Isolation and Quarantine – Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: May 16, 2022

What does isolation mean? 

Used to separate someone infected with the virus (sick with COVID-19 and asymptomatic) from people who are not infected. Individuals should stay home from work, school and activities. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others by staying in a specific ‘sick room’ or area and use a separate bathroom (if available). Practice physical distancing from household members and pets, improve ventilation and do not share personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils.   

What does quarantine mean? 

A strategy used to prevent COVID-19 transmission by keeping people who have been exposed apart from others.

How do I determine if I am a close contact? 

Someone who has been within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 (laboratory-confirmed or clinical diagnosis) for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period, regardless of face coverings or other physical barriers, starting 48 hours prior to:

  • Symptom development.
  • Test date for asymptomatic cases. 

Anyone who lives, or lived temporarily with the COVID-19 case for at least one night in the same room or household during the infectious period should be reported as close contacts.  

What does it mean to be up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations? 

If they have received an additional dose if immunocompromised or received a booster at regular time points as recommended. A booster is a subsequent dose administered to enhance or restore protection by the primary vaccination which might have waned over time. All persons 12 and older should receive a COVID-19 booster, even if they were <12 years old at the time of the primary series. Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary and booster dose.  

What does it mean if I am not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations? 

When they are not vaccinated, they have only received one dose or just the 2-dose series of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) or a single dose of Janssen vaccine and not the booster per the recommended schedule. If not up to date, the CDC has different recommendations for quarantine.  

Do people who had COVID-19 within the past 90 days need to quarantine if they are a close contact?

No, individuals who had a laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection within the past 90 days who have subsequently recovered and no longer have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure.

Do people who are not eligible for their booster need to quarantine? 

No. Individuals ages 5–11 years who completed a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series, or others who are not currently eligible for a booster but completed a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccination series are included in the group of people who do not need to quarantine after a close contact with someone with COVID-19 because they are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

When does the 5 days start for the isolation or quarantine period? 

When calculating isolation, day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected. 

When calculating quarantine, the date of last exposure is considered day 0. Day 1 is the first full day after the last contact with a person who has COVID-19.  

Why were the isolation and quarantine guidance changed? 

Evidence shows that the majority of transmission occurs during the early periods of infection. These recommendations come as variants are rapidly spreading throughout the U.S. causing high case rates. Recommendations reflect the societal impact (e.g., critical infrastructure and staffing shortages) and latest science on the severity and time period a person is infectious. The CDC continues to evaluate recommendations as data become available.

 

Shortened Isolation Guidelines


Individuals who test positive, regardless of vaccination status should: 

  1. Stay home for 5 days. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected.    
  2. Stay in one room of the home, physically distance from household members and pets, use a different bathroom if possible, improve ventilation and not share personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils.   
  3. Wear a well-fitting mask while in isolation. 

When can I end isolation? 

  1. After 5 full days if fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist weeks or months after recovery). You may leave your house at this time. 
  2. If symptoms have not resolved or improved, continue to stay home until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist weeks or months after recovery). 
  3. Wear a well-fitting mask around others for 5 additional days (day 6 through 10).
  4. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.  

Individuals who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, who were severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system should:

  1. Isolate for at least 10 days and up to 20 days. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or when the test was done for a positive viral test in an asymptomatic individual. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed or test specimen was collected.  
  2. Consult with a health care provider before ending isolation.  
  3. Discuss with a health care provider the potential for reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccine and the need to continue current prevention measures (wear a well-fitting mask, stay 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces).

Close contacts with a laboratory confirmed COVID-19 case who are up to date on vaccination or had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days should:

  1. Not quarantine. 
  2. Wear a well-fitting mask around others. 
  3. Continue to monitor for symptoms for 10 days from the date of last close contact with the positive person (date of last close contact is day 0).  
  4. Get tested at least 5 days after the last close contact with the positive person unless tested positive within the previous 90 days.  
  5. Get a COVID-19 test and stay home if symptoms develop within the 10 days. 
  6. Isolate immediately if the test is positive. 

Close contacts with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 who are NOT up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations should:

  1. Stay home for at least 5 days (date of last close contact is considered day 0).   
  2. Wear a well-fitting mask when around others in the home.  
  3. Self-monitor for symptoms for the full 10 days. 
  4. Get a COVID-19 test and stay home if symptoms develop within the 10 days. Isolate immediately if test is positive.
  5. Get tested at least 5 days after the last close contact with the positive case even if symptoms do not develop. 
    • If negative, can leave the home, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others for 5 additional days (at least 10 days after last close contact with positive person).
    • If positive, isolate immediately for at least 5 days from the date of the positive test (if no symptoms) or if symptoms do develop, isolate for 5 days from the date symptoms began. 
    • If unable to get a test 5 days after last exposure and there are no COVID-19 symptoms, can leave the home after day 5, but wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days when around others. 
  6. Stay away from household members and others outside of the home for 10 days after last close contact. Stay in one room of the home, social distance and use a different bathroom if possible.  

What populations should follow the shortened guidelines? 

The general population in the community, including workplaces and K-12 schools. It does not apply to health care settings, correctional institutions or homeless shelters. The CDC provides separate, specific guidance for these settings.

Who is not included in the shortened guidelines? 

People who cannot wear a mask, including children <2 years old and people of any age with certain disabilities, should isolate (if infected) and quarantine (if exposed) for 10 days.

People with severe COVID-19 illness (e.g., requiring hospitalization, intensive care or ventilation support) should isolate for at least 10 days and may need to isolate longer after symptom onset. Consult a health care provider to determine the duration of isolation.

Not intended for people who are immunocompromised who might have a longer infectious period. For guidance on moderately or severely immunocompromised people with COVID-19 in non-health care settings: Ending Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19: Interim Guidance.

Am I able to travel when isolating or quarantining?

No. Avoid travel for at least 10 days after symptoms started or a positive test when in isolation.

Travel should be avoided during the 5-day quarantine period, regardless of vaccination status. It is recommended to get tested at least 5 days after the last close contact with the positive person and make sure the test result is negative and there are no symptoms before travelling. If unable to test, delay travel until 10 days after last exposure. If travel can not be avoided, a well-fitting mask must be worn around others for the entire 10 days. If unable to wear a mask, travel should be avoided during the 10 days. 

Can I visit family in a nursing home while in isolation or quarantine? 

No. Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days. 

Can I remove my mask after the 5 days of isolation or quarantine? 

No. Avoid places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and work until 10 days after last close contact. 

What does a well-fitted mask mean? 

It fits snugly against the face. Masks should not have gaps which can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges. A mask should have layers to stop respiratory droplets from getting in and others’ out. For more information: http://staging.aahealth.org/facemasks

I am unable to wear a well-fitted mask. How does that affect isolation and quarantine? 

You should quarantine for 10 days. Avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and nursing homes and other high-risk settings, until after at least 10 days. 

I am unable to quarantine in my home. How does that affect quarantine? 

Wear a mask for 10 days while home and in public.

 

General Prevention Recommendations for COVID-19


The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including variants, include: 

  • Vaccinating and staying up to date on vaccinations. They are safe, free and effective. 
  • Testing if you have symptoms and isolating if positive. 
  • Everyone regardless of vaccination status should wear a mask indoors in public to maximize protection and prevent possible spread. Recommendations are based on the county’s case rate which determines the Level of Community Transmission as defined by the CDC. Face masks are required in some health care facilities and on public transportation. Masks are the best way to slow the spread when around others outside your household. The two biggest risks are social gatherings and public dining, which bring people together who are not usually together. Keep your bubble of contacts small and do not let your guard down. 
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times. 
  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Practice proper respiratory etiquette, including coughing and sneezing into the back of your elbow or into a tissue. Immediately throw away the tissue and wash your hands. 

For more information about Isolation and Quarantine, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html#isolation.

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