New Guidance about COVID Isolation and Quarantine
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

New Guidance about COVID Isolation and Quarantine

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced the recommended duration of quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19 and isolation after testing positive for the virus. Extensive experience over time has shown that most transmission of the virus to other people occurs 1 - 2 days after an individual is exposed and up to 3 days after symptoms begin.

A large proportion of the population will be exposed to the omicron variant over the next several weeks. We should expect a progressively negative impact on some services, including public transportation, retail stores, sporting events, and school activities. Such disruptions were evident when thousands of flights were canceled over the Christmas holiday due to flight crews requiring isolation after testing positive for the virus. The CDC’s new guidance aims to preserve safety while decreasing unnecessary disruption to our daily lives.

Here’s what you need to know:

After Exposure

  • Those who are vaccinated and if eligible, boosted, do not need to quarantine after exposure. They should, however, wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • People who are unvaccinated or vaccinated but have not received a booster when eligible should quarantine for 5 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19, followed by 5 days of mask use when around others, including in the home with family.
  • All individuals who are exposed should get a COVID-19 test 5 days after their exposure.

(Click image to download or print)

After Testing Positive

  • An infected person may end isolation after 5 days after the positive test if symptoms are resolving and they are not experiencing a fever.
  • If the symptoms persist after isolating for 5 days, the person should remain isolated until symptoms are resolving and they are not experiencing a fever.
  • The individual may then return to normal activities but should wear a mask around others for 5 more days.

(Click image to download or print. Note that the chart below is on page 2 of the PDF.)

Anyone with Symptoms

Individuals with symptoms, regardless of whether they have been exposed, should quarantine until a negative test confirms the symptoms are not due to COVID-19.

Nearly every one of us will encounter the virus at some point in the near future. We can take solace in knowing that those who are vaccinated and boosted are much more likely to be asymptomatic or experience or cold- and flu-type symptoms rather than severe illness requiring hospitalization.

Trey Dobson, MD, is the chief medical officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington and an emergency medicine physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. 

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