Some doctors disagree with shorter CDC COVID-19 quarantine guidance, suggest people test more

At-Home COVID-19 test
Posted at 7:59 AM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 08:45:10-05

TAMPA, Fla. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new COVID-19 quarantine guidelines.

They suggest people who were exposed to COVID-19 but aren’t up to date on their vaccines, should stay home for five full days, get tested at least five days after exposure even if they don’t have symptoms, and watch for symptoms until 10 days after exposure.

For anyone exposed to the virus who’s been vaccinated and boosted, the CDC says they don’t have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms. They suggest people get tested at least five days after exposure even if they aren’t symptomatic and watch for symptoms until 10 days after they had close contact with COVID-19.

“What the CDC is advising people to do right now is if you have a positive test or have symptoms of COVID to basically isolate yourself for five days,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor at USF Health.

If you test positive, the CDC recommends wearing a mask for five days after isolation.

“Those people that are returning back to work or out in the environment it’s not an all-clear after six days. They should really spend until those next four or five days in a level three or N95 mask,” said Dr. Paul Nanda, Chief Medical Officer for Tampa General Hospital Urgent Care.

Here’s how to calculate your isolation time:

  • Day zero is the first day of symptoms or a positive test result
  • Day one is the first full day after symptoms develop or the first full day after getting tested

“If at any point you have a rapid test that’s positive that means you still have a high amount of viral load in your nose and nasal fairings and you’re still contagious at that point,” said Nanda.

The CDC said the shorter quarantine time focuses on the amount of time that a person is most infectious and allows for people to return to work sooner.

Some experts say these new rules create a gray area regarding when it’s actually safe to return to work or end isolation.

“I think the CDC guidelines that came out that can return on your sixth day after five days of symptoms, those can be challenging. There’s absolutely going to be some people that will be contagious and positive for longer than that,” said Nanda.

What if you’re still symptomatic after five days but you’re testing negative?

“It’s fine to go back. You’re at the back end of the thing and it’s just your immune system that’s still making you sick by clearing up the last bits,” said Unnasch.

What happens if you’re over your symptoms and feeling better but still testing positive?

“Which happens to a lot of people as well. And that’s the reason why they’re recommending this 10 day period because even if you’re positive after 10 days chances are you’re no longer having any real active virus in your system,” said Unnasch.

Some doctors tell us they think it’s better to err on the side of caution to limit as much spread as possible.

“A lot of people are saying alright great day six I can go back to work, it’s really day six they don’t recommend a testing strategy, it would be ideal for us on the medical side if we did have a testing strategy that if you’re still positive on day six when you test then you should continue to quarantine for a full 10 days,” said Nanda.