Updated CDC Guidance
On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidance by suggesting quarantine periods shorter than 14 days. The CDC offers the following options as acceptable alternatives to shorten quarantine:
- Quarantine can end after 10 days without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring.
- When diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, then quarantine can end after 7 days if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. The specimen may be collected and tested 48 hours before ending quarantine (for instance, in anticipation of testing delays) but quarantine cannot end earlier than after 7 days.
The CDC guidance also indicates anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and who meets the following criteria does NOT need to stay home.
- Has COVID-19 illness within the previous 3 months and
- Has recovered and
- Remains without COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath)
The CDC guidance on isolation or quarantine for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or those who have tested positive for COVID-19 has not changed.
There are exceptions/different guidance for essential workers. However, on November 16, the CDC also modified its guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers. The guidance states employers may consider allowing exposed and asymptomatic critical infrastructure workers to continue to work in select instances when it is necessary to preserve the function of critical infrastructure workplaces. This option should be used as a last resort and only in limited circumstances, such as when cessation of operation of a facility may cause serious harm or danger to public health or safety.
It should be noted that the CDC concluded its updated guidance by still stating that a 14 day quarantine period is recommended, as a this remains the best way to avoid transmission.
Updated NY DOH Guidance
Updated guidance has also been issued by the New York Department Health (DOH) which aligns with the CDC guidance. The updated state guidance also applies to individuals who traveled to a non-border state or outside of the country.
The DOH has also updated its protocols for healthcare personnel who are asymptomatic to return to work following a COVID-19 exposure. Asymptomatic healthcare personnel will be subject to the new shortened 10-day quarantine, except for those working at nursing homes or adult care facilities certified as Enhanced Assistant Living Residences or Assistant Living Programs. Personnel at these facilities may end their quarantine after 10 days but cannot return to work for 14 days. Further, there are additional requirements for healthcare personnel who travel out of state. Healthcare personnel returning from travel to a non-border state or country subject to a CDC Level 2 or higher COVID-19 risk assessment level must be tested for COVID-19 on their fourth day in New York. Such healthcare personnel also must continue to follow the essential worker guidance from the travel advisory.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should review the updated guidance from the CDC and DOH but should also continue to follow the recommendations of the local public health department in determining if an employee needs quarantine.