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.

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


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

Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden addressed the nation from the White House briefing room, sharing

where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.

His remarks outlined a series of executives orders and recommendations which have been met with controversy; I will briefly list them but there was one that I think no one can disagree with. He asked the nation’s family physicians, and I am one, to talk to our patients about the vaccine.

I’m already doing that and I think most primary care doctors are. But I think he should have taken it one step further, and that is to ask Americans to

Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

a female physician talking to a male patient
photo from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection (affiliate link)

Like most of you, I am on social media, not just professionally but personally, and I have been appalled when people I know pass around information that is unverified, unreferenced, contrary to science, inflammatory, conspiratorial, and sometimes just plain nonsense.

I absolutely support anyone’s right to have an opinion and share it, but labeling opinion as truth when it may or may not be true is irresponsible. And I somewhat agree with Mr. Biden when he said ” These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. “

So I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

Your doctor may not be an expert on the pandemic; we are all working overtime to keep ourselves informed and still take care of the myriad of other health conditons our patients bring to us. But the advantage is your doctor knows you, and any medical decision ultimately boils down to what you and they decide working together, it’s called “shared decision making.”

What if your doctor recommends against the vaccine? That’s possible because I know there are some medical professionals who have taken the minority opinion on the safety of the vaccine. I do not understand their position; some of the high profile ones are known for consistently taking a stance against mainstream medicine. If that’s the case for you, I encourage you to ask why they lack confidence in the vaccine and what would it take for them to change their minds. Ultimately, the choice one way or the other is yours, so be sure it is a truly informed choice.

Michael Munger, M.D., consults a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan.
Photo compliments of American Academy of Family Physicians

President Biden’s plan

You’ve probably read or heard it in the news by now, but here is an outline of his major points.

Large employers, those with 100 or more employees, should require vaccination or weekly testing

Vaccination required for all federal employees and contractors

Vaccine required for employees in all healthcare facilities that are paid by Medicare and Medicaid, and all federally funded educational facilities like HeadStart

Large venues such as sports or concerts to require vaccination or negative test for entrance by patrons

Home tests available at cost at Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger

Federal funding for testing at schools and salary protection for teachers who protect children

Continue mask requirements on interstate travel and in federal buildings

Calling on the states’ governors to support viral mitagation measures in schools

President Biden Visits NIH Vaccine Research Center
NIH immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett speaks to President Joe Biden about the fundamental research that contributed to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines when the President visited NIH’s Vaccine Research Center on February 11, 2021. Credit: NIH/Chiachi Chang

Here is my previous review of President Biden’s original plan to deal with the pandemic as he took office in January 2021.

2021-National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their science and healthcare teams have developed a plan with 7 goals to end this pandemic and prevent others. You can read the entire 200 page report at the link. Here is a list of the 7 goals with a few of the points of each goal.

1. Restore trust with the American people.
  • establishes a federal COVID-19 response team to coordinate efforts
  • regular public briefings led by science experts
  • track and make data available to the public by the CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates credit James Gathany, public domain
2.Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
  • increase the production of vaccines
  • give states clearer projections on vaccine availability
  • partner with states to create more vaccine centers
  • launch a national campaign to educate and encourage Americans on vaccine
3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments,health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
  • asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days (note-this adds to any state or local recommendations or mandates on mask use)
  • require masks on public transportation
  • the CDC develop guidelines to help schools and businesses to reopen
  • create programs to develop new treatments for COVID-19
cloth facial coverings to prevent transmission of COVID-19
Mask use required on airplanes, trains, and other public transportation
4.Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defence Production Act.
  • increase emergency funding to the states for pandemic costs, including for PPE and use of National Guard
  • invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of PPE, and testing and vaccination supplies
5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
  • develop a national strategy to reopen most schools within 100 days
  • federal agencies to issue updated guidance on protection for workers
  • asks Congress to provide financial aid to schools, universities, and daycares (cost in the billions)
a girl with a large backpack, walking to a school bus
6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
  • establishes an equity task force to address disparities based on race, ethnicity, and geography
  • create a U.S. Public Health Workforce to help with testing and vaccinations in their communities
Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved [date graphic was accessed], from
7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.
  • rejoin the World Health Organization
  • increase humanitarian aid and support efforts to fight COVID-19 around the world
  • asks for Congressional support to establish a national center to prepare for future biological threats
2 bandaids crossed on a world globe
photo from the Lightstock collection (affiliate link)

Exploring the HEART of health

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