The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline is to quarantine for five days after testing positive and showing symptoms of COVID-19. However, some people have continued to test positive five or even 10 days after originally testing positive. Are you still contagious at that point? Is it necessary to isolate? Here’s what we know.

Are you still contagious after five days? Experts have found mixed answers. Sometimes, if someone is still testing positive on a rapid test, the test is just detecting remnants of the virus. On the other hand, sometimes the virus can still be contagious, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Nathaniel Hafer, director of operations at the University of Massachusetts, told The Wall Street Journal that “it’s all up to debate.” Scientists don’t really have a definite answer of when contagion stops after catching COVID-19.
  • Most studies have found that the virus is most contagious within four days after symptoms develop, per The New York Times. Most of the time, after at least five days after symptoms stop, it’s likely that you aren’t infectious any longer.
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Take all factors into account: Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told The New York Times that he recommends “using the rapid test as a guide but not the be-all and end-all.”

  • Rapid tests are to be used as a tool when ending isolation, said Chin-Hong. It’s important to take into account other factors such as symptoms and immunity status.

What do I do if I still test positive? The CDC states that if you’re still testing positive after day five, it may be best to isolate until you test negative, or until day 10 after developing symptoms.

  • Other experts recommend isolating until you test negative, even if it takes longer than 10 days, due to the fact that the virus could possibly still be contagious. This isn’t always realistic for everyone, due to the fact that most people need to get back to work or other life activities, per health care news site Advisory Board.
  • “You might be able to begin slowly sort of reintegrating while still being mindful of your contact,” Stephen Kissler of Harvard’s School of Public Health told Advisory Board. He recommends that if one must return to spaces with other people, they should wear a mask and do their best to isolate.