The CDC Updates Its Covid-19 Quarantine Guidelines

On December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued updated guidance regarding its quarantine period recommendations for those persons exposed to Covid-19.  Since March, the CDC has recommended that individuals exposed to Covid-19 self-quarantine for fourteen (14) days.  The CDS has now revised that figure downward and suggests that exposed individuals can emerge from quarantine, depending on local circumstances, after ten (10) days or maybe even as few as seven (7) days.

According to the CDC, a 14-day self-quarantine is still the gold standard, with a median 0.1% chance of transmitting the virus fourteen (14) days after exposure.  However, after a 10-day quarantine period, the data suggest there is only a median 1.4% chance of transmitting the virus, and a 10.7% chance of transmitting it after a 7-day quarantine period. Based on these new data points, the CDC has provided the following recommended options for those exposed to Covid-19 who feel they cannot quarantine for the full fourteen (14) days:

  1. The exposed individual can leave quarantine after the tenth (10th) day without the need for testing, as long as the individual did not report symptoms during the 10-day period; or
  2. The exposed individual can leave quarantine after the seventh (7th) day if the individual obtained a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test result within forty-eight (48) hours of day seven (7), and the individual did not report symptoms during the 7-day period.  (According to the CDC, adding the testing requirement here drops the transmission percentage from 10% to 4%)

The CDC offered these new guidelines in response to concerns that the 14-day quarantine period was stifling people’s ability to work and therefore reducing compliance with the guidelines and encouraging people to misrepresent whether they had been exposed to Covid-19.  The CDC maintains that the best approach is still the 14-day quarantine period.  But for those persons who cannot reasonably quarantine for that length of time, there are now two additional recommended options to choose from.