Given the latest research about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the CDC shortened recommended isolation and quarantine periods for most people. Our experts break down what you need to know to protect yourself and those around you.

Coronavirus Updates, News, Your Health | 28 days ago

What Do the CDC's New Guidelines for COVID-19 Quarantine Mean for You?

Given the latest research about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the CDC shortened recommended isolation and quarantine periods for most people. Our experts break down what you need to know to protect yourself and those around you.

This article was reviewed by Atrium Health Vice President and Enterprise Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Katie Passaretti.

On Monday, December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on what to do if you test positive, have been exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19.

These updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the US. The CDC’s changes reflect the latest science on when and for how long people are the most contagious.

While the Omicron variant is highly contagious, data shows that the virus mostly spreads early in the course of the illness. Right now, scientists say that most COVID-19 infections from Omicron are spread in the 1-2 days before symptoms begin and in the first 2-3 days after symptoms appear. This means the timeframe for the greatest risk of infection is 3-5 days long.

Wondering what to do if you develop symptoms, test positive or are exposed to someone with COVID-19? Follow this guide to help reduce your chances of spreading the virus.

If you tested positive, but you don’t have symptoms.

  • Stay home for 5 days (previous CDC guidance was 10 days). Isolate in a separate room if you can. If you need to be around other people in your home, wear a mask.
  • If you never develop symptoms, you can leave your home after 5 days. However, you should continue to wear a mask around other people for 5 more days, including the people you live with.
  • This guidance applies regardless of your vaccination status.

If you tested positive and you have symptoms.

  • Stay home for at least 5 days. Isolate in a separate room if you can. If you need to be around other people in your home, wear a mask.
  • If your symptoms are going away, you can leave your home after 5 days. However, you should continue to wear a mask around other people for 5 more days, including the people you live with.
  • If you have a fever, stay home until your fever goes away completely.
  • This guidance applies regardless of your vaccination status.
  • If you don’t feel better after 5 days, you should continue to isolate until your symptoms improve. This practice, along with wearing a well-fitting mask in the 5 days after your isolation ends, helps to avoid an unanticipated spread of infection.

If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Remember, “exposed” means you were within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period.

In this situation, what you should do depends on your COVID-19 vaccination status.

  • For people who are unvaccinated or are more than 6 months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna dose (or more than 2 months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) and not yet boosted:
    • Stay home for 5 days. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days.
    • Test on day 5 following your exposure if possible.
    • If you can’t quarantine (stay home), you must wear a mask around other people for 10 days.
    • If you develop symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 and stay home. If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.
  • For people who are vaccinated and are less than 5 months from their second Pfizer or 6 months from their second Moderna dose, (or less than 2 months from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), or have received their booster shot:
    • You do not need to stay home if you do not have symptoms.
    • Wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
    • Test on day 5 after the exposure, if possible.
    • If you develop symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 and stay home. If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.

If you have symptoms, but you don’t know if you were exposed to someone who tested positive or not.

  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you can.
  • If you can’t get a test, assume you are positive and follow the guidelines as if you have a positive test.

There is no need to do a rapid (or antigen/at-home) test once your symptoms have stopped. Follow the recommendations above to guide when you can return to normal activities.

Please note that these guidelines do not apply to healthcare workers. Healthcare workers should follow COVID-19 guidance from their organization.

For more information about COVID-19, including testing and care options, visit AtriumHealth.org/Coronavirus.