CDC: COVID-19 Quarantines Can Be as Short as 7 Days

December 2, 2020 Updated: December 2, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 2 announced that it’s cutting its recommended quarantine time for people who have been exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

While the agency, known as the CDC, continues to recommend quarantine for 14 days as the best way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, an analysis of research into the new disease has prompted two alternative quarantine periods.

One alternative is to end isolation after 10 days without a COVID-19 test if the person has reported no symptoms. Another is to end quarantining after seven days if the person tests negative and has reported no symptoms.

“We are sharing these options for public health agencies across the country,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters in a phone call, advising people to follow guidance by authorities in their jurisdictions.

The alternative quarantine periods “may make it easier for people to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time,” he added.

Officials said they hope the new quarantine options will increase compliance with isolation recommendations and contact-tracing efforts.

John Brooks, the chief medical officer for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, said there’s a “small, residual risk that a person is leaving quarantine early can transmit to someone else if they remain infectious.”

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Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (green) heavily infected with CCP virus particles (purple), commonly known as SARS-CoV-2 or novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample on March 16, 2020. (NIAID)

The residual risk is estimated at 1 percent for a person leaving quarantine after 10 days without a test.

Those people should monitor for symptoms for the remainder of the 14-day period and, if they show symptoms, should reenter quarantine, he said.

For the other time period, the estimated residual risk is 5 percent.

Similar to guidance for the Thanksgiving period, the CDC is recommending people not travel for Christmas.

“The safest thing to do is avoid holiday travel and stay home,” Cindy Friedman, chief of the Travelers’ Health Branch at the CDC, told reporters.

If people do travel, they should consider getting tested one to three days before their trip and again three to five days after their trip.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when it’s combined with reducing nonessential activities, symptom screening,” and other precautions, “it can make travel safer by reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Friedman said.

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