CDC issues new COVID quarantine, isolation guidelines: What to know

Shorter periods after positive tests, contact with positive case

FILE - In this Friday, March 6, 2020, file photo, the headquarters for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shown in Atlanta, Georgia. U.S. health officials said Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, they may have solved the mystery of how four people in different states came down with a deadly tropical disease, even though none had traveled internationally. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File) (Ron Harris, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The CDC has issued new guidance on how long you need to quarantine after a positive COVID-19 test or contact with someone who tests positive.

The new guidance reduces the length of time people are recommended to quarantine in almost all cases. Here’s what the CDC said:

New CDC guidelines on COVID quarantine:

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.

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. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.

Alternatively, if a 5-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 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Related: Where to get COVID test in Michigan, what to do with at-home test results

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 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.


Last week, the agency loosened rules that previously called on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive. The new recommendations said workers could go back to work after seven days if they test negative and don’t have symptoms. And the agency said isolation time could be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages.

More: US officials recommend shorter COVID isolation, quarantine

The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the U.S. should consider a vaccine mandate to board domestic flights as the omicron variant rapidly spreads.

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday that he believes the U.S. should “seriously” consider it as a way to drive vaccination.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

More: Fauci: US should ‘seriously’ consider vaccine mandate for domestic air travel


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.