Health Department

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administration office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location. COVID-19 call center hours are Monday–Friday, 9am–7pm.

TTY 711

10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.,
Director of Health

When to Isolate and When to Quarantine

On this page

When you can be around others
Guidance for the vaccinated
Guidance for travelers
Close contact
What you need to do when you isolate or quarantine
What to do if you are sick


Not all COVID-19 patients will require medical care. In fact, most will likely have mild to moderate symptoms. But COVID-19 can spread easily between people, and it is important you follow protocol to isolate yourself (for COVID-19 patients) or quarantine (for their friends, family and contacts) to stop the spread.

Here, we summarize the latest guidance from the Virginia Department of Health provided to physicians.

Both isolation and quarantine are used to prevent the spread of communicable disease, but there is a difference between the two:


Isolation Quarantine

Separates those diagnosed with COVID-19 from people who are not sick.

Stay home in a separate room in the house so that you don't infect others.

Separates people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are not yet sick.

Get tested, stay home and monitor for symptoms. If you do not test positive or no symptoms develop in a specified time frame, you can stop quarantine.


calendar icon When You Can Be Around Others

Here are the isolation and quarantine actions COVID-19 patients, their household contacts, and other contacts who are not in the house (like coworkers or friends) must take. It is important to note that if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and have a known exposure, but have not been tested, you should proactively self-isolate.

Who Action to Take How long?
I had COVID-19 Symptoms


Most people can stop self-isolation* at home when all 3 of these things have happened:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started or since the date of your positive COVID-19 test.


  • You haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.


  • Symptoms have improved and you have
    not developed new symptoms.
I tested positive for COVID-19,  but never had symptoms


Most people can stop self-isolating* at home after
of these things have happened:

  • At least 10 days have passed since your positive COVID-19 test.


  • You continue to have no symptoms since the test.
I was exposed to COVID-19


People need to quarantine when they have been within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

If you are quarantining because someone with
COVID-19 lives in your household:

  • Stay home and monitor for symptoms the entire time the person is home sick, and for 14 days after the sick person is allowed to leave isolation.

If you are quarantining because you spent time with someone with COVID-19:

  • Stay home and monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the last time you interacted with the person.

See VDH guidance, page 2 for more details.

* If you are immunocompromised, check with your doctor if you have questions.

Vaccine iconGuidance for those who have been vaccinated

 Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • You are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means 2 weeks or more have passed since you received the second dose in a 2-dose series, or 2 weeks or more have passed since you received 1 dose of a single-dose vaccine.
  • You have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure 
  • You are not an inpatient or resident of a healthcare setting, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.

If you are 14 days or fewer past your final dose of COVID-19 vaccine and were exposed to COVID-19, you should quarantine. You may be able to shorten your quarantine if you have no symptoms and test negative on the 14th day or later from your final dose.

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

Airplane iconGuidance for international travelers

COVID-19 is still spreading within Virginia, across the United States, and in other countries. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are urged to avoid travel, especially if you are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 or if you will be visiting someone at higher risk of serious COVID-19. Travelers who are fully vaccinated are less likely to get or spread COVID-19 while traveling, but international travelers should still follow additional precautions. All travelers should consider the risks for getting or spreading COVID-19 and follow recommendations and requirements at their destination.

Here are some important steps to take when you arrive in Virginia.

Take special precautions and watch for symptoms for 14 days after your trip

  • It takes 2-14 days to develop symptoms of COVID-19. There is an increased risk of getting sick when traveling abroad because of variants, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
  • Look for symptoms of COVID-19. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day (once in the morning, once at night) and check for fever. Also, watch for cough or trouble breathing. You can download VDH’s Daily Symptom Monitoring Log to help keep track of your symptoms. We also encourage you to work with us and use the Sara AlertTM tool for monitoring your symptoms. 
  • Wear a mask when around others who did not travel with you, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash hands often, and avoid being around others who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.

Get tested 3-5 days after arriving in the country

  • Get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test) three to five days after travel and stay home for seven days. Call us at 703-267-3511 to schedule this free test and let us know that you recently traveled internationally. 
  • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full seven days. If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.  

Follow quarantine guidance for returning international travelers

  • If you are not fully vaccinated, stay home and separate yourself from others and follow quarantine guidelines for at least: 7 days with a negative PCR test or 10 days without a PCR test.
  • If you are fully vaccinated you won’t need to quarantine, but you should still get tested and watch out for symptoms.

If you test positive or start to feel sick, isolate yourself 

  • If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected and follow public health recommendations. Do not travel again until it is safe for you to be around others. 

Answer the call if the health department reaches out

  • It is important to speak with the health department after international travel because they can: 
    • Offer resources
    • Give guidance on keeping the community safe
    • Provide an exclusion letter or clearance letter 
    • Schedule free COVID-19 testing

Been overseas?

Two people 6 feet apartClose Contact

If you are not fully vaccinated and have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 while they are contagious, you need to quarantine and monitor your health. A person with COVID-19 is considered to be contagious starting from 2 days before they became sick (or 2 days before test specimen collection if they never had symptoms) until they meet the criteria to discontinue isolation.

Close contact includes:

  • Being within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
  • Having direct exposure to respiratory secretions from a person who has COVID-19. For example, being coughed or sneezed on, sharing a drinking glass or utensils, or kissing.
  • Providing care for a person who has COVID-19.
  • Living with a person who has COVID-19.

Even if you do not have symptoms or test negative during your quarantine period, you will still need to complete your full 14-day quarantine before it is safe to go back to work* or be around others. 

Please note:

  • In indoor K-12 settings, a student who is within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student is not considered a close contact as long as both students are wearing masks and the school has other prevention strategies in place.
  • People with certain jobs (e.g., critical infrastructure workers other than education sector workers) may be allowed to go to work after being exposed to COVID-19 if the business cannot operate without them. Learn more.

While Waiting for Test Results

You should also stay home and away from others while you are waiting for your test results. This helps protect your friends, family and others from possibly getting COVID-19 from you.

home iconWhat You Need to do When You Isolate or Quarantine

 There are several things that you must do to prevent disease spreading to people in your home and community. Your actions can protect others from COVID-19.


Stay home

  • Do not leave your house.
  • Do not spend time with others, including those you live with even if you feel well.
  • Do not share personal items, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible.
  • Do not go for walks.
  • Do not go to school or work.
  • Do not run errands.

Monitor symptoms

  • Take your temperature twice a day; once in the morning and once at night.
  • If you need to seek medical care, call your health care provider and inform the office you are isolating for COVID-19 illness before going into the office.
  • Call 911 immediately if you have danger signs, such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in chest, confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
  • Share your symptoms with the Health Department if you have been asked to do so by a contact tracer.

Take precautions

  • When you quarantine: stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, if possible.
  • When you isolate:
    • Stay in a separate room from other household members and use a separate bathroom, if possible.
    • Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets.
    • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
    • Wear a mask when around other people if able.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces everyday.

 Get tested, if you are quarantining 

  • Testing for COVID-19 is available in many locations across Fairfax Health District. If you need a test, contact your health care provider or visit one of the sites listed on the Testing page.
  • Call ahead to make an appointment and wear a cloth face covering when you leave home.

Find support

  • Fairfax has support for those who will need to be temporarily out of work and away from others. From rental and food assistance to health care and housing, there are resources to get you by today so you can onboard to a healthier tomorrow.
  • Call Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880 to get connected.

Returning to Work

Employers should not require employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note to enable them to return to work. An employee can return to work once certain situations are met. 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant