Here’s How the Updated CDC Guidelines Work


Jonathan Goodwin

The previous standard for 10-day isolation periods if you’ve been exposed to or infected with COVID-19 have been updated by the CDC to a shorter, but more nuanced system. Be sure to know the guidelines to stop the spread!

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance for people who’ve been infected with or exposed to COVID-19.

Scientific studies have shown that most transmission of the virus occurs in the 1-2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and in the 3-5 days after symptoms begin, prompting this update. The CDC has therefore shortened the recommended time for isolation for people with COVID infections and exposures.

Even though the CDC hasn’t come out and said it, it’s helpful to start rethinking the definition of “fully vaccinated” for determining your best practices. At Radish Health, we now consider our patients fully vaccinated if they’ve had:

  • a full vaccination course and a booster
  • a full mRNA vaccination from Moderna or Pfizer in the last 6 months
  • a full vaccination from Johnson & Johnson in the last 2 months

Here’s a breakdown for how the new guidelines work:

After you test positive for COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination status), you need to isolate at home for at least 5 days. If you’re asymptomatic or your symptoms are resolving, you may return to your previous daily routines if you mask up while around other people for the next 5 days. It is recommended but not required that you get tested at the 5-day mark. The CDC does stipulate that anyone experiencing a fever needs to stay home until it subsides.

After you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and have been fully vaccinated (as outlined above), it is recommended that you wear a mask around other people for 10 days with a suggested COVID test after 5 days. If you experience symptoms, please get a COVID test and follow the above procedures if it’s positive.

After you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or a diminished vaccination, you need to isolate at home for at least 5 days and wear a mask when around others for an additional 5 days. If it’s impossible to stay home, the CDC recommends wearing a mask around others for 10 days. Also, it is suggested either way to get a COVID test after day 5. If you begin to experience symptoms, please get a COVID test and follow the procedures for testing positive if that’s your result.

This is a big change from the 10-day isolation period for everyone and it’s important to follow the guidance for which group you’re in based on your vaccination status.

As CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said: “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.” And that’s what these changes are about – safely minimizing the risk of COVID transmission while letting us live our lives as normally as possible.

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