Last week, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance with regard to isolating and quarantine. According to the agency, “The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.” The update makes several changes.
First, it shortens the recommended time for isolation for someone with COVID. That person can now only isolate for 5 days (rather than the prior 10 recommended days). This shortened period only applies if the person remains asymptomatic or their symptoms are “resolving” (without fever for 24 hours). The infected person must then wear a mask when around other people for 5 days following the isolation.
Second, it now includes reference to the vaccine booster in relation to people who are in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The CDC is not recommending that any person who has received their booster shot quarantine following an exposure. However, the agency did say that the person needs to wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
Third, it updates the recommendations for those who have not received a booster. Exposed individuals who are either unvaccinated or more than six months from their second (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted must quarantine for 5 days followed by strict masking for an additional 5 days. If a 5-day quarantine is not “feasible”, then the exposed person must wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster do not need to quarantine following an exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
The reference to quarantine refers to the time following exposure to COVID or close contact with someone known to have COVID.