinois Department of Public Health states on its website.
For schools, the guidance is different. In these settings, IDPH guidance states that:
According to the CDC, people who are positive for COVID should stay home until it's safe for them to be around others, including even other members of their home.
Health officials recommend a "sick room" or area for those who are infected and a separate bathroom, if possible.
So how do you calculate your 10-day isolation period?
According to the CDC, "day 0 is your first day of symptoms." That means that Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.
For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive must start their calculations over, however, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.
When Should You Call a Doctor?
The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:
"This list is not all possible symptoms," the CDC states. "Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you."
You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.
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What If You Test Positive Using an At-Home Test?
Those who test positive using an at-home test are asked to follow the latest CDC guidelines and communicate the results to their healthcare provider, who is responsible for reporting test results to the state health department.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has said that that process is not likely happening for every test, however.
"All of those negatives realistically are not being reported," Arwady said. "We're not counting, you know, it's a fiction that we've ever counted every COVID test."
She added that though many home tests are not being reported, positive results likely are provided to health care providers, then to the health departments.
When Can You Be Around Other People After Having COVID?
If you had symptoms, the CDC says you can be around others if you meet the following criteria:
The CDC says these recommendations don't apply to those who have severe COVID or weakened immune systems, however.
If you tested positive but had no symptoms for the duration of your isolation, the CDC says:
For those with severe illnesses or weakened immune systems, the CDC says staying home up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared is advised, but people in this group should talk to their healthcare provider before making decisions.
"People with weakened immune systems may require testing to determine when they can be around others," the CDC's website states. "Talk to your healthcare provider for more information."