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On December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) once again updated its mask and quarantine guidelines. In this most recent update, the CDC shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine periods for the general public. These new guidelines, however, do not apply to healthcare workers, for whom the CDC has issued separate updated guidance.
With respect to the general public, the CDC shortened the recommended quarantine period for people with confirmed COVID-19 infection from 10 days to 5 days, if asymptomatic, or if their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), followed by 5 days of mask-wearing around others. The guidance specifies that this change is motivated by the science demonstrating that the majority of transmissions occur in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after symptom onset.
The CDC also updated its guidance for COVID-19 exposures. For those exposed to COVID-19 and (1) who are unvaccinated or (2) are more than 6 months from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, the CDC now recommends quarantining for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. The CDC guidance states that, in the alternative, if the exposed person cannot quarantine for 5 days, then the exposed individual must wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.
Further, the CDC guidance states that individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine after an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days post-exposure. Anyone exposed should also obtain a SARS-CoV-2 test at day 5 post-exposure. If symptomatic, exposed individuals should quarantine until they can rule out COVID-19 through a negative test.
Developing, updating, and implementing workplace COVID-19 policies can be difficult for employers trying to balance the safety of their workforce with maintaining business operations. Employers who need assistance determining what COVID-19 policies are appropriate for their workforce should reach out to counsel for further assistance.