Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours) follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. 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 one to two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.
Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than two months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. Alternatively, if a five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.
Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day five after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.
Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for five days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious. These recommendations do not supersede state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, nor do they apply to healthcare workers for whom CDC has updated guidance.
Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35 percent. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75 percent. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone five and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.
The following is attributable to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, “The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolate)
Everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
- Stay home for five days.
- If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after five days, you can leave your house.
- Continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)
Have been boosted, or completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last six months, or completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last two months,
- Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
- Test on day five, if possible.
If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted, or completed the primary series of J&J over two months ago and are not boosted, or are unvaccinated,
- Stay home for five days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
- If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.
- Test on day five if possible.
If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether disease starts at home or abroad, is curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.
Editor’s Note: These changes were announced on December 27, 2021, and discussion continues as to whether further changes will be made to CDC guidelines.