WASHINGTON — Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated a person who tests positive for COVID and is symptomatic should isolate for 10 days. We have since learned that is not the latest guidance.
Regarding symptomatic cases, on December 27 the CDC’s updated guidance said, “People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if…their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.”
The update also said, “if you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.”
On January 5th, the CDC told our team that they updated their website with the following information: “If you continue to have fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, you should wait to end your isolation until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. Continue to wear a well-fitting mask. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.”
For CDC recommendations for those who “were severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised)” please click here.
We have since updated the story.
If you haven't been infected by the latest omicron variant, chances are you may have come into close contact with someone who has.
The VERIFY team is breaking down the latest CDC guidance on who needs to isolate or quarantine, and for how long.
- CDC Isolation/Quarantine guidance as of 12/27/2021- "CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population"
- CDC website- "Quarantine and Isolation"
- Added context from Dr. Robert Lahita- Department of Medicine, specializing in Rheumatology at St. Joseph Health
What's the difference between isolating and quarantining?
"Isolation" is the term used to convey that a person must remain separate because they are infected; meanwhile, "quarantine" means a separation following a potential exposure, where you may or may not have become infected.
Let's break it down starting with, are you currently infected with COVID?
If the answer is yes, you must ask the next question, are you symptomatic?
If yes, the CDC says you should isolate for 5 days, and then you can leave isolation when you no longer have a fever and you're feeling better.
“If you continue to have fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of isolation, you should wait to end your isolation until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved," the CDC says online. "Continue to wear a well-fitting mask. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.”
The CDC also provides specific recommendations for those who "were severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised)" on their website.
If the answer is no, meaning you're 'asymptomatic,' the CDC says you're just recommended to isolate for 5 days followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.
On January 4, the CDC added a caveat for those who test positive with a rapid antigen test near the end of isolation.
"If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period," the CDC said. "If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10."
So that’s if you tested positive, now let’s move to the other side of the tree.
If you are not currently infected with COVID
If you tested negative, you'll also want to think about if you were in close contact with someone else who tested positive. If the answer is no, you haven't been exposed to COVID, there's no need to quarantine, according to the CDC.
However, if the answer is yes, you have to move on to the next question.
Are you fully vaccinated and boosted, or are you fully vaccinated but not yet eligible to get boosted?
According to the CDC, if the answer is no, meaning you need more shots (either your initial series or you're eligible for a booster and haven't gotten one), you're recommended to quarantine for 5 days, followed by 5 days of masking up.
The CDC offers some flexibility if this is 'not feasible'
The agency also recommends that you get tested.
If the answer is yes, you are fully up to date on your COVID shots, you'll need to ask yourself, "am I symptomatic?"
So you're fully vaccinated and boosted, or fully vaccinated and not yet eligible to get boosted. Are you symptomatic?
According to the CDC, if the answer is no, then there's no need to quarantine at all. Although they recommend that you still wear a mask when others are around for 10 days and get tested.
If the answer is yes, you are symptomatic, that's a red flag. You'll need to quarantine until you can get tested, the CDC says.