The CDC’s Updated Guidance on Isolation

Infection and Spread Staying Safe Testing and Contact Tracing

The one certainty in this pandemic is CHANGE…..

And in science, changing evidence means that we learn more about what we are studying. And that means that we update based on new knowledge.

This is sort of, kind of, what happened this week. See Dr. Lindsey’s earlier post on this…..and the WHY….https://tinyurl.com/d9tyjs5s

Before diving in, REMEMBER:

🙋🏽 Isolation means totally staying away from other people.

The goal: Keep you away from people because you are sick.

🏠 Quarantine means staying at home and not going out.

The goal: Keep you separate from others in case you get sick so that you don’t spread disease.

🚀 Booster: A “booster dose” of a primary vaccination series. You need a COVID-19 booster if it has been more than six months after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series or it has been more than 2 months since your single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. For some people who are immunocompromised, a booster dose may be a fourth dose because a third dose of the mRNA vaccine is considered part of the primary vaccine series.

Here are the KEY POINTS of the CDC guidance:

🤕 IF YOU HAVE A POSITIVE COVID-19 TEST (PCR or Rapid Antigen) 🤕:
*This guidance does NOT change with vaccination status*

➡️ Isolate for 5 days (at home) and wear a mask for 5 days (outside of home) IF (pay attention to the IF):

– You are asymptomatic at day 5 or your symptoms are resolved AND you do not have a fever.
– You may NOT END isolation early if you continue to have symptoms.


*This guidance DOES change based on vaccination status*

➡️Unvaccinated and those who have not received a COVID-19 booster
– Quarantine for 5 days, test on day 5, wear a mask for an additional 5 days.

➡️ Boosted
– Wear a mask for 10 days (no quarantine) and test on day 5 (rapid antigen).

🤔 We know this new guidance has caused some controversy. Many welcome the change to minimize unnecessary time in isolation. Others are concerned this doesn’t keep potentially infectious people home long enough. As Nerdy Girl Lindsey says, “these are tough trade-offs and there are no clear cut answers”.

📊 Our reading of the data would lead us to be slightly more cautious for ourselves, since many people can still be infectious 5 days after a positive test. Ideally, testing negative on a rapid test (or two) would be the ideal way to safely end isolation early, and this approach is being used in the U.K. The downside is that we know the availability (and affordability) of tests is not widespread in the U.S.

**As always, we advise people to think about the risks of those they will potentially interact with and err on the side of caution if you will be interacting with anyone vulnerable after testing positive.**

We love the thoughtful take of our colleagues at Unbiased Science Podcast on this topic as well.

We’ll be here to keep answering questions, keep them coming!

🌈 Stay safe. Stay sane.

With Love,
Those Nerdy Girls


CDC Official Announcement

Definitions of quarantine and isolation (CDC)

Additional links:

Twitter thread from Megan Ranney MD MPH on the factors around this decision

“Why Are We Still Isolating Vaccinated People for 10 Days?”

Data on duration of infections

Image Credit (@NSHealthDept North Shore Health Department WI)

Link to Original FB Post