On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it is revising its COVID-19 quarantine guidelines for some, offering an alternative to the standard 14-day quarantine recommendations.
While the CDC emphasizes that the original 14-day quarantine period is best after a close contact, the revised guidelines now allow for the following acceptable alternative quarantine periods, during which the individual remains symptom-free:
- after day 10 following close contact or
- after day 7 following close contact, with a negative test taken within 48 hours of the final day of quarantine.
For both the 10-day and 7-day alternatives, the CDC indicates daily symptom monitoring and mitigation strategies, including consistent mask use, social distancing, hand and cough hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, avoidance of crowds, and adequate indoor ventilation. The CDC also indicates the 7-day alternative should be available only when the use of tests to discontinue a quarantine will not have an impact on community diagnostic testing.
According to the CDC, if an individual develops symptoms during either the 14-day, 10-day, or 7-day quarantine period, he or she should be treated as a positive or presumed-positive and isolate. Generally, symptomatic individuals are able to return to work only after the following has occurred: (a) 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, (b) COVID-19 symptoms have ceased, and (c) the individual is fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
In light of the revised CDC guidance, employers may wish to reassess their close contact quarantine policies, including whether to continue requiring employees to remain home for 14 days after close contact. The 14 days is still my recommendation. Given the CDC’s continued emphasis that a 14-day quarantine period is best, employers may decide to leave that quarantine time period in place.