On Monday, December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance for the general public that shortens the recommended time for isolation for those with COVID-19 and the time for quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19. The updated guidance does not apply to healthcare workers for whom the CDC has separately updated guidance.
The new CDC guidance states that any person, regardless of vaccination status, who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home/isolate for five days. If the person is without symptoms, or if their symptoms resolve (fever-free for at least 24 hours) after five days, the person can leave isolation, but they should continue to wear a mask when around others for an additional five days. If the person continues to have symptoms after five days, they should remain in isolation until their symptoms resolve.
Similarly, those who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 should stay home/quarantine for five days, then continue to wear a mask when around others for an additional five days. Any person who cannot quarantine must wear a mask for ten days. However, if the person has received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months, or the J&J vaccine within the last two months, the person does not need to quarantine; they should wear a mask when around others for ten days.
The CDC recommends that everyone exposed to someone with COVID-19 should get tested after five days. Also, if the person develops symptoms, they should get tested and stay home until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.
The CDC says the updated guidance is in response to data that show the majority of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally within the first two days prior to onset of symptoms and within the two to three days after. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not yet changed its guidance for covered employers.
In Wisconsin, while the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has not officially changed its isolation and quarantine guidance, DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake issued a statement saying DHS supports the CDC’s recommendation to shorten isolation and quarantine periods for the general public.
For schools, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has not yet updated its guidance and continues to recommend the use of the CDC Guidance for Schools and the DHS COVID-19 Schools and Childcare Guidance. Neither guidance document has yet been officially updated with the shortened isolation and quarantine periods. We will continue to monitor for updates to these guidance documents or additional guidance from DPI for schools.
The CDC notes that the recommendations do not supersede state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. All employers, school districts, and municipalities should continue to take into account local factors, work with their local health officials, and watch for further guidance from state and local health authorities when drafting or updating transmission prevention strategies.
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