As more people test positive for COVID-19 amid the rise of infectious new subvariants, how long should you be quarantined from others?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone who comes into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID should be quarantined if not up to date with vaccinations.
However, the CDC notes that those who have had close contact but are up to date on vaccines or have tested positive in the past 90 days are not required to quarantine.
Close contact is defined by the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health as “one who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.”
Here’s an overview of quarantine and isolation guidelines:
If you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should quarantine if you are not aware of COVID-19 vaccines or have not been vaccinated. For these individuals, the CDC and IDPH recommend that you:
- Stay home and away from other people for at least 5 days (Day 0 to Day 5) after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. The date of your exposure is considered day 0. If possible, wear a well-fitting mask when around others.
- Watch for a fever (100.4 F or higher), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and isolate until you receive your test results. If you test positive, follow the isolation recommendations.
- If you don’t develop any symptoms, get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- If you test negative, you will be allowed to leave your home, but stay close to other people’s homes and wear a well-fitting mask in public for 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- If you test positive, you will need to isolate for at least 5 days from the date of your positive test (if you have no symptoms). If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days from the date your symptoms started (the date the symptoms started is day 0). Follow the recommendations in the insulation section below.
- If you are unable to get a test 5 days after the last close contact with someone with COVID-19, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have not had any COVID-19 symptoms during the 5 day period. Wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days from the date of the last close contact around others, at home and in public.
- Avoid people with weakened immune systems or who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days.
- If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially those at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, as well as others outside your home for the full 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19 .
- If you cannot quarantine, you must wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days around others at home and in public.
- If you cannot wear a mask around others, you must quarantine for 10 days. Avoid people who have weakened immune systems or who are more likely to become very ill from COVID-19, nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days.
- Do not travel during your 5-day quarantine period. Get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact and make sure your test result is negative and you remain symptom-free before traveling. If you don’t get tested, postpone your trip for 10 days after your last close contact with a person with COVID-19. If you must travel before the 10 days are complete, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of the 10 days of travel. If you cannot wear a mask, you are not allowed to travel during the 10 days.
- Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and work until 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Those who are in close contact with someone with COVID but are up to date on their vaccinations or who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 90 days should not be quarantined, but the CDC recommends getting a good – wear a mask around others for 10 days after their most recent exposure and get tested after at least five days.
According to the CDC, people who are positive for COVID should stay at home until it is safe for them to be around others, including even other members of their home.
Health officials recommend a “sick room” or room for those infected and a separate bathroom, if possible.
But isolation may not be just for those who test positive. The CDC also recommends those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting test results or have not yet tested in isolation, “even if they do not know if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.”
How do you end isolation?
- You can end isolation after five full days if you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and your other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and do not need to delay treatment). end of isolation).
- If you continue to have a fever or if your other complaints have not improved after 5 days of isolation, you should wait to end your isolation until you have been free of fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and your other complaints have improved. Continue to wear a well-fitting mask until day 10. If you have any questions, please contact your healthcare provider.
- Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and work for a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
So how do you calculate your isolation period?
According to the CDC, “Day 0 is your first day of symptoms.” That means Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms develop.
For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive have to start their calculations again, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.
Under the CDC guidelines, those who are isolated must:
- Keep an eye on your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including difficulty breathing), seek immediate medical attention.
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
- If possible, use a separate bathroom.
- Take measures to improve ventilation at home, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other household members and pets.
- Do not share personal household items, such as cups, towels and kitchen utensils.
- Wear a well-fitting mask when you need to be around other people.
How long are you contagious?
“You have to stay home for five days because usually those first five days are when you’re most contagious,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “But in those six to ten days, some people can still spread the virus.”
If you still get a positive test after those six to 10 days, Arwady said you could still be contagious.
“In general, if their symptoms have resolved, it is very unlikely that they will spread much COVID. But if you still have a positive rapid test, make sure you wear a mask, consider isolating,” Arwady said.
She clarified that the positive test applies more to quick results, as opposed to PCR. PCR COVID tests can remain positive for “a very long time” after recovering from the virus, as they pick up any dead infection.
Paxlovid, the antiviral drug to fight the coronavirus, is supposed to reduce the severity of the virus but could extend the duration of the infection.
When should you call a doctor?
The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID to watch for emergency warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms, including:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- New confusion
- Inability to wake up or stay awake
- Pale, gray or blue skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone
“This list does not include all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are serious or worrisome for you.”