How long are you contagious with COVID-19?

At this point in the pandemic, you probably know how to test yourself for COVID-19.

You follow the directions, swab your nose, and wait about 15 minute for your results.

But, what if you test positive?

How long are you contagious?

Kaiser Permanente Georgia physician and epidemiologist Dr. Felipe Lobelo says if you look at earlier COVID-19 variants, the answer was typically 5 to 7 days.

"But, keep in mind that BA.5 has sort of accelerated all of the timelines," Lobelo says.  "You get infected faster,. and you also get through the symptoms a little bit faster as well.  Even 2 or 3 days after testing positive, you're pretty contagious."

If you test positive, the CDC now recommends isolating for 5 days.

The agency says most of the transmission occurs early on in the infection process, from anywhere from 1-2 before symptoms begin to 2 to 3 days later.

After 5 days, the CDC says, most people are no longer spreading the virus and are safe to come out of isolation, once they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.

"But, in my experience and many others' experience, sometimes it takes longer," Dr. Lobelo says.  "Sometimes, it takes up to 7 to 10 days to test negative, and I would say, if you have the ability, test before breaking the isolation period."

Under CDC guidelines, after 5 days, you can take an at home test, but the agency does not expressly recommend testing in order to leave isolation.  

Lobelo says he recommends testing yourself, to make sure you are not able to infect others.

"We know a lot of people are not contagious after 5 to 7 days, but some people are," he says.  "But, a good percentage, maybe 30% to 40%, may still be contagious.  And that' s why, if you have tests available, it's a good idea to use them.  Because, if you keep testing positive at day 6 and day 7, you should still stay isolated to, again, avoid passing that virus to someone else."

Once you leave isolation after day 5, the CDC recommends wearing a well-fitting mask for another 5 days and avoiding travel.

Under new guidelines, released August 11, 2022, you can remove the mask before day 10 if you test negative twice in a row.

The rapid tests should be run 48 hours apart.