COVID-19 Guidelines

Last content update: 8/30/23

    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. The guidance above also applies to those living and working in congregate shelters. The Public Health Department strongly encourages these facilities to refer to CDC's Guidance on Management of COVID-19 in Homeless Service Sites and CDPH's Best Practices for Ventilation of Isolation Areas in Homeless Shelters for additional mitigation measures.
    4. This guidance does NOT apply to healthcare providers or patients/residents in any kind of healthcare facility. For more information, see COVID-19 Resources for Providers.


    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 fever-reducing medication).1
      • 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. 

      Timeline for COVID-19 isolation

      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 COVID-19 Vaccines, Testing, and Treatment webpage to find a testing site near you.  While you are waiting for your COVID-19 test results, 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 while around others, 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, 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.

        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 the use of fever-reducing 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. 

        Exposed people, also called "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 March 3, 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.

        Guidance for Businesses and Workplaces

        Businesses in Santa Clara County are responsible for taking steps to protect the health of their workers and customers. All businesses and workplaces in Santa Clara County are subject to the requirements in 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.

        Face coverings must be worn at certain times and in certain settings as required by a County Health Order Requiring Use of Face Coverings in Higher-Risk Settings and Cal/OSHA.

        This guidance does NOT apply to businesses and employers in healthcare settings.

        For information on COVID-19-related requirements for healthcare facilities, refer to COVID-19 Resources for Providers.


          See Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations and related FAQs for more information on employer requirements related to COVID-19 testing, exposure and isolation.

          In the event a worker tests positive for COVID-19, employers must follow the requirements outlined in Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations or, if applicable, the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard.

          Employers should also refer to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers webpage for additional guidance.

          The County of Santa Clara discourages employers from requiring a medical note from a doctor or healthcare provider for clearance to return to work after a worker has COVID-19.

          Businesses and employers in non-healthcare settings must follow Cal/OSHA requirements, including requirements to report COVID-19 outbreaks to Cal/OSHA. For more information, refer to Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations and related FAQs.

          Most non-healthcare businesses are no longer required by law to report COVID-19 cases or outbreaks among staff to the Public Health Department. However, businesses can voluntarily report large outbreaks of 20 or more cases by calling the Public Health Department’s Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Program at (408) 885-4214.

          During an outbreak, additional layers of protection may be needed to halt transmission. It is important to identify and test all potentially exposed individuals regardless of their vaccination status. It is also important to review internal COVID-19 response plans, identify ongoing COVID-19 hazards at the workplace, and determine what additional mitigation steps may be needed.

          If your business is experiencing an outbreak and you need support in understanding COVID-19 guidance or would like additional technical assistance from Public Health, please contact [email protected].

          Guidance for Ventilation and Air Filtration Systems

          Visit to learn how to improve indoor air at your business or refer to additional resources below.


          Additional Guidance and Resources

          Guidance for Schools and Childcare

            An outbreak of COVID-19 is defined by CDPH as at least three suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19 cases reported within a 7-day period among people who are epidemiologically linked in the setting and are not known to be close contacts of each other in any other case investigation.

            • Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations
            • Report COVID cases to the Public Health Department:
              • Schools shall promptly notify the Public Health Department when at least 5% of their school population—including students and staff—have reported suspected or confirmed COVID-19 over a 14-day period. 
              • Report confirmed cases via the Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT).​
              • Report suspected cases via Microsoft Form.​
              • Schools shall notify Public Health again if the percentage passes 10%, 15%, 20% and any additional multiple of 5 OR if the percentage falls below 5% and then hits 5% again.
            • Schools are encouraged to use the Designee Reporting Calendar Spreadsheet 23-24 to track the percentage of new suspected or new confirmed cases in their school population over 14 days.
              • Watch a 7-minute tutorial on how to use the Designee Reporting Calendar Spreadsheet.


            How to Report Cases

            • If you do NOT have an existing SPOT account linked to the location you are reporting for, submit a SPOT Intake Form to report case information.  
            • If you have an existing SPOT account linked to the location you are reporting for, you may report case information by logging into SPOT and reporting cases directly to the Location Account. Please click “Existing Users” to log in and navigate to the “Report Cases and Contacts” section of SPOT to submit new case information for the appropriate location from the drop-down list. 
            • County reporting requirements will not be fully met until you submit case information for all positive individuals involved in the suspected outbreak.  


            Resources for Reporting to SPOT 


            Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT)

            ©2023 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.