CDC Updates Quarantine, Isolation, and Close Contact Guidance: Is It the End of Quarantine for Asymptomatic Close Contacts?
On August 11, 2022, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance in light of the “high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools.”
Quarantine No Longer Required for Asymptomatic Close Contacts
Those in close contact with someone with COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. Instead, the CDC recommends asymptomatic individuals wear a high quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) while around others for ten days. The CDC further recommends testing on day six or later following close contact. If symptoms develop, the CDC instructs immediate isolation and testing.
The CDC continues to recommend at least five days of isolation for those who test positive for COVID-19. After quarantining, the CDC recommends five days of masking—unless the individual has two negative antigen tests 48 hours apart. Those with moderate illness (including those who had shortness of breath or difficulty breathing and those with a weakened immune system are to isolate through day ten. Those with severe illness should follow their doctor’s advice before ending isolation. Regardless of when quarantine ends, the CDC recommends that those who test positive for COVID-19 avoid being around those likely to get very sick from the virus until at least day eleven.
Social Distancing No Longer Recommended for Most Individuals
Before issuing the August 11, 2022, guidance, the CDC recommended that those who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations practice social distancing of six feet in indoor public settings. Now, the CDC has dropped that recommendation instead to state individuals “may” want to avoid crowded areas or keep distance from others, especially in medium or high Community Levels.
The August 11, 2022, update recommends health departments conduct contact tracing only in healthcare and high-risk congregate settings, outbreaks that involve unusual clusters, or for novel or emerging variants that pose significant risk of severe illness, hospitalization, or death.
The update shows a shift away from screening testing for asymptomatic individuals. The CDC now recommends public health officials prioritize “high-risk congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities, and workplace settings that include congregate housing with limited access to medical care.” The CDC further recommends that screening testing, if implemented, include all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
After nearly two and one-half years of the pandemic, the CDC’s latest guidance continues its more recent focus on directing efforts toward protecting high-risk individuals and allowing healthy individuals to return to some normalcy. The latest updates may be welcome news for companies hoping to keep healthy individuals at work. Employers following previous CDC guidance may want to examine their policies regarding quarantine, while continuing to comply with any state or local order (such as California’s ETS).