How long to quarantine COVID-19 exposed police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics

Maintaining mission readiness: return to work guidelines for police, fire and EMS after a COVID-19 quarantine


Kirkland Fire and Rescue ambulance workers work near an ambulance after a patient was loaded for transport, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

An increasing number of public safety personnel – police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics – have been ordered into 14-day quarantine at home or in quarters after exposure to a COVID-19 positive patient.

By mid-March, 27 Kirkland Wash. firefighters and two police officers; four King County (Wash.) EMS paramedics, including two interns; 77 San Jose firefighters; six Reedy Creek (Florida) firefighters; and five FDNY EMS providers had been ordered into quarantine. Many more have been quarantined since. There is a high likelihood additional personnel will be reported as in quarantine, quarantine completed, or released from quarantine in the days ahead.

COVID-19 implications, including quarantine of exposed personnel, have the potential to significantly impact mission readiness of public safety agencies.

Return to work after COVID-19 exposure

King County (Washington) EMS issued quarantine guidance for “return to work following exposure to confirmed COVID-19 infection.” On March 7, 2020, the CDC issued work restriction guidance for healthcare providers based on the exposure category and source control.

The full King County EMS document, dated March 7, 2020, is embedded below.

  • An asymptomatic individual may return to work after 14-days.
  • An individual with symptoms, but a negative COVID-19 test, has a different illness and may return to work following resolution of symptoms.
  • A symptomatic individual who tests positive for COVID-19 “needs to remain in isolation until the illness resolves and repeat testing confirms negative status.”

In King County, any return to work decision needs to be made in consultation with “clinicians, public health officials and the Health Officer.” Your department’s position titles, and roles and responsibilities may vary. The return-to-work decision will likely involve some combination of a medical director, infection control officer and public health officials.

Maintain mission readiness

It remains important that every public safety provider continue to follow these critical practices to maintain mission readiness:

Public safety providers should take additional precautions by encouraging social distancing – don’t attend mass gatherings and limit trips from home – by their family, roommates, relatives and close friends.


Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on PoliceOne, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Greg is a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at and connect with him on LinkedIn.