The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued revised guidance with options for reducing the length of quarantine for people who are asymptomatic but have also had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Although the CDC still acknowledges that the 14-day quarantine period provides the greatest protection from spreading the virus, it also recognizes that a full 14-day quarantine period can be a burden for employers and employees alike.
The CDC’s new guidance applies only to people who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person but are not showing symptoms. The new guidance provides the following options for reduced quarantine:
Someone with no symptoms can end quarantine 10 days after exposure without testing;
People with no symptoms can end quarantine seven days after exposure if they took a COVID-19 test no earlier than day five of quarantine and the test came back negative.
There remains a risk of developing COVID-19 for a full 14 days after exposure. Thus, the CDC continues to endorse a 14-day quarantine period. Whereas people can end their quarantine before 14 days, they should continue to monitor their health, practice social distancing, wear a face covering and immediately isolate themselves and notify health officials if they do develop symptoms.
The Wisconsin guidance
Consistent with the new CDC guidance, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has revised its own quarantine guidance to permit reduced quarantine options for asymptomatic individuals.
The Wisconsin guidance took effect Dec. 7. There are a few big points from the Wisconsin guidance:
People with no symptoms can end quarantine seven days after exposure if they took a COVID-19 test no earlier than day six of quarantine and that test came back negative (more restrictive than the CDC guidance, which permits the test on day five).
Point-of-care antigen tests are acceptable to use for the purpose of reducing the duration of quarantine, but PCR (non-rapid) tests are preferable.
High-risk, congregate settings (e.g., long-term care centers) should assess case by case whether the likely benefits of shortened quarantine outweigh the risks of post-quarantine transmission.
Employers should remain diligent about reviewing CDC, state and local health guidelines.