coronavirus illinois

Coronavirus FAQ: How Soon COVID Symptoms Can Start, What to Do If You Keep Testing Positive

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for more than two years, there are still plenty of questions that individuals may have if they end up testing positive for the virus.

Upon that positive test, patients may be curious about how long they’ll be contagious, how to isolate and for how long, and what to do if they continue to test positive for the virus even after their symptoms have cleared.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the virus.  

How Soon Could COVID Symptoms Start?

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID can appear between 2-to-14 days after exposure to the virus, but could start even sooner than that.

How Long Are You Contagious With COVID?

According to the CDC, a person who tests positive for COVID can potentially spread the virus up to two days before they start to exhibit symptoms of the virus.

As for how long a person remains contagious, it largely depends on the case, according to CDC data, but many experts say that individuals who are no longer symptomatic could potentially no longer be contagious, but those experts also recommend that individuals contact their physicians for more information.

When Can You End Isolation if You Test Positive for COVID?

If a person tests positive for COVID, the CDC recommends that they isolate for at least five days, and for longer if they continue to show symptoms.

A person who is showing symptoms of COVID, but hasn’t tested positive for the virus, is also recommended to isolate under CDC guidelines.

Isolation can end if:

  • You can end isolation after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved (Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​).
  • If you continue to have fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, you should wait to end your isolation until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. Continue to wear a well-fitting mask through day 10. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.

What Do I Do If Symptoms Have Cleared and I Keep Testing Positive?

Many individuals have reported continuing to test positive for COVID even after their symptoms have cleared up, and while the CDC has not given specific guidance for those individuals, some experts say that an absence of symptoms likely means that a person is no longer contagious.

In an interview with CNBC, infectious disease specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi says that she would feel “really comfortable” with a symptom-free person ending their COVID isolation after five days, even if they still test positive for the virus.

She still recommends that the individual follows CDC guidance and wears a mask for days six through 10 after their positive test, even if their symptoms are gone.

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