COVID-19 Isolation/Quarantine Protocols

January 5, 2020 (updated October 7, 2022)

This page explains the UMB system for helping our community members understand what to do in the event of COVID-19 illness or exposure.

Please use the COVID-19 Report Form to describe your situation. When you submit the form, the system will send you an email with guidance based on current protocols for actions to take if you have symptoms, a positive test, or an exposure. The following guide outlines the advice, based on your role and situation.

If you are seeking medical advice, contact your health care provider.

  1. I have a positive COVID-19 test
    1. Contact Notification
  2. I have symptoms
  3. I had a close-contact exposure to someone with COVID-19
  4. Glossary

If you have additional questions after reviewing this guidance, please email UMBOccupationalHealth@som.umaryland.edu.

Please review the glossary at the end for definitions, including counting days after exposure or illness.

COVID-19 Form Troubleshooting 
  • If the form does not load at all, please send a message to UMBOccupationalHealth@som.umaryland.edu. This error is usually easily and quickly fixed by a team member “rebooting” the form project.

  • If you get an "Access Denied" message (often with an odd and inaccurate explanation that you appear to be out of the country), please try accessing the form using a different web browser. If this does not work, then read the protocols below for information you need to manage your situation. Don’t worry about reporting if you can find the information you need at our site. If you still have questions, please contact your health unit for assistance:

 

These protocols are aligned with the latest CDC guidance. The email you will receive if you submit our COVID-19 report form is very similar to the CDC's guidance, but UMB's form guidance will provide more local nuance including where you can get tested nearby.

The CDC web page linked above also offers a helpful Isolation and Exposure Calculator.

NOTE: The protocols for healthcare workers are different than those on this page.

I have a positive COVID-19 test

  • Isolate for at least 5 days.
  • On day 6, you may return to school or work IF:
    • You had a positive test but no symptoms OR
    • You had symptoms but no shortness of breath, you have been fever-free off medications for at least 24 hours, and your symptoms have improved
  • Wear a tight-fitting mask around other people for 10 days after illness started or your first positive COVID-19 test.
  • Isolate for a full 10 days IF:
    • You had shortness of breath OR
    • Your symptoms have not mostly improved by day 6
  • If you are uncertain whether to return after 5 days of isolation, you may choose to use rapid antigen tests to help you decide.
    • Two negative tests 24 hours apart are a good indication that it is safe to end isolation
    • Even if testing positive still after 10 days, if symptoms have improved and you are fever-free, it is probably safe to end isolation. You should, however, wear a mask indoors with others for another week or so in this case.
  • If you have severe COVID-19 or you have a weakened immune system, please consult your doctor about when you can end isolation. Testing may be needed to help decide.
  • Please notify your close contacts about your positive test so they can take correct preventive action. See “Contact Notification” below.

Contact Notification

One of the most important public health steps to contain this pandemic is to identify those who were exposed to others with COVID-19 and notify them of this exposure, so they can quarantine and get tested. It is important to do this as soon as possible. 

Current Health Department protocols limit contact tracing interviews to those with patient contact, therefore not everyone with a positive test is interviewed to identify contacts.

We would appreciate your help if you are feeling well enough. Please review this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information PDF about how to identify and talk with your close contacts, so they can take steps to prevent further spread.

If you are uncomfortable revealing your positive status to your contacts, you could notify them by using the anonymous contact service Tell Your Contacts.

I have symptoms

  • Go or stay home.
  • Isolate from others.
  • Seek immediate testing (or as soon as possible).
    • Preferred: PCR
    • Alternative — rapid antigen test times two — at least 24 hours apart. Home test kits are fine.
  • If any of the tests are positive, see above. If all tests are negative, you may return if fever-free for at least 24 hours, off medications, and symptoms have improved.
  • Wear a tight-fitting mask for a week after returning.
  • NOTE: if you have symptoms and a negative test early while monitoring after a high-risk exposure, please contact UMBOccupationalHealth@som.umaryland.edu for guidance before returning to work or school.

I had a close-contact exposure to someone with COVID-19

If you work at any University of Maryland Medical System site or Faculty Physicians, Inc., clinical practice (as a student or employee), please follow the University of Maryland Medical Center instructions.

Otherwise, follow the instructions below:

  • Wear a tight-fitting mask around others for at least 10 days.
  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Based on August 2022 CDC guidance, quarantine is no longer recommended.
  • If the exposure has ended, test as follows (day 1 is the first day AFTER your last close contact with the positive person)
    • With PCR on day 5
    • OR with rapid antigen tests on day 5 AND day 6
  • In case of ongoing household exposure, where isolation is not possible, please contact your occupational health team for guidance on the duration of testing:
  • If symptoms or positive test, please refer to those instructions.

Glossary

Contact

A contact is being with someone in the two days before they got COVID-19 or in the first few days of them having COVID-19. Please read the Close Contact/High-Risk Exposure definition for more information.

Close Contact/High-Risk Exposure

The person you were in contact with has COVID-19, was not wearing a mask, and you:

  • Were 6 feet or less away from each other
  • Were in contact for a total of 15 minutes over 24 hours (doesn’t have to be consecutively)
  • Did not wear a KN95 mask or N95 respirator

COVID-19 Symptoms

Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

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

This list does not include all possible symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to update this list as it learns more about COVID-19. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

Isolation

Isolation is used for people who have a positive test or are infected with COVID-19. This is to separate those who have a positive test or have COVID-19 from those who are not infected.

People who are in isolation should stay home until it is safe for them to be around others. At home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others, stay in a specific “sick room” or area, and use a separate bathroom (if available).

Day 0 is your first day of symptoms or a positive viral test. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed or your test specimen was collected. If you have COVID-19 or have symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days.

Days of Isolation

Day 0 is your first day of symptoms or a positive viral test. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed or your test specimen was collected. If you have COVID-19 or have symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days.

Negative Test

A negative test is when a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test or rapid antigen test did not detect the COVID-19 virus. Please refer to the chart for which test result is acceptable in your scenario and how many negative tests are required.

You are not required to submit documentation of a negative test to return to school or work. A verbal or written notice that you are healthy to return to work or school is sufficient.

To return to work/school when recovering from a COVID-19 infection, two successive negative rapid antigen tests 24 hours apart would be the best option. A rapid antigen test is preferred if following up from your initial positive test because it is better at detecting infectious virus particles being present.

A negative PCR test is also acceptable, but note that a PCR test on day 5 could be positive even if the infection has cleared.

PCR Test

A PCR test detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus. A PCR is preferred if you are showing symptoms or suspect you have COVID-19 because the test is more sensitive. However, when testing to return to work or school, please note that a PCR test could be positive on the fifth day of recovery even though you are no longer infectious. These tests are commonly used at pharmacies and clinical settings, and results can take as little as 24 hours but possibly three days or more when laboratories are overwhelmed.

Rapid Antigen Test

Antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for antigen tests that can identify SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that can lead to COVID-19 infection.

A rapid antigen test can detect the presence of the virus to determine if you are infectious at that moment in time. These tests are relatively inexpensive, and most can be used at the point-of-care. Most of the currently authorized tests return results in approximately 15–30 minutes.

At UMB, rapid home test kits are acceptable. Please read the UMB COVID-19 Rapid Antigen At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit Guidance for details.

To return to work/school when recovering from a COVID-19 infection, two successive negative rapid antigen tests 24 hours apart would be the best option because it is better at detecting infectious virus particles being present.

The Maryland Health Department is offering free at-home BinaxNOW self-test kits. To receive a free test kit in your area while supplies last, please view the list of local health department contacts.

Serial Rapid Antigen Testing

Some self-tests are designed to be used in a series. Serial self-testing is when a person tests themselves multiple times for COVID-19, or on a routine basis, such as every few days. By testing more frequently, you might detect the virus that causes COVID-19 more quickly and could reduce the spread of infection.

At UMB, rapid antigen tests are recommended for serial testing. Please refer to the guide above to determine which days serial testing should be completed.

At UMB, rapid home test kits are acceptable. Please read the UMB COVID-19 Rapid Antigen At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit Guidance for more details.

Vaccinations

Up-to-date on vaccination: Completed COVID-19 primary vaccine in last 6 months OR received at least one booster OR had COVID-19 in last 90 days

Not up-to-date on vaccination: Completed COVID-19 primary vaccine more than 6 months ago, with no booster, OR not yet completed COVID-19 vaccine OR not vaccinated