By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shortened the recommended isolation and quarantine periods for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. This change was motivated by data that shows most transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally 1-2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and 2-3 days after. As a result, the recommended isolation and quarantine periods have been significantly reduced for some and eliminated for others.
Quarantine. The CDC recommends quarantine when you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Close contact occurs when you are less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Under the CDC’s new guidelines, if you were exposed to COVID-19 and are NOT up-to-date on your vaccination, you should:
- Quarantine for at least 5 full days. (The date of exposure is considered Day Zero. Day 1 is the first full day after your last contact with a person who has had COVID-19.)
- Wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others in your home.
- Get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
After quarantine, watch for symptoms until 10 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19. If you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested. The CDC also recommends taking precautions until day 10, such as wearing a mask when around others, avoiding travel and staying away from people who are at high risk.
If you are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations or had confirmed COVID-19 within the past 90 days, you do NOT need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms. Watch for symptoms until 10 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and take precautions. Even if you don’t develop symptoms, the CDC recommends getting tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Isolation. Under the CDC’s new guidance, anyone who tests positive or has symptoms should isolate for 5 full days, regardless of vaccination status. Isolation may end after five days if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving. The CDC recommends taking precautions (mask, avoiding travel, etc.) until day 10.
It’s important to note that this guidance applies to the general population in the community, including workplaces and K-12 schools. Separate guidance applies to healthcare settings, correctional institutions and homeless shelters. It’s also important to remain current because the CDC is continually updating its guidance and recommendations based on new data and recent developments.