As more and more people test positive for COVID-19 amid the rise of new infectious subvariants, how long should you quarantine yourself 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 they are not up to date on their vaccinations.
However, the CDC notes that those who have had close contact but are up to date with their vaccines or tested positive in the past 90 days do not need to quarantine.
A close contact is defined by the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health as “a person who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period. “.
Here is a breakdown of quarantine and isolation advice:
If you come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should self-quarantine if you are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines or are unvaccinated. For these people, the CDC and IDPH recommend that you:
- Stay home and away from others for at least 5 days (Day 0 to Day 5) after your last contact with someone who has COVID-19. The date of your exposure is considered Day 0. Wear a properly fitting mask when around other people at home, if possible.
- For 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19, monitor for fever (100.4◦F or higher), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and self-isolate until you receive your test results. If you test positive, follow the isolation recommendations.
- If you do not develop symptoms, get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- If you test negative, you can leave your home, but continue to wear a properly fitted mask when around other people at home and in public until 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID -19.
- If you test positive, you should self-isolate for at least 5 days from the date of your positive test (if you don’t have symptoms). If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate for at least 5 days from the date your symptoms started (date symptoms started is day 0). Follow the recommendations in the insulation section below.
- If you are unable to get tested 5 days after the last close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you can leave your home after the 5th day if you had no symptoms of COVID-19 during the 5 day period. Wear a properly fitted mask for 10 days after the date of your last close contact when around others at home and in public.
- Avoid people with weakened immune systems or who are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, as well as nursing homes and other high-risk environments, for at least 10 days.
- If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, and other people outside your home for 10 days after your last close contact with someone who has COVID-19 .
- If you cannot quarantine yourself, you must wear a properly fitting mask for 10 days when you are with other people at home and in public.
- If you cannot wear a mask around other people, you must continue to self-quarantine for 10 days. Avoid people with weakened immune systems or who are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, as well as nursing homes and other high-risk environments, for 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 have no symptoms before travelling. If you do not get tested, delay your trip until 10 days after your last close contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you must travel before the end of the 10 days, wear a properly fitted mask when around other people for the duration of the trip for the 10 days. If you cannot wear a mask, you should not travel for the 10 days.
- Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating with others at home and at work until 10 days after your last close contact with a person with COVID-19.
Those who are close contacts of someone with COVID but are up to date on their vaccinations or have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 90 days do not need to quarantine, but the CDC recommends that they wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after their last exposure and get tested after at least five days.
According to the CDC, people who are COVID-positive should stay home until they can be safe with other people, including even other members of their household.
Health officials recommend a “sick room” or area for infected people and a separate bathroom, if possible.
But isolation may not be reserved for those who test positive. The CDC also recommends that those with symptoms of COVID-19 who are awaiting test results or who have not yet been tested isolate, “even if they don’t know if they have been in close contact. with someone who has COVID-19”.
How to get out of isolation?
- You can end isolation after five full days if you have been fever-free for 24 hours without using fever medication and your other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and there is no need to delay the end of isolation).
- If you continue to have a fever or your other symptoms have not improved after 5 days of self-isolation, you should wait to end your self-isolation until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without use anti-fever medicines and your other symptoms have improved. Continue to wear a properly fitted mask until Day 10. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.
- Do not go to places where you cannot wear a mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating with others at home and at work until 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.” This means that day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms started.
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, however, must start their calculations again, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.
According to CDC guidelines, people in isolation should:
- Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (including difficulty breathing), seek emergency medical attention immediately.
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Take steps to improve ventilation in the home, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other household members and pets.
- Do not share personal household items, such as cups, napkins, and utensils.
- Wear a properly fitted mask when you need to be around other people.
How long are you contagious?
“You need to stay home for five days because those first five days are usually when you’re most infectious,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “But between 6 and 10 days, some people can still spread the virus.”
If you still test positive after those six to 10 days, Arwady said you could still be contagious.
“Generally, if their symptoms are gone, it’s very unlikely they’ll spread much more COVID. But if you still have a positive rapid test, make sure you wear a mask, consider self-isolating,” Arwady said. .
She clarified that the positive test applies more to rapid results, as opposed to PCR. COVID PCR tests can remain positive for “a very long time” after recovering from the virus as they detect any dead infection.
Paxlovid, the antiviral drug to fight the coronavirus, is expected to lower the severity of the virus but could prolong the duration of 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 have symptoms, including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
“This list does not contain all possible symptoms,” the CDC says. “Please call your doctor for any other symptoms that are serious or cause you concern.”