What to do if you test positive for COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19, follow these steps to not spread it to others.


If you test positive for COVID-19 you need to isolate at home for at least five full days from the onset of symptoms, even if you are vaccinated. You should not leave your home except to receive urgent medical care. The day your symptoms start is day zero.

If you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, you need to isolate for five days from the day of your positive test result. The day your positive COVID-19 test is collected is day zero.

If you are initially without symptoms, but then develop symptoms at any time during your isolation, you should start your isolation over. The day you develop symptoms then becomes day zero.

Home isolation can end at the end of day five if you are:

  • Fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication AND
  • Your symptoms have greatly improved if you initially had symptoms AND
  • No symptoms have developed if you were initially symptom free

If you have a routine appointment at UI Hospitals & Clinics or are visiting a patient, you need to complete the full 10-day isolation before coming to our facilities. If you have an urgent medical need, please notify your provider you are COVID-19 positive before your appointment.

Wear a mask

You should wear a mask whenever you are unable to isolate. If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, you should isolate for 10 days.

If your home isolation ends after day five, you should continue wearing a mask at all times when around others for an additional five days. You should avoid activities like traveling, eating at a restaurant, or going to a gym, until the full 10 days have passed.

Notify close contacts and household members

You may need to let your place of work, school, or others you’ve been around recently that you tested positive for COVID-19. These people may need to quarantine depending on their vaccination status. View up to date CDC quarantine guidelines.

Talk to your employer about when you can go back to work.

Watch your symptoms

You should monitor your symptoms daily to determine if they are getting better or worse. If your symptoms are getting worse, you may qualify for treatment options. Use the MyChart self-checker to update your symptoms or call 1-319-384-9010 to learn about treatment options or if you need medical care.

Seek emergency care if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Confusion
  • Bluish lips or face
Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.

What else should you do if someone in your home has COVID-19?

Disinfect surfaces

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and items every day. These include doorknobs, light switches, faucets, toilets, tables, and electronics.

Do not leave your home. Let family or friends drop off supplies on your doorstep.

Use separate personal items

Use separate personal items like dishes, toothbrushes, and bedding from ill household members.

Last reviewed: 
January 2022

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