By: Laura M. Raisty, Esq. Michelle M. De Oliveira, Esq.

On January 9, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) provided additional guidance to clarify its December 27, 2021 update, in which it shortened recommended COVID-19 quarantine and isolation periods. According to the CDC, the shorter periods focus on when a person is most infectious and also “facilitate individual social and well-being needs, return to work, and maintenance of critical infrastructure.” On January 11, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker announced new isolation and quarantine protocols aligned with the newly issued CDC guidance.

Quarantine

If an individual has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19[1] the CDC recommends as follows:

  • If the individual is not up to date with vaccination(s): stay at home and quarantine for at least 5 days, at which point they can leave quarantine if they are symptom free.[2] If contact with others in the home cannot be avoided during the quarantine period, the individual should wear a well-fitted mask.
  • If the individual is up to date with vaccination(s): there is no need to quarantine, unless they develop symptoms, at which point they should isolate and get tested.

Being “up to date” with vaccinations, according to the CDC, means that the individual received the recommended additional doses or booster doses. This is important as it is a change from what we had seen before—and receiving two-doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single-dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine does not suffice to forego the need to quarantine.

Regardless of vaccination status, anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 should get tested at least 5 days after exposure, even if they do not develop symptoms and do the following until Day 10: (1) wear a well-fitted mask anytime they are around others; (2) avoid travel; (3) avoid being around people who are at high risk; and (4) watch for symptoms.  If they develop symptoms, they should isolate immediately and get tested.

Isolation

If an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or is symptomatic, the CDC’s recommendations do not differ based on vaccination status.  All infected persons should stay home for 5 days and isolate from others in their home.[3]  Again, if contact with others in the home cannot be avoided, the individual should wear a well-fitted mask.

The CDC’s recommendations with respect to when the isolation period ends are as follows:

  • Individuals who are asymptomatic after 5 full days after a positive test: may end isolation.
  • Individuals who had symptoms: may end isolation after 5 full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and the symptoms are improving.
  • Individuals who were severely ill with COVID-19: should isolate for at least 10 days and consult a physician before leaving isolation.

All infected persons should do the following until Day 10: (1) wear a well-fitted mask anytime they are around others; (2) avoid travel; and (3) avoid being around people who are at high risk.