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

  • Here's when you can return:

Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?

  •  

    Diagnosed with COVID-19 - no symptoms

    • May return if it has been 5 days since diagnosed with COVID-19 AND  
    • Have not developed any symptoms
    • Must continue to wear a mask when returning from 5-day quarantine
    • If unable to wear a mask, must stay home for an additional 5 days

     

    Diagnosed with COVID-19 - has symptoms

    • May return from quarantine if it has been at least 5 days since you first had symptoms or from date of positive test AND
    • Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine AND
    • Symptoms have improved
    • Must continue to wear a mask when returning from 5-day quarantine
    • If unable to wear a mask, must stay home for an additional 5 days

Exposed to someone with COVID-19

  • Have you been exposed to someone with COVID-19? (meaning you learned you are a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19.)

    Whether you are excluded from school will depend upon where your contact occurred (e.g., in the home, at school, in the community), whether you have symptoms, and whether any other exemption applies. In many instances, you will be able to remain in school following a non-household exposure.

     

    Have you had a non-household exposure to COVID-19?

    • Because we require masks in our district, you may remain in school without any exclusion period following a non-household exposure to COVID-19 (e.g., during an afterschool activity, while eating lunch, at a community activity) as long as you do not have symptoms.  This exemption applies to both masked and unmasked non-household exposures.  
    • Following the exposure, you must continue to wear a mask at school. If possible, you should get a COVID-19 test on the day that you are notified you are a close contact and 5 days after the exposure.  
    • If you develop symptoms, you should stay home and follow the “If You Are Experiencing Symptoms” guidance below. 

     

    Have you had a household exposure to COVID-19?

    Unless one of the exemptions below applies (“Exposed and Vaccinated” or “Diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days”): 

    • You must stay home for 5 days following your last exposure to the household member who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19.  
    • If you are not able to separate from the household member, your “last exposure” would be the day your household member’s isolation period ends, and your five-day quarantine period begins after that.  
    • You should get a  test, if possible, once it’s been 5 days since the household member began experiencing symptoms or was diagnosed.

    Following the end of your quarantine period, you may return to school if you are not experiencing symptoms. You must continue to wear a mask at school.  If you are unable to wear a mask, you must remain home for an additional 5 days. If you develop symptoms during your quarantine period refer to the “If You Are Experiencing Symptoms” section.

     

EXEMPTIONS TO QUARANTINE REQUIREMENT, EVEN IF YOU HAD A HOUSEHOLD EXPOSURE:

If YOU ARE EXPOSED AND VACCINATED

  • You do not have to quarantine if you are up-to-date on recommended vaccines:

    • You have received either:
      • 2-dose vaccine - It’s been at least 2 weeks since you received the second dose OR
      • Single-dose vaccine - 2 weeks since you received the single-dose vaccine
    • AND, if applicable, you have complied with any booster requirement:
      • Eligible for booster (18 years and older) - 2 weeks since you received the booster dose (there must be at least 6 months between your last vaccine dose of the 2-dose vaccine and at least 2 months between your last dose of the single-dose vaccine to be eligible for the booster dose) OR
      • Ages of 5-17 and have completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (boosters are not required for this age group)
      • AND you have not developed symptoms since your exposure to COVID-19.

    Must provide dated proof of vaccination to return to school without completing the quarantine requirements. If you are 18 years old and older, eligible for a booster, and have not received it, you are not considered up-to-date on recommended vaccines.

Diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days

  • Individuals who have not developed symptoms since their exposure to COVID-19 and have had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (tested positive using a viral test) do not need to quarantine. The person must continue to wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A SYMPTOM OF COVID-19

  • 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

     

    With COVID-19 symptoms and a negative COVID-19 test

    May return if:

    • Negative test, meaning:
      • Negative PCR/Molecular or
      • Negative rapid antigen test as long as at least one of the following applies: (1) you have not been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days, OR (2) you have received your primary vaccination series, OR (3) you were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 90 days
    • AND fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine
    • AND symptoms have improved

     
    With COVID-19 symptoms and have not been tested for COVID-19 or does not have an alternative medical diagnosis 

    • May return if it has been at least 5 days since first symptoms AND 
    • Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine AND 
    • Symptoms have improved
    • Must continue to wear a mask when returning from 5-day quarantine
    • If unable to wear a mask, must stay home for an additional 5 days


    With COVID-19 symptoms and an alternative medical diagnosis

    • May return if there is a diagnosis other than COVID-19 (like a stomach virus, ear infection, etc.) from a healthcare professional to explain the COVID-19-like symptoms AND
    • Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine AND 
    • Have felt well for 24 hours 
    • The health care provider is not required to detail the specifics of the alternate diagnosis 

     

    Symptoms 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 fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine. You are not required to present an alternate diagnosis, negative COVID-19 test, or stay home for 5 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 been fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine AND symptoms have improved.

  • Exceptions

    You do not need to quarantine (stay away from others) if masks were being worn appropriately and consistently by both the person with COVID-19 and the potential exposed person. This applies to exposures in classrooms, other in-school settings, extracurricular activities, including athletic activities and school transportation.

     

    Living with someone diagnosed with COVID-19

    Not vaccinated or have not received booster (18 years old and older and eligible for booster) 

    • Quarantine (stay away from others) for 5 days
    • The 5 days of quarantine begin on the day after the last known close contact with the COVID-19 positive individual
    • Should test on day 5, if possible
    • Must continue to wear a mask when returning from 5-day quarantine
    • If unable to wear a mask, must stay home for an additional 5 days

    Vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not yet been boosted

    • Quarantine (stay away from others) for 5 days
    • The 5 days of quarantine begin on the day after the last known close contact with the COVID-19 positive individual
    • Should test on day 5, if possible
    • Must continue to wear a mask when returning from 5-day quarantine
    • If unable to wear a mask, must stay home for an additional 5 days

    Vaccinated, and have either received a booster or are not yet eligible for a booster and have not developed symptoms since your exposure to COVID-19

    • You do not need to quarantine (stay away from others) 
    • Should test on day 5, if possible
    • Must wear a mask for 10 days

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​​​​​​​.