Information About Quarantine and Isolation
As experts learn more about SARS-CoV-2, there have been some subtle changes in recommendations regarding quarantine periods. The CDC has a helpful page with current guidelines regarding quarantine and isolation. We understand that many of these terms may be confusing (isolation, quarantine, case, close contact, etc.). This page on the CDC website has clear definitions of all of these terms. In short, QUARANTINE keeps someone who may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 away from others while ISOLATION keeps someone who is infected with the virus away from others, even in their own home. If you are subject to isolation or quarantine, you will likely get a call from MA COVID Team (with an 833 or 857 area code) and/or from your local Board of Health or local COVID official. Please answer the call and provide the requested information.
CURRENT QUARANTINE RECOMMENDATIONS
Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. Those who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or who have travelled outside of Massachusetts should quarantine.
If you have had close contact with someone with known COVID-19, you should:
- Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
- Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19
- If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19
What counts as close contact?
- You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more (including multiple exposures over a 24 hour period which add up to more than 15 minutes)
- You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
- You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
- You shared eating or drinking utensils
- They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
IMPORTANT: People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
REDUCED LENGTH QUARANTINE OPTION
Recently the CDC has published an option for reducing the length of quarantine. Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to quarantine by reducing the time they cannot work. A shorter quarantine period also can lessen stress on the public health system, especially when new infections are rapidly rising. It is important to note that the CDC states that they "continue to endorse quarantine for 14 days and recognizes that any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus." Many area school districts and workplaces are still following the 14 day quarantine recommendation for close contacts of known COVID-19 cases. Patients and family members are required to follow the policy of their specific school district/workplace.
Recently endorsed options for shortened quarantine durations include ending quarantine:
- After day 10 without testing
- After day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later)
After ending your reduced length period of quarantine, you should
- Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
- If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider.
- Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
CURRENT ISOLATION RECOMMENDATIONS
Isolation keeps someone with known COVID-19 away from others to help stop the spread of the virus. Individuals should stay home, preferably in a separate area of the house, i.e., separate bedroom and bathroom if possible. Masks should be worn when around other people in the home if complete isolation is not possible. Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning household items. Surface should be cleaned frequently with household disinfectant. Monitor symptoms closely and seek medical attention for severe or worsening symptoms.
The period of isolation ends 10 days from symptom onset AND at least 24 hours without fever (while not taking fever-reducing medications) and improvement in symptoms. Repeat testing is not recommended or required for return to school or work.