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December 7, 2020

Skagit Public Health clarifies guidance on quarantine and isolation timeframes

On Friday, December 4th, Skagit Public Health adopted new guidance on quarantine time frames to align with the Centers for Disease Control and the Washington State Department of Health’s new guidance. Questions throughout the weekend have prompted the need for clarification:


Isolation timelines have not changed. Individuals who test positive for COVID, or have COVID symptoms and a known exposure, must isolate for at least 10 days following symptom onset (or test date if they have never had symptoms). They can stop isolation when:

  1. If an individual has COVID-19 and have symptoms, they can stop your home isolation when:
    • They’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication AND
    • Their symptoms have gotten better, AND
    • At least 10 days have gone by since the symptoms first If the individual has a severe immunocompromising condition, they should talk to their primary care provider. A care provider may recommend that immunocompromised persons isolate for longer.
  2. If an individual has tested positive for COVID-19, but have not had any symptoms, home isolation can end when:
    • At least 10 days have gone by since the date of the first positive COVID-19 test, AND
    • The individual has not developed any COVID-19 symptoms

Here is a handout on isolation from Skagit Public Health (and in Spanish).


The CDC, Washington State Department of Health, and Skagit County Public Health still recommend a quarantine period of 14 days from last exposure. The incubation period of the COVID virus is still 2-14 days. Once exposed, it can take as long as 14 days for the virus to replicate sufficiently in the human body for an infected person to then become contagious. This timeline is still critical in high-risk settings where there is serious risk of superspreading or severe outcomes (e.g. jails, shelters, long-term care or assisted living, congregate settings, health care, and those living with immune compromised persons, etc). If an exposed person lives with or cares for someone who has COVID, the COVID+ person has to finish their infectious period (isolation) before calculating the quarantine period.

There are circumstances that allow for a shortened quarantine if there are financial, personal, or other hardships that prevent a 14-day quarantine from last exposure (see more here). These shortened options still bear the risk of developing and transmitting COVID; if at any point an exposed person develops COVID symptoms during the 14-day incubation period, they must stay home, isolate, and ideally seek testing.

If someone cannot manage a 14-day quarantine due to financial, personal, or other hardships, they can end quarantine in the following circumstances:

  • If a person who is in quarantine has no symptoms, quarantine can end after Day 10 from last exposure date. They still need to monitor for symptoms through day 14. If they develop symptoms, they need to isolate.
  • If a person who is in quarantine takes a test on day 5 or later that results as negative AND continues to have no symptoms, quarantine can end after Day 7 from last exposure date. They still need to monitor for symptoms through day 14. If they develop symptoms, they need to isolate.

As a reminder, individuals should keep their social circles very small and practice social distancing, hand hygiene and masking anytime they may encounter someone from outside their household. Until a vaccine is widely available, these are the best tools we have to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we need everyone’s participation for it to be effective.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Public Health at 360-416-1500.