Overview

If you have COVID-19, you can spread the virus to others for up to 10 days. The risk of spread in fully vaccinated people is lower after 5 days, but it still exists.

Isolation helps prevent the spread by reducing the number of people you could infect by staying home and avoiding others. If you test positive or have symptoms not related to a pre-existing condition, you are legally required to isolate as outlined below:

  • Fully vaccinated (2 doses or 1 dose Janssen): Starting the first day of symptoms or positive test, isolate for a minimum of 5 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Following isolation, wear a mask at all times when around others outside of home for up to 5 more days (10 total). This means you must eat or drink alone, away from others.
  • Not fully vaccinated (1 dose or less): Starting the first day of symptoms or positive test, isolate for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
  • If you test negative and have symptoms, you should still stay home and away from others until symptoms resolve.

Quarantine limits potential spread from people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have not yet developed symptoms or tested positive.

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Why we need to isolate or quarantine

COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to cause symptoms. Some people who get it only have minor symptoms or don't have any symptoms at all but could still be infectious. Staying home lowers the chance of spreading the virus to others.

When to isolate

  • You tested positive for COVID-19, or
  • You are sick with a core symptom: fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat* or runny nose*.

*Children under 18 with just one of either a runny nose or sore throat are not legally required to isolate but should stay home until well.

When to quarantine

  • Close contacts of positive cases are not required to quarantine, but should:
  • International travellers must comply with federal travel requirements.

Who needs to isolate or quarantine

  • Albertans with core symptoms

    Even if you're unable to complete a test, the mandatory isolation period for people with core symptoms that are not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition is:

    • Fully vaccinated: Minimum of 5 days from the first day of symptoms or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Following isolation, wear a mask at all times when around others outside of home for up to 5 more days (10 total). This means you must eat or drink alone, away from others.
    • Not fully vaccinated: 10 days from the first day of symptoms or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
    • If you have symptoms and test negative, you should still stay home and away from others until symptoms resolve.

    Adults over 18 core symptoms

    • cough
    • fever
    • shortness of breath
    • runny nose
    • sore throat
    • loss of taste or smell

    Children under 18 core symptoms

    • cough
    • fever
    • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • loss of sense of taste or smell

    Children under 18 with just one of either a runny nose or sore throat are not legally required to isolate but should stay home until well.

  • Tested positive for COVID-19

    The mandatory isolation period for people who test positive (with or without symptoms) is:

    • Fully vaccinated (2 doses or 1 dose Janssen): Starting the first day of symptoms or positive test, isolate for a mininum of 5 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Following isolation, wear a mask at all times when around others outside of home for up to 5 more days (10 total). This means you must eat or drink alone, away from others.
    • Not fully vaccinated (1 dose or less): Starting the first day of symptoms or positive test, isolate at home for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
  • Close contact or household contact of a confirmed case

    You are no longer legally required to quarantine if you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 but should follow the recommendations below.

    Household close contacts

    If you are a household contact of a positive case and you are not fully vaccinated, you should:

    • stay home for 10 days (i.e. not attend work, school or other activities)
    • monitor for symptoms - if they develop, isolate immediately

    Other close contacts

    If you have been exposed to COVID-19 by someone outside of your household, you should:

    • avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces
    • monitor for symptoms - if they develop, isolate immediately
  • International travellers

  • Return to work or school

    • Isolation is legally required for Albertans who test positive or have core symptoms. Employers should not ask for proof of a PCR or rapid test or a medical note in order to receive time off work.
    • Proof of a negative COVID-19 test and/or a medical note is not required to return to school, work or activities once the isolation period is complete.

Mandatory restrictions

These restrictions must be followed if you are in mandatory isolation or quarantine.

  • Stay home – do not leave your home or attend work, school, social events or any other public gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact with people in your household, especially seniors and people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Do not take public transportation like buses, taxis or ride-sharing - this is prohibited.
  • Do not go outside for a walk through your neighbourhood or park. This includes children in mandatory isolation or quarantine.
  • Do not use elevators or stairwells if you live in an apartment building or highrise, you must stay inside your unit. If your balcony is private and at least 2 metres away from your closest neighbour's, you may go outside on the balcony.
  • Get fresh air in your backyard, if you have one, but you must remain on private property not accessible by others.

This directive is consistent with federal requirements under the Quarantine Act.

Leaving isolation for emergency care

If you are in mandatory isolation or quarantine but need to leave home to receive COVID-19 testing, emergency care, or critical care for pre-existing medical conditions, follow the rules in the exemption orders carefully:

  • pre-arrange your appointment and leave your isolation area only on the date and at the time of your appointment
  • follow all instructions provided by 811 or health-care providers
  • use private transportation where practical
  • maintain physical distance from others when shared transportation is necessary – travel directly to your appointment with no stops
  • follow instructions provided by 911 if you require emergency care

Read the exemption orders for more information:

How to prepare

  • Create a household action plan

    Talk with the people who need to be included in your plan.

    • Discuss what to do if a case occurs in your household and what the needs of each person will be with your household members, family and friends.
    • Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated should stay home for 10 days (i.e. not attend, work, school or other activities).
    • Plan ways to care for those at greater risk of serious complications, such as ensuring you have sufficient medication, and determining what supplies are needed and how they can be delivered.
    • Talk with your neighbours about emergency planning.
    • Create a list of local organizations you can contact if you need access to information, health-care services, support or resources.
    • Create an emergency contact list.
  • Prepare a space

    • Choose a room in your home you can use to separate sick household members from healthy ones.
    • Choose a separate bathroom for sick individuals to use, if possible.
    • Plan to clean these rooms as needed when someone is sick.
    • Have 72 hours’ worth of food and supplies at home. We do not recommend stockpiling goods.
  • Getting food and supplies

    • Use delivery services for errands like grocery shopping. If delivery is not available, use contactless curbside pick-up options. Stay in your vehicle at all times and wear a mask.
    • Ask friends or family to drop off food, medicine and other supplies.
  • Don’t share household items

    • Don’t share household items like dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels and pillows.
    • After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water, place in the dishwasher for cleaning, or wash in the washing machine.
    • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and counters.
  • Wash your hands

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and if your hands are not visibly dirty.
    • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes

    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
    • Throw used tissues in the garbage and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

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