COVID-19 Guidelines for the General Public

Last content update: 3/22/23

    If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, use our COVID-19 Guidelines Flowcharts to learn what to do:
    COVID-19 Guidelines Flowcharts | English | Chinese | SpanishVietnamese | Tagalog |

    Description: These flowcharts provide basic instructions on isolation and testing for the general public. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, were exposed, or have symptoms, use these flowcharts to learn what to do.

    I Tested Positive for COVID-19

    Figure 1. I tested positive for COVID-19, what do I do?

    I Am A Confirmed Close Contact to Someone

    Figure 2. I was exposed to someone with COVID-19, what do I do?

    I Developed Symptoms of COVID-19

    Figure 3. I have symptoms of COVID-19, what do I do?

    1. The guidance above is aligned with California Department of Public Health’s guidelines.
    2. In the workplace, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard, and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.
    3. This guidance does NOT apply to those living or working in high-risk settings such as jails and shelters, nor to healthcare providers in any kind of healthcare facility. For more information, see COVID-19 Guidelines for Staff and Residents in High-Risk Settings.


    COVID-19 Guidelines

      • Isolate and stay home for at least 5 days.
      • Isolation can end after day 5 if symptoms are not present or are mild and improving and you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of medication).
      • If fever is present on day 5, isolation should be continued until 24 hours after fever resolves.
      • If symptoms, other than fever, are not resolving on day 5, continue to isolate until symptoms are improving or until after day 10.
      • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days1, especially in indoor settings.

      Get medical help right away if you start feeling sicker, especially if you have trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, begin to feel confused, cannot stay awake, or develop bluish lips or face.

      Follow these guidelines even if you are vaccinated, already had COVID-19, and/or do not have symptoms. If you are unable to safely isolate at home, call 2-1-1 for information on housing, food, or other support services.

      1Wear a mask through day 10. After ending isolation, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10 if you test negative twice, with at least one day in between tests. 


      Close Contacts

      • Tell the people you were in close contact with that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 (see FAQ "When is someone considered 'exposed' to COVID-19?" below).
      • Being aware of a COVID-19 exposure will allow your close contacts to get tested, watch for symptoms, and better protect their family and loved ones.

      Get tested right away – visit the County’s "Free COVID-19 Testing Sites" webpage to find a free testing site near you. While you are waiting for your COVID-19 test results, you must stay home until you are better and will not make others sick. Watch your symptoms closely and get medical care if you feel worse, especially if you are at higher risk of serious illness. In addition:

      • Stay home, and stay away from others
      • Sleep in a separate room and use a separate bathroom, if you can
      • Wear a mask, even at home
      • Clean shared surfaces often

      If you test positive for COVID-19, follow the isolation guidelines above. If you test negative for COVID-19, you can return to normal activities once you have been fever-free for 24 hours (without use of fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms are mild and improving. Consider continuing isolation and retesting in 1-2 days if you test negative with an antigen test, especially if your first test was during the 1-2 days after symptoms began. If new symptoms develop, isolate and get tested again.

      • Test within 3-5 days after last exposure.
      • If symptoms develop, test and stay home.
      • If test result is positive, follow isolation recommendations.
      • California Department of Public Health (CDPH) masking guidance also strongly recommends wearing a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings and when near those at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

        Exposed persons should consider testing as soon as possible to determine infection status and follow all isolation recommendations above if tested positive.

        If you test negative with an antigen test, consider testing again 48 hours later, then again 48 hours after the second negative test.

        Knowing one is infected early enables earlier access to treatment options, if indicated (especially for those that may be at risk for severe illness), and early notification of exposed persons ("close contacts") who may also benefit by knowing if they are infected.

      Frequently Asked Questions

        If you receive a text from the phone number 233-93 with a survey link, this is the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department contacting you to ask questions about how you are feeling and provide information about COVID-19 treatment and other resources. It is safe to click on the link in this text message.

        Our goal is to make sure you have everything you need to safely stay home and prevent exposing others to COVID-19. Your privacy is incredibly important to us, and any information you provide will only be used by the Public Health Department to ensure the health and safety of our community. You will never be asked for your social security number, financial information, or immigration status.

        Below are screenshots of what the text message and survey will look like:

        CA Connected Screenshots

        Description: These images show the text message and survey you will receive from the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.

        For more information, see this video from CDPH.

        A person who tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms is considered contagious from 2 days before symptoms began until at least 5 days after symptom onset IF 24 hours have passed with no fever (without medication) and symptoms have improved.

        A person who tests positive for COVID-19 and does not have symptoms is considered contagious from 2 days before the date of their first positive COVID-19 test until 5 days after they took their first positive COVID-19 test.

        See CDPH’s Isolation and Quarantine Guidance for more information.

        A person is considered “exposed” to COVID-19 if they shared indoor airspace with someone who is contagious with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.

        Spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls (e.g. offices, rooms, waiting areas, bathrooms, or break or eating areas that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls) should be considered distinct indoor spaces. 

        Close contacts include people who shared indoor airspace with the infected person for a continuous 15 minutes or longer, as well as people who shared indoor airspace with the case over multiple short-duration periods that add up to at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. For example, if in the 2 days before the infected person had symptoms or tested positive, someone had three 5-minute interactions with the infected person within a 24-hour period, that person would be considered a close contact.

        Entities such as businesses and healthcare facilities overseeing indoor spaces greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor should consider CDPH's updated close contact definition for large indoor spaces. For more information, refer to the State Public Health Officer Order of October 14, 2022.

        Some people are at higher risk for serious COVID-19 illness than others. Specifically, older adults, people who are immunocompromised, and people with underlying health conditions are more likely to develop more serious symptoms and to require more medical care, especially if they are unvaccinated.

        For more information, visit the CDC’s Factors That Affect Your Risk of Getting Very Sick from COVID-19 webpage.

        To learn more about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Homepage or CDPH’s COVID-19 Resources webpage.

        A high-risk setting is one in which transmission risk is high (e.g., setting with a large number of persons), and where populations served are at risk of more serious outcomes of COVID-19 disease including hospitalization, severe illness, and death. This includes healthcare settings of any kind and congregate living settings. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Santa Clara County have different requirements and recommendations for staff and residents in these settings.

        Face masks are required for all staff, customers, and members of the public in high-risk settings, regardless of vaccination status.

        On 9/12/22, the County of Santa Clara Health Officer issued a Health Order Requiring Use of Face Coverings in Higher-Risk Settings. All higher-risk settings must enforce this face covering requirement.

        Note: In addition to the guidance in this section, high-risk settings should also look at the CDPH recommendations for their specific facility type. Find the latest guidance from CDPH by setting type here.


          Healthcare workers in hospitals or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) should follow the isolation, testing, and work restriction guidance in AFL 21-08. Skilled nursing facilities should follow the guidance for management of exposed residents in AFL 22-13

          For more information, please see the County's COVID-19 Resources for Providers webpage.

          Healthcare personnel working in settings not covered by AFL 21-08, such as long-term care settings and adult/senior care facilities, may follow the guidance outlined in AFL 21-08.

          For more information, please see the County's COVID-19 Resources for Providers webpage.

          NOTE: On 12/15/2022, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department released recommendations to Shelter Providers regarding increased shelter capacity during inclement weather events. Please refer to this letter for additional guidance. 

          Staff and residents in non-healthcare congregate settings may follow COVID-19 Guidelines for the General Public. These settings may include:

          • Emergency shelters
          • Cooling and heating centers
          • Homeless shelters
          • Local correctional facilities and detention centers

          For more information on COVID-19 prevention and response in these settings, refer to the CDC’s Guidance on Management of COVID-19 in Homeless Service Sites and in Correctional and Detention Facilities.

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