On August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its guidance on isolation and quarantine following exposure to the coronavirus and includes updates on masking, social distancing and isolation, after testing positive for COVID-19. Below are key highlights from the updated guidance.
The CDC previously recommended a five-day period of quarantine for individuals who had been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 and were not up to date on vaccines. The new guidance allows individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to continue their daily activities unless they develop symptoms. Individuals should monitor themselves for symptoms following an exposure and take extra precautions around people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The guidance still includes masking recommendations and recommends that individuals exposed to COVID-19 wear a high-quality mask or respirator for 10 days if they are around other people indoors and avoid places where mask wearing is not possible. The guidance also continues to recommend use of well-fitting masks indoors wherever COVID-19 community transmission levels are high.
At least five full days after an exposure, the CDC recommends getting tested for COVID-19, even for individuals without symptoms. An individual who tests negative should continue masking through the day 10 following the exposure, while an individual who tests positive should isolate immediately and stay home for at least five days, depending on symptoms.
Following a positive test, a person may end isolation after day five if they had no symptoms. A person who developed symptoms of COVID-19 may end isolation after day five if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms are improving. However, anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 should avoid being around people at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 until at least day 11.
If COVID-19 symptoms return or worsen after a person ends isolation, they should restart isolation, according to the CDC.
The guidance also modifies social distancing by no longer mentioning the six-foot social distancing guideline and now advises individuals to consider the risk in a particular setting, including local COVID-19 community levels and the important role of ventilation, when assessing the need to maintain physical distance.
Next Steps for Employers
The relaxed guidelines may prompt employers to modify their policies for workers who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. The CDC’s recommendations do not have the weight of law and do not supersede state or local requirements for isolation and quarantine, It is still imperative that employers rely on the guidelines set forth by their state and/or local health departments or other agencies. In cases where state or local guidelines align with the CDC’s recommendations; employers may want to review and revise their policies to reflect this updated guidance on isolation and quarantine periods.
Employers may still exercise additional caution and maintain policies which exclude employees from the workplace for longer periods of time (i.e., 10 days) if they are positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms or if they are exposed to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case. Employers wishing to do so should also understand potential obligations that may be triggered by state or local COVID-19 paid leave laws, such as NY COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave.
HR Works will continue to monitor this topic and provide updated information as it becomes available.