Symptoms and Exposure
Page Last Updated September 15, 2022.
Students and staff who have symptoms of COVID-19 are required to stay home and should be tested and/or see a health care provider. Check below for a list of possible symptoms of COVID-19. WA DOH also has a Symptoms and Exposures Flowchart you can use to determine what to do if your child has COVID-19-like symptoms or a potential exposure.
- 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
- Regardless of your COVID-19 vaccine status, if you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.
- If you have tested positive for COVID-19, the isolation period is 10 full days from the start of symptoms or the date of the positive test. See Calculating Your Isolation Period for additional information.
- You may return to school after 5 full days of isolation if symptoms have significantly improved AND you are fever free (without the use of fever reducing medications) for 24 hours.
- If returning to school on days 6-10, you should wear a well-fitting face mask. If you are unable to wear a well-fitting face mask, you should isolate for the full 10 days.
- Students and staff are encouraged to test before returning. If you test positive using antigen or at-home tests towards the end of the full 5 days of isolation, and/or on days 6-10, you are required to complete the 10 full days of isolation.
- Testing beyond day 10 is not necessary.
Scroll down to learn more about COVID test results and related Washington State Department of Health requirements.
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.
- Not Tested: Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms that do not get tested or do not see a health care provider to receive an alternative diagnosis should follow the same isolation guidance described below as individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
- Positive Results: See isolation guidance below and notify the school right away.
Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate at home for 5 days, regardless of vaccination status. 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.
The individual may return to school after 5 full days of isolation if:
- Their symptoms have significantly improved, or they are asymptomatic, AND
- They have had no fever for the past 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing
Individuals should continue to wear a well-fitting mask for an additional 5 days (day 6 through 10) if they return to school after the end of their 5-day isolation period. If an individual is unable to wear a well-fitting mask, they should continue to isolate for a full 10 days.
Students and staff are encouraged to test before returning. Individuals who test positive using antigen or at-home tests towards the end of the full 5 days of isolation, and/or on days 6-10, are required to complete the 10 full days of isolation. Testing beyond day 10 is not recommended.
WA DOH no longer requires exposed students and staff to quarantine. Students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 should:
- Monitor for symptoms AND
- Test* as soon as possible after exposure and then repeat testing every 24-48 hours through at least the first 5 days after exposure AND
- Students and staff who spend time indoors with individuals at risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 should wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days after exposure
Follow the WA DOH Symptoms and Exposures Flowchart.
Exposed students and staff may continue to take part in all in-person instruction and care, including sports, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities, as long as they do not have symptoms or test positive. If an exposed student or staff member develops symptoms, they should test and are required to immediately isolate at home and follow the guidance outlined above.
*Individuals who have been recently infected (within the past 90 days), should use an antigen test, as PCR results may remain persistently positive even if there is not a new, active infection.
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 the Requirements and Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission in K-12 Schools and Child Care.