On December 27, 2021, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) updated its guidance regarding quarantine and isolation periods for the general population after testing positive for or being exposed to COVID-19.  The updated guidance shortens the recommended timeframe for isolation following a COVID-19 diagnosis for individuals regardless of vaccination status.  It also shortens the recommended quarantine period following a COVID-19 exposure for vaccinated individuals.

Isolation Following a COVID-19 Diagnosis

Specifically, the CDC has shortened the recommended time for isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to 5 days, if the individual is asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving by that time (though individuals who continue to have a fever should maintain isolation until the fever resolves).  The individual may then end isolation but should wear a mask when around others for at least 5 additional days.  This recommendation applies regardless of vaccination status.  In making this new recommendation, the CDC noted that the current science demonstrates 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.”

Quarantine Following a COVID-19 Exposure

Additionally, the CDC updated its recommendations for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.  Individuals who: (i) have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months; (ii) completed the single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine within the last 2 months; and/or (iii) have received a booster, do not have to isolate after a COVID-19 exposure but are advised to wear a mask around others for 10 days. Such individuals are also advised to take a COVID-19 test on the fifth day after the exposure.

For asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed and who are: (i) unvaccinated or (ii) more than six months from their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or more than 2 months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and have yet to receive their booster shot, the CDC now recommends that these individuals quarantine for 5 days after a COVID-19 exposure and wear a mask around others for 5 days after.  If a 5 day quarantine is not possible, the CDC recommends that these individuals wear a mask at all times for 10 days after the exposure.  Such individuals are also advised to take a COVID-19 test on the fifth day following the exposure.

In all cases following an exposure, if an individual develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they are advised to begin quarantining and get tested.

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While this new CDC guidance shortens the recommended isolation and quarantine period recommendations as the federal level, it should be noted that state and/or local governments or health authorities may maintain more stringent requirements or guidelines.  Additionally, individuals working in particular industries may be subject to different isolation/quarantine requirements.

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