Symptoms and Exposure
Page Last Updated December 9, 2022
Students and staff with new onset of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as cough, fever, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms of COVID-19, should stay home and get tested for COVID-19. Follow the DOH What to do if a Person is Symptomatic flowchart.
- Fever of 100.4 or above
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to others. Regardless of your COVID-19 vaccine status, if you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.
COVID Test Results
People with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home until they have the results of their testing.
- Negative Results: If you have COVID-like symptoms and receive a negative test result, you may return to school 24 hours after fever has resolved (without medication) and symptoms have improved. If symptoms persist, retest every 24-48 hours through at least five days after symptoms started.
- Positive Results: See isolation guidance below and notify the school right away.
Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in the home in order to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms. For people without symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive viral test. See Isolation and Quarantine Calculator for additional information.
Individuals can leave isolation after 5 full days if:
- Symptoms are improving 5 days after the start of isolation, AND
- The individual has not had a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication
Students and staff should wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask for an additional 5 days (days 6 through 10) if they return to school or work after the end of their 5-day isolation period.
If an individual is unable to wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask, they should continue to isolate for a full 10 days, or follow the test-based strategy as outlined in What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 to determine when to leave isolation and remove their mask.
Regardless of vaccination status, students and staff who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 should take the following steps as detailed in the DOH What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 guidance:
- Monitor for symptoms AND
- Test 3-5 days after exposure, AND
- Wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask around others for 10 days after exposure (if tolerated and age-appropriate).
If the exposed student or staff member develops new symptoms, they should:
- Immediately isolate at home, or where they currently reside,
- Get tested for COVID-19, and
- Follow the DOH What to do if a Person is Symptomatic
If the exposed individual tests positive, they should follow the DOH What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 guidance.
Exposed students and staff who do not develop symptoms or test positive may continue to participate in all in-person instruction and care, including sports, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities.
WA DOH Symptoms and Exposures Flowchart (PDF)
Learn More About WA DOH Requirements and Guidance for K-12 Schools
To learn more about Washington State Department of Health requirements and guidance for K-12 Schools, please review theGuidance to Prevent and Respond to COVID-19 in K-12 Schools and Child Cares.