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

Fighting COVID-19 in 2021-it’s not over yet

In this post, I’m offering a graphic review of COVID-19 and what we can still do to prevent infections IN ADDITION TO getting vaccinated. Until we achieve wide spread immunity through vaccination the risk of infection and death are still present and still just as real.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This post was written and published 9 months ago and much has been learned and changed since. However, the basics have not changed and are perhaps more important than ever. I hope seeing this again will remind you of what’s important and prompt you to carefully follow reputable sources for updates.

This time a year ago, no one in the United States, or even anywhere in the world, knew about a novel coronavirus, except a handful of physicians and scientists. Perhaps not even they knew we were facing a viral pandemic that would turn our lives upside down.

That unknown virus, SARS-CoV-2, has sickened 90 million people world wide and caused almost 2 million deaths. In the United States it has infected 22 million people, killing 370,000.

UPDATE: as of September 5,2021 there have been

221 million worldwide cases with with 4.5 million global deaths

40 million U.S.A. cases with 650,000 deaths

In the United States, the healthcare systems in many places, including our most populous states, are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, so much so that it impairs their ability to care for them and other patients. Cases are at an all time high across the entire country.

illustration showing the coronavirus which causes COVID-19
a model of the structure of the SARS_CoV-2

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. In this view, the protein particles E, S, and M, also located on the outer surface of the particle, have all been labeled as well.

A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS, public domain.

Finally, a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2

There is hope for an end to this nightmare now that two vaccines are available and being dispensed. I feel fortunate to have received my first dose of the Pfizer-BiONTech vaccine but I know for many others it will be weeks if not months before they will be vaccinated.

Dr. Aletha inspecting her arm after a COVID-19 shot
Three days after my first vaccination the soreness in my arm is almost gone, and I had no redness or swelling.

Let’s review COVID-19

In this post, I’m offering a graphic review of COVID-19 and what we can still do to prevent infections IN ADDITION TO getting vaccinated. Until we achieve wide spread immunity through vaccination the risk of infection and death are still present and still just as real.

Please note I am not addressing management of COVID-19 in this post. Your best source of information for treatment of symptomatic COVD-19 is from a physician familiar with your symptoms and underlying health.

The timeline of a COVID-19 infection-from exposure to immunity

Other common symptoms include
  • headache
  • muscle and/or joint aches
  • nasal congestion and drainage
  • sore throat
  • nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  • loss of taste or smell-this almost always means you are infected
  • fatigue
  • there may be no symptoms at all

Steps to prevent infection from coronavirus-

Wash your hands, Wear a mask, Watch your distance

Practice social distancing and wear a mask.
What to do if you think you have COVID-19 or have been exposed
You should also contact your physician for advice, especially if you have chronic medical conditions which might make you at greater risk of severe disease.

Base your actions on FACTS, not FEAR


Learn about the vaccines from Dr. Gupta and Dr. Fauci

Throughout the pandemic, I have depended on the reports from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and medical correspondent for CNN. I don’t miss his daily podcasts called Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction.

In this episode, Dr. Gupta interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci about the coronavirus vaccine. I suggest you listen to this 12 minute podcast, as well as the others in this series.

A Q&A on vaccines with Dr. Anthony Fauci

exploring the HEART of controlling a pandemic

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Dr Aletha

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