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When can you return to work

People who are sick with or exposed to COVID-19 need to stay away from others. Isolation and quarantine are vital to prevent disease spread. We share this message often.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation separates people who are ill with or test positive for COVID-19.

Quarantine separates people who were in close contact—within six feet for 15 minutes—to someone with COVID-19. If a person in quarantine becomes ill, they transition to isolation.

But when is it OK for employees to return to work?

We offer these general guidelines for returning to work or school.

A scientist holds two blood samples in gloved hand.

Tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If your employees have any of these symptoms, they can discontinue isolation and return to work when:

  • Fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Their symptoms improve.
  • At least 10 days have gone by since symptoms first appeared.

Tests positive for COVID-19 with no known symptoms.

If your employees tested positive for COVID-19 but has not had any symptoms, they can stop their home isolation and return to work when:

  • At least 10 days passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test.
  • They are not sick with COVID-19 symptoms during that time.

Every person’s situation is unique. Encourage your employee to speak with a healthcare provider who can answer questions about when it’s best to return to work.

Should we require employees who are positive to get retested? What about a doctor’s note?

If your employee tests positive for COVID-19, you should not require a repeat negative test for return to work. People can continue to test positive for three months after their first positive test. This does not mean they are contagious. Allow employees to return to work once they have completed their isolation period.

We do not recommend requiring a doctor’s note to return to work. This can place an undue burden on your employees and delay their ability to return to work. Follow the above guidance to make sure employees are safe to return to work.

This guidance is specific to business locations. For questions about when teachers and students can return to school, please refer to our school toolkit.

Get a flu shot. Flu season is here.

A flu shot protects you and people around you. It can help you recover more quickly and make symptoms less severe, keeping flu patients out of hospitals. With fewer people getting severely sick from the flu, hospitals will be better prepared to care for COVID-19 patients and others.

Let’s drive case numbers down.

We all need to do our part to care for one another. 

  • Stay close to home and limit unnecessary trips.
  • Wear your mask when you leave home.
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
    • Keep gatherings small, and outside if possible where fresh air circulates.
    • Continue to practice physical distancing.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from others. Wear a mask when you cannot maintain 6 feet of space.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Avoid interacting with people you live with, so you don’t infect them.
  • Get a test for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms. Stay isolated from others while you wait for your test results. 
  • Get a test for COVID-19 if you think you were around somebody with COVID-19
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation. 

We will get through this.

The coming months could be difficult with holidays and gatherings. But we promise to give you plenty of ideas to celebrate differently this year. Check out our “Let’s aim for all treats this year. No COVID-19 tricks” blog post for tips on keeping your family safe for Halloween. And subscribe to our Your Reliable Source blog to keep up to date on how to gather with loved ones through the winter until we are safer from COVID-19.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and others at