If you are having difficulty breathing or a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

If you are sick and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 because you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:



Shortness of Breath

Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. If infected, symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure. Learn more about the exposure factors here.

If you have been exposed to someone with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and are experiencing fever with either cough or shortness of breath, it’s possible you might have COVID-19. If you are not experiencing any symptoms, but were likely exposed, read more about safe monitoring protocols here.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include but are not limited to:

      • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
      • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
      • New confusion or inability to arouse
      • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning. Keep away from others who are sick, and limit close contact with other people as much as possible, maintaining 6+ ft of distance.

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms

Contact your doctor to see if you need to be tested. 

  • Your doctor will work with the Hawai‘i DOH and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
  • Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and recent travel history.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor.

  • If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep others from getting infected or exposed.
  • Put on a face mask before you enter a healthcare facility.

What to do if your test confirms COVID-19

Stay home except to get medical care.

  • You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
  • Do not go to work, school or public areas.
  • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.
  • If your symptoms are not severe, avoid the emergency room in order to ensure the hospital resources are available for those with the most critical needs.
  • If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have or may have COVID19. If possible, put on a face mask before emergency medical services arrive.

Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.

  • As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from others in your home.
  • Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while sick in order to prevent the spread of infection to another person who may interact with your pet.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick; if you must care for your pet, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a face mask. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.

Self-monitor your symptoms at home.

  • Most COVID-19 patients are able to recover fully while staying home; however, seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing).
  • Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department to discuss your situation.
  • Even when you’re feeling better, stay at home until instructed to leave by your doctor. Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

Virus variables

  • Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults; however, it can cause serious illness, so it is important to be informed about how to protect yourself and others.
  • Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel sick.
  • Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
  • About one in every five people who contract COVID-19 need hospital care.
  • Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
  • People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing symptoms, ask your doctor for guidance on monitoring and observation. Your healthcare provider may direct you to follow the guidelines for self-monitoring, or may suggest that a more rigorous observation and monitoring process is better. The CDC has additional guidelines on risk assessment. Learn more.

What’s the difference between isolation, quarantine, observation and monitoring?

  • Isolation means the separation of a person or group of known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease.
  • Quarantine means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.
  • Self-observation means people should remain alert for subjective fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop cough or difficulty breathing during the self-observation period, take your temperature, self-isolate, limit contact with others and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.
  • Self-monitoring means people should monitor themselves for fever by taking their temperatures twice a day and remain alert for cough or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop measured fever, cough or difficulty breathing during the self-monitoring period, they should self-isolate, limit contact with others and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.
  • Active monitoring means that the state or local public health authority assumes responsibility for establishing regular communication with potentially exposed people to assess for the presence of fever, cough or difficulty breathing. For people with high-risk exposures, CDC recommends this communication occurs at least once each day. The mode of communication can be determined by the state or local public health authority and may include telephone calls or any electronic or internet-based means of communication.

Testing for COVID-19

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. If you are sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath and in a high-risk group, call your healthcare provider to discuss whether you should be tested for COVID-19.

Hundreds of critical, rapid tests are performed daily by the State Laboratories Division and in all counties at hospital laboratories, District Health Offices, and private laboratories.

Community Surveillance Project

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health launched a statewide surveillance testing program aimed at identifying cases of community spread of COVID-19 to ensure quick and early detection.

Community spread includes the following:

  • Cases that cannot be traced back to a traveler
  • Cases that cannot be traced to those who came in contact with a person who has coronavirus

200 tests are conducted weekly, and testing on the initial two sample groupings has been completed. To date, the community surveillance testing program has completed 255 samples which were all negative.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Health, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is continuing to work with participating healthcare providers to collect samples to be tested for COVID-19. Learn more.