CDC’s New Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine Periods as People Return to Work, School After Holidays

With the rise of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, specifically the Omicron variant, new CDC guidelines have been released in response to early data. These updated recommendations on isolation and quarantine times – or the amount of time that you should stay home and minimize contact with others following a positive Covid test – stem from what we know about transmissibility.

As people navigate how to handle COVID-19 quarantine and isolation after the holidays, these recommendations can help inform decisions when returning to work, school and general activities. 

With new variants causing shifts in expert recommendations throughout the pandemic, we understand that it’s easy to get confused by changing guidelines. So, we’ve broken down the highlights of these latest developments and what they could mean for you.

Isolate: If you have COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status

The CDC recommends that anyone with a COVID-19 infection, even those who are asymptomatic, should isolate for five days. Following that time, if you’re asymptomatic or if your symptoms are subsiding (including being fever-free for 24 hours), you should follow up with five days of wearing a mask around others to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.

The reason for these updated guidelines is because new research has shown that the majority of SARS-CoV-2, or Coronavirus, transmissions happen early on. The highest risk presents itself in the 1-2 days prior to symptoms, as well as 2-3 days after.

Quarantine: If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

The guidelines have also been updated for those exposed to COVID-19 in any capacity. If you haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, or if it’s been 6+ months since your second mRNA dose (or 2+ months after the Johnsen & Johnsen vaccine) and you haven’t received your booster, the CDC recommends a 5-day quarantine and diligent mask-wearing for another 5 days. 

In cases where you can’t quarantine for five days, the CDC states that any exposed person should wear a “well-fitting mask” at all times for 10 days following exposure. 

If you’ve gotten your COVID-19 booster shot and you’re exposed to an active infection, you don’t have to quarantine, but it is recommended that you wear a mask for 10 days.

Should I get tested?

Everyone, even those who have been boosted, is recommended to receive a COVID test five days after exposure, when possible.

Anyone with symptoms should quarantine immediately until receiving a negative COVID-19 test result.

These recommendations are based on the guidelines shared in the CDC’s most recent update here.

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