Patient Instructions for Self-Isolation While Awaiting Laboratory Results

  • BACKGROUND

    COVID-19 is a new virus that causes a respiratory illness. Health experts are still learning about the illness caused by this new virus. People infected have had an illness that has ranged from mild (like a common cold) to severe requiring individuals to be hospitalized. Deaths from COVID-19 have also occurred mainly among older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions.

    The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person:

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) by respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
    • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
    • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.  
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also stated that there is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected people who were more than 6 feet away. This is called  airborne transmission.  Transmission occurred with enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation.  Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.  Data shows that it is much more common for COVID-19 to spread by close contact with an infected person, than by airborne transmission.

    If you develop symptoms, your healthcare providers may order a test. Your results will be provided back to you by your healthcare provider anywhere between one to seven days after testing. This time may take longer depending on the testing volume and the laboratory doing the testing.

     

    WHAT SHOULD I DO WHILE I WAIT FOR MY RESULT?

    • Self-isolate in your home.  Leave the home only to seek medical attention.
    • If you live with others, self-isolate in a private room and use a private bathroom if possible.  Meals should be eaten in your room and ideally, be prepared by someone else and left at the door.
    • Make a list of close contacts you have had from two days before you became sick;  or if you did not have symptoms, the day you took your test. Close contacts are people who have been within 6 feet of you for 15 minutes or more. A close contact could also be someone you had extremely close contact with (face to face) even if less than 15 minutes or if you spent time with an individual while you were sick.
    • Interact with others as little as possible.
    • Wear a mask if you must be around others.
    • If you develop additional symptoms or if your symptoms get worse, contact your healthcare provider for instructions.

     

    WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I TEST POSITIVE?

    • Self-isolate for 10 days. You, the case, are infectious for 10 days after symptom onset (or test date if asymptomatic).If you can successfully isolate from household contacts (private room and private bathroom), your household contacts must quarantine for 14 days after their last known exposure to you. When you cannot separate fully from your household contacts, their 14-day quarantine begins once your 10-day infectious period ends.  This means that household contacts will quarantine for your 10 day isolation period PLUS their additional 14 days, equaling 24 days total.
    • Notify your close contacts and let them know they should quarantine at home for 14 days from their last exposure to you. Keep a phone nearby so that you can answer the call and participate fully in your confidential case investigation for contact tracing.
    • If you have symptoms, self-isolate in your home until each of the following conditions are met:
      • It has been at least ten days since your symptoms first appeared AND
      • It has been at least one day since you have not had a fever (without using fever-reducing medications) and your respiratory symptoms are improving (e.g., cough, shortness of breath).
    • If you test positive and do not develop symptoms, self-isolate in your home until it has been at least ten days since the day your test specimen was collected.
    • After consultation with infection control experts, some people with severe illness may need to isolate for up to 20 days after symptom onset.
    • If your symptoms get worse or if you require hospitalization, notify your healthcare provider immediately.
    • If you need to call 9-1-1, inform them that you have tested positive so they can don the correct PPE prior to your transport.
    • If you do not need hospitalization, continue to self-isolate at home.

     

    WHAT DO I DO IF MY TEST IS NEGATIVE?

    • If you had a known exposure to a confirmed case, continue to quarantine until 14 days after your exposure.
    • If you were tested but had no known exposure to a confirmed case, and you do not have any symptoms, you can stop your self-quarantine.
    • If you were tested but had no known exposure to a confirmed case, and you are symptomatic, you may have another respiratory pathogen that is circulating in the community. Avoid work and group settings until three days after the last day of your respiratory symptoms and fever.

     

    RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

    For more information, visit the Burlington County Coronavirus Information page.

    The latest information on the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide can be found on the CDC website.