What To Do If You Test Positive

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if I test positive?

A: If you test positive for COVID-19 you should isolate at home, except to get medical care. This means staying in a specific “sick room”, away from others, and using a separate bathroom if available. You should avoid contact with anyone, including pets, and avoid sharing any items. This isolation can end under these conditions: At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved. If you become severely sick, your healthcare provider might provide different instructions. Isolation means missing work and avoiding caring for others. There are resources available to support you during this time. 

Q: What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

A: Although it has not been long enough to be sure of COVID-19’s long-term effects, the CDC has learned that it can effect many organs in the body besides the lungs. In particular, they are researching the link between COVID-19 and heart conditions:

“Heart conditions associated with COVID-19 include inflammation and damage to the heart muscle itself, known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the covering of the heart, known as pericarditis. These conditions can occur by themselves or in combination. Heart damage may be an important part of severe disease and death from COVID-19, especially in older people with underlying illness.”

See the CDC website for more details.

Q: What if I can’t truly isolate because of my living situation? 

A: Do your best! If you test positive for COVID-19 you should try to stay in a specific “sick room” away from others. If others have to have contact with you, you should make sure your nose and mouth are covered, preferably with a surgical mask. You should not share any items with anyone - including bedding, dishes, cups, toothbrushes, etc. If not sharing a room or space is not an option, keep as much space between yourself and others as possible. Talk to your doctor about your specific situation and make sure your roommates are on board with your plan.

Q: You said if I get COVID-19 I will have to isolate and if someone else is exposed they have to self-quarantine. What is the difference between self-quarantine and isolation?

A: Simply put, isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. People who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for a minimum of ten days. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Quarantine should last for a minimum of 14 days and can increase in time if COVID-19 moves to other members of a household. Basically, isolation is very strict and is used when COVID-19 is confirmed. Self-quarantine is less strict but helps limit the spread of the disease when COVID-19 is not confirmed.

Q: How do I know when I can leave isolation?

A: You should no longer be contagious once these conditions are met:

·       10 days from first onset of symptoms (or the date of your positive test if no symptoms are present)

·        24hrs without fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications)

·        Improvement of symptoms (this is subjective – call MDH phone number for further guidance)

Note that this judgement should be made based on symptoms and time in isolation, not on a negative test.

Q: Will I get fired if my employer finds out I tested positive for COVID-19?

A: It is illegal to dismiss an employee for having COVID-19 or needing to quarantine. In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires many employers to provide two weeks of paid sick time to employees who need to miss work due to COVID-19.

See this document for more information about worker protections. 

Q: How can I advocate for the healthcare I need?

A: Forward Together has created an excellent guide to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes a section on self-advocacy. Visit this website and see the section titled “what can we do” for tips on communicating with your healthcare provider to help you get the best care possible.


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Page last updated on January 5, 2021.