COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, and yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new shortened isolation times for asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19. The previous quarantine guidelines for people who tested positive were 10 days of isolation. The new isolation restrictions for people who do not have symptoms is now five days, but they should continue to wear a mask around others for an additional five days after quarantining.
In addition to the reduced isolation recommendation, the CDC also suggests a five-day quarantine for people exposed to the virus who are not vaccinated, or over six months from their second mRNA dose. Health experts say that the CDC’s recommendations for isolation balance what they already know about the spread of COVID-19. Currently, omicron accounts for 73% of coronavirus infections in the United States, and breakthrough infections are rising within the fully vaccinated population, including those who received a booster shot.
Why Did Isolation Time Reduce?
According to data analysis, the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of the illness. Generally speaking, people transmit the disease one to two days prior to experiencing symptoms, and two to three days after. Isolation relates to behavior after confirming COVID-19 infection, and quarantine refers to the confinement period after exposure to a known case of COVID-19. People who are asymptomatic have different guidelines than those who experience symptoms.
ANYONE WHO TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 SHOULD ISOLATE FOR AT LEAST FIVE DAYS, REGARDLESS OF VACCINATION STATUS.
Reducing quarantine guidelines can help asymptomatic people return to work or school sooner, provided proper precautions are in place. The CDC states that people who received their booster shot do not need to quarantine after exposure. They should, however, wear a mask for 10 days after to be safe. It’s also beneficial to get a COVID-19 test after exposure as a precaution.
What If Symptoms Are Present?
Should you experience a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19, you should continue to stay home until symptoms resolve. If your symptoms resolve after five days and you don’t have a fever for 24 hours, the CDC states that you are free to leave your house with a mask on. It’s best to wear a well-fitting mask around other people after testing positive to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
What Should You Do If Your Are Exposed?
Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC recommends that you quarantine for five days, followed by strict masking practices for five days after that. If, for whatever reason, a five-day quarantine is not feasible, the CDC says that it’s imperative that you wear a well-fitting mask at all times, especially when around others for 10 days. For anyone who is exposed to COVID-19, the best practice is to get a PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 at day five after initial exposure. Should symptoms occur, immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms that symptoms are not because of COVID-19.
The motive behind these new guidelines is to keep society running smoothly. Experts only expect the volume of new cases to increase, especially with the recent holiday travel period. Booster shots greatly lower the risk that someone will contract the virus and pass it to other people. Recent data suggests that two doses of an mRNA vaccine is 35% effective, while a COVID-19 vaccine booster has 75% efficacy against infection. Regardless of vaccination status, please be safe and take precautions to keep yourself as healthy as possible.