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Updated CDC Guidance on Quarantine and Isolation

12.28.21 written by

On Monday, the CDC issued updated guidance related to their recommended quarantine and isolation periods for individuals who contract COVID-19 or whom come into contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19.  This guidance is not specific to the workplace but can certainly be used by private employers as guidance to be applied to their affected employees.   In short, the guidance states:

(1)   All people – vaccinated or unvaccinated – who test positive for COVID-19 (any variant) need to stay home for 5 days .  If that person has no symptoms or his or her symptoms are improving, that individual may leave isolation and return to work and other life activities.  However, the individual must continue to wear a mask for an additional 5 days.  The symptoms do not include loss of taste or smell which can linger for weeks/months; however, if someone has a fever after 5 days, the isolation period must continue.

(2)  For those with exposure to someone with COVID-19 (but who are not testing positive themselves), if the individual has a booster or got a second dose of the vaccine within the past 6 months AND is asymptomatic, that individual may go to work and continue normal activity.  However, that same individual will be required to wear a mask for 10 days and test on the fifth day after exposure (if possible and if tests are available).

For those with exposure to someone with COVID-19 who are unvaccinated, un-boosted OR got their second vaccine dose more than 6 months ago, they need to quarantine for 5 days.  Assuming no symptoms, they can return to work and resume life activities on the 6th day so long as they wear a mask.  If they cannot quarantine, they must wear a mask for 10 days.   The CDC guidance is unclear as to what “cannot quarantine” means.  Obviously, if these people develop symptoms or test positive, the isolation rules apply.

As has been with the CDC for some time, this guidance is not a mandate; it is a recommendation to employers. 

The isolation rules are for people who are infected and are the same for people who are unvaccinated, partly vaccinated, fully vaccinated or boosted.  As to isolation, the CDC says:  (1) The clock starts the day you test positive. (2) An infected person should go into isolation for five days, instead of the previously recommended 10. (3) At the end of five days, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere — even at home around others — for at least five more days. (4) If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

The quarantine rules are for people who were in close contact with an infected person but not infected themselves, and the clock starts the day someone has knowledge that they may have been exposed to the virus. The CDC is now saying only people who got booster shots (or received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 6 months ago or less) can skip quarantine if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days. That’s a major departure from the previous guidance which stated that people who were fully vaccinated could be exempt from quarantine.  Now an individual must be boosted or recently (within the last 6 months) fully vaccinated.  Here is a link to the full CDC guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html

This guidance comes just one week after new guidance was issued stating that health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return to work after 7 days with a negative test.  The CDC’s updated guidance for isolation and quarantine for health care workers, decreased the  isolation time after infection with COVID-19. Additionally, the CDC released updated guidance for contingency and crisis management in the setting of significant health care worker shortages. Specifically, CDC’s updated guidance says that “Health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return to work after 7 days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages. Health care workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures.”

The full guidelines which apply only to the health care workforce  can be found at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html

If you have any questions, please contact Karen Soehnlen McQueen (kmcqueen@kwgd.com), Michael J. Bogdan (mbogdan@kwgd.com) or any of the attorneys in the Labor and Employment Section at Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A. at 330-497-0700.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.