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What should I do if I think I've been exposed to COVID-19? Should I quarantine? How long do I have to stay home?

Last Updated: 01/10/2022

You may have been exposed to COVID-19 if you were in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more over 24-hours) with someone who had COVID-19, or if you participated in a high risk activity such as attending large gatherings with people who may be unvaccinated.

If you have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses (received a booster dose, completed the two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna within the past 5 months, or have received your single shot of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months), OR if you are under 18 but fully vaccinated (completed the two-dose series of Pfizer), OR if you recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months:

  • You do not need to quarantine. But you should wear a well-fitted mask around others for 10 days and get tested at least 5 days after the exposure (recently recovered persons do not need to test).
  • If symptoms occur, or if you test positive, you should immediately isolate for at least 5 days after the date when symptoms began or the date of the positive test result.

If you have NOT received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses (unvaccinated, haven't completed a primary vaccine series, or are 18 or older and more than 5 months out from your second Pfizer or Moderna dose, or more than 2 months out from your J&J vaccine dose but haven't received a booster dose):

  • You should stay home and quarantine for 5 days, monitor for symptoms, and get tested at least 5 days after exposure.
  • After ending quarantine, for 5 additional days, you should wear a mask around others, delay travel, avoid persons at high-risk for severe illness, and avoid places where you can't wear a mask.
  • If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, you should continue to quarantine for a full 10 days.
  • If symptoms occur, you should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate for 5 days from the date of the positive test result.

Testing is widely available and open to everyone in New Jersey. Visit covid19.nj.gov/testing to find a testing location near you or order a free at-home testing kit.

Everyone in quarantine should wear a mask, social distance from others, wash hands often, and cooperate with contact tracers if you receive a call.

Note: If you work in a healthcare setting or live in a high-risk congregate setting, you may be subject to different safety recommendations and timeframes.

Resources During Quarantine

If you are quarantined or in home isolation, do not leave your home (except to get medical care). There are many programs in place to help you and your family including food assistance, unemployment insurance, sick leave, and job protections. Learn more here.

For individuals who cannot safely quarantine at home, the State is securing beds at hotels, an alternative care site, and other locations. Contact your local health department.

For individuals who are self-isolating or quarantining at home, but live in large or multigenerational households where others may be at risk, the Department of Health recommends taking the following precautions:

  • For large households or homes with many people, persons who are sick should remain in a separate bedroom and stay away from anyone who is not sick as much as possible.
  • If the sick person cannot be isolated in a separate room, consider having them isolate in an alternate location that has a separate bedroom and bathroom for them to rest and recover.
  • If a family member(s) has underlying health conditions, consider having them quarantine at a nearby alternate site away from the sick individual.
  • If the sick person needs to leave the bedroom to use the bathroom (or kitchen), they should wear a mask.
  • The sick individual should not eat meals with others in the household to limit the spread of the virus within the home.
  • All persons living in the home should practice good hand hygiene (Wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol).
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly is important especially in the bathroom as well as doorknobs and stair rails

Source:Commissioner Persichilli's remarks 10/2/20; https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/COVID_Instructions_Persons_Who_Test_Negative.pdf; https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/COVID_Instructions_Persons_Who_Test_Positive.pdf