Returning To School After COVID-19 Diagnosis, Exposure, or Illness

  • Our health guidance follows requirements from the NC Department of Health and Human Services and recommendations from Wake County Public Health.

    Students must stay home if they are sick. Someone experiencing any symptom of illness not related to an already documented medical condition must be sent home, even if they don’t have a COVID-19 diagnosis.

    Students are also required to stay home and quarantine if someone living with them is diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • Here's when you can return:

If YOU ARE VACCINATED OR HAD COVID-19 WITHIN THE PAST 3 MONTHS

  • VACCINATED?

    You do not have to quarantine if it’s been at least 2 weeks since you received the second dose in a 2-dose series, or it’s been at least 2 weeks since you received a vaccine that only requires a single-dose AND you have not developed any symptoms since your exposure to COVID-19. You must provide dated proof of vaccination to return to school without completing the quarantine requirements.

    PREVIOUSLY DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?

    You do not have to quarantine if you were diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 3 months AND you have not developed symptoms of COVID-19 without another identified cause for the symptoms. If you develop symptoms within 3 months of having COVID-19, you may need to be tested again if there is no other reason for your symptoms. You must provide dated proof of your previous COVID-19 diagnosis to return to school without completing the quarantine requirements.

DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19 WITHIN THE LAST 10 DAYS

  • You may return if it has been 10 days since your first positive COVID-19 test AND you have not developed any symptoms. If you develop symptoms, you must remain home until you meet the requirements for someone experiencing a symptom of COVID-19.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A SYMPTOM OF ILLNESS

  • COVID-19 Symptoms

    The NC Department of Health and Human Services requires additional health precautions if you have one of these symptoms often associated with COVID-19:

    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    NO MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS OR COVID-19 TEST?

    You may return if It has been at least 10 days since you first had symptoms AND it has been at least 24 hours since you had a fever (without the use of fever reducing medicine) AND symptoms are improving, including cough and shortness of breath

    ALTERNATE MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS?

    You may return if you have a confirmed diagnosis other than COVID-19 (like a stomach virus, ear infection, etc.) from a healthcare professional to explain the COVID-19-like symptoms AND it has been at least 24 hours since you had a fever (without the use of fever reducing medicine) AND you have felt well for 24 hours. The health care provider is not required to detail the specifics of the alternate diagnosis.

    NEGATIVE COVID-19 TEST?

    You may return if you have a negative PCR/Molecular* COVID-19 test AND it has been at least 24 hours since you had a fever (without the use of fever reducing medicine) AND you have felt well for 24 hours NOTE: If you have a negative rapid antigen** test, you must receive a follow-up negative PCR/Molecular test. 

    DUE TO COVID-19 VACCINATION? 

    If you experience side effects during the first few days after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, you should stay home until you are no longer experiencing symptoms and it has been at least 24 hours since you had a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). You are not required to present an alternate diagnosis, negative COVID-19 test, or stay home for 10 days in order to return to school or work. 

    Symptoms Not Associated with COVID-19

    If you are experiencing symptoms not on the NCDHHS COVID-19 symptom list above (like ear ache, stomach ache), you may return to school after you have gone at least 24 hours without a fever or the use of fever-reducing medicine.

If you are not experiencing a symptom of illness

  • EXPOSED TO SOMEONE WITH COVID-19 WITHIN THE LAST 2 WEEKS?

    The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), the CDC, and Wake County Public Health continue to recommend quarantine for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19. 

    However NCDHHS and Wake County Public Health have provided options to reduce quarantine time after an exposure, if you meet the requirements. Health officials stress that to prevent additional exposures, illnesses, and COVID-19 clusters, it is critical for you to closely monitor yourself for any symptoms and stay home if you have experienced symptoms.

    • 7 Day Quarantine Option | You may return after 7 days if it has been at least 7 days since the last date of exposure AND you have not experienced any symptoms of illness AND you provide proof that you have a negative antigen** or PCR/Molecular* test result no earlier than 5 days after your last date of exposure AND you must continue to monitor yourself for symptoms and strictly follow all required health precautions at school through 14 days after the date of last exposure. 
    • 10 Day Quarantine Option | You may return after 10 days if it has been at least 10 days since the last date of exposure AND you have not experienced any symptoms AND you must continue to monitor yourself for symptoms and strictly follow all required health precautions at school through 14 days after the date of last exposure.
    • 14 Day Quarantine Option | You may return after 14 days if it has been 14 days since the last date of exposure AND you have not developed any symptoms of COVID-19. 

    If you start experiencing a symptom of illness you must stay home or go home immediately until you meet the requirements to return for someone experiencing a symptom of illness.

    If you test positive for COVID-19 you must remain home until you meet the requirements to return for someone diagnosed with COVID-19. 

    LIVE WITH SOMEONE DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?

    If you live with someone who has COVID-19, your quarantine for exposure does not begin until the end of the 10th day of isolation for the person with COVID-19.

    • You may return after 17 days if you meet all of the requirements of the 7-day quarantine.
    • You may return after 20 days if you meet all of the requirements of the 10-day quarantine.
    • You may return after 24 days if you meet all of the requirements of the 14-day quarantine.

COVID-19 Clusters

  • A “cluster” is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more linked cases in the same facility within 14 days.

    If your COVID-19 exposure is connected to a cluster of cases, Wake County Public Health may require you to quarantine for the full 14 day incubation period. That’s how long it could take from the time you’re exposed to the virus and when you could start experiencing symptoms. The local health department will only impose this requirement if they believe it is necessary to stop the spread of the virus within the facility.

Testing

  • If you are worried you may have been exposed and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you can be tested at one of the free testing locations throughout Wake County. You may also consult with your healthcare provider or call the Wake County COVID Hotline at 888-675-4567​​​​​​​.

FAQ

  • Why do I have to quarantine longer if I live with someone with COVID-19?

  • Do I have to quarantine if I’ve been vaccinated?

  • Was I exposed if I stayed at least 3 feet away from the person with COVID-19?

  • Do I have to quarantine if I have traveled within the US or internationally?

  • How will students continue learning and completing school work while quarantined?