COVID-19: Isolation vs Quarantine- Why, when and how long

If you test postive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days, whether vaccinated or not, and wear a mask for 10 days.

face masks in various colors and shapes

This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. Discuss with your physician or appropriate healthcare provider .

update January 5, 2022

CDC now recommends that adolescents age 12 to 17 years old should receive a booster shot 5 months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series.

Data show that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen protection against Omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants. ACIP reviewed the available safety data following the administration of over 25 million vaccine doses in adolescents; COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 12-17.

Isolation and Quarantine

Every time I’ve done a COVID-19 update I think it will be the last, but I should know better by now. Unlike the others about vaccination, this one is about isolation-what you do if you are infected, and quarantine-what you do if you are exposed.

If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolate)

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

  • Stay home for 5 days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

If you:

Have been boosted
OR
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
OR
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.

If you:

Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted
OR
Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted
OR
Are unvaccinated

  • Stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
  • If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5 if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home

This one comes with some confusion, which is nothing new for the isolation/quarantine guidelines. It also comes with some controversy; was the CDC director influenced by corporate needs, specifically the airline industry? And are these guidelines safe, do they risk returning infectious people to work and social life too soon ?

I don’t know the answer to those questions but I can give you answers from the top two public health officials in the United States.

“getting people back in half the time that they would have been out so they can get back to the workplace doing things that are important to keep society running smoothly.”

Dr.Anthony Fauci

 “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky

And if you want to read the full details from Dr.Walensky and Dr. Fauci, follow this link

Press Briefing by White House COVID-⁠19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

DECEMBER 29, 2021•PRESS BRIEFINGS

Previous updates on this blog

updated November 29,2021

Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot

You may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots. 

Studies show after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time.

update-November 2, 2021

Today, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. 

CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.

“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.” 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky , CDC Director

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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