Most adults who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 illness can now leave isolation after completing 10 days in home isolation and persons do not need to be retested before returning to work, according to newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
This change in recommendations about the duration of isolation was made because the latest scientific data show most people are no longer infectious 10 days after symptoms begin.
Equivalent data for infants and children is not currently available. In the absence of specific data, the same guidelines apply to the pediatric age group.
Close contacts to a known COVID-19 case should stay home (quarantine) for at least 14 days. Even if the person tests negative for COVID-19 or feels healthy, he or she should still quarantine since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after last known exposure to the virus.
The quarantine period for a close contact with ongoing exposure requires adding the 14 days to the “last date of exposure.”
The “last date of exposure” for a close contact is the last date of isolation for the COVID-19 case, the day the person can discontinue isolation/quarantine.
For example, if the COVID-19 case ends isolation after day 10, the close contact must remain in the home the 10 days the COVID-19 case is infectious plus an additional 14 days since they can be infected up to 14 days after last known exposure to the virus.
As the medical community better understands how people are infected and transmit the virus, another significant change is that retesting is no longer recommended in order for most patients to discontinue isolation.
There have been nationwide delays in obtaining results for diagnostic testing. Dr. Karen Landers, medical officer for the Northern and Northeastern Public Health Districts, emphasized the importance of patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to isolate at home after being tested for the virus.
She cautioned, “While waiting for their test results, these persons are likely to be contagious and need to receive instructions from a doctor or the Alabama Department of Public Health before returning to work and leaving their residence.”
Additional revised CDC guidelines include the following:
• If COVID-19 patients have had a fever, the recommended number of hours that have passed since their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications is reduced from 72 to 24 hours to discontinue isolation.
• Asymptomatic persons can discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
• For persons who were diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19 and remained asymptomatic after recovery, retesting is not recommended within 3 months after the date symptoms began for the initial COVID-19 infection.
• For persons who never developed symptoms, the date of the first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA should be used in place of the date of symptom onset to determine length of isolation.
For more information about COVID-19, please visit alabamapublicheath.gov.