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The guidance around COVID-19 continues to evolve, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now saying that isolation is no longer necessary for a person exposed to someone with the coronavirus. This applies to anyone, whether vaccinated or not.
According to the new guidance, someone can end their isolation if they test negative. If a person tests positive and they’re symptomatic, they should consider Day 0 as the day of symptom onset, regardless of when they tested positive, and count the first full day after symptoms started as Day 1.
If someone tests positive and has no symptoms, Day 0 is the day they were tested, Day 1 is the first full day following the test, and if the person develops symptoms within 10 days of when they were tested, the clock restarts at Day 0 on the day of symptom onset.
The new guidance comes as children across the country are beginning to trickle back into school.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
The CDC’s recommended isolation time is five days, during which the infected person should also isolate from others in their home, as people are most likely infectious during the first five days.
While in isolation, the CDC advised wearing a high-quality mask if it’s absolutely necessary to be around others or in public, but warned not to go places where it’s not possible to wear a mask. It’s important to stay home and separate from others as much as possible, even to the point of using separate bathrooms, cups and utensils.
If a person was asymptomatic throughout their infection, the CDC advised ending their isolation after Day 5. If they were symptomatic, they can end their isolation at Day 5 if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without medication, and if other symptoms are improving.
For a person who had a “moderate” illness (characterized by shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), or for someone with “severe” illness who has been hospitalized, the CDC recommends isolating through Day 10. The same applies to anyone who has a weakened immune system.
Regardless of when someone ends their isolation, they should avoid being around people who are particularly susceptible to illness until at least Day 11, according to the CDC.
After ending isolation, a person should continue wearing their mask through Day 10. If they have access to antigen tests and have two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, they can safely remove their mask prior to Day 10, the agency said.
The CDC no longer recommends routine screening of asymptomatic people in most community settings, including schools.
THE LARGER TREND
The CDC makes a distinction between isolation and quarantine. Isolation, the agency said, relates to behavior after a confirmed infection, while quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
Reaction to the new guidance has yet to trickle in, but the American Medical Association criticized the last guidance update in January, saying it was “confusing and counterproductive.”
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