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CDC isolation rules change for adults with COVID-19

Most adults who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 illness can now leave isolation after completing 10 days in home isolation, and people do not need to be retested before returning to work. That’s according to newly-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

This change in recommendation about the duration of isolation was made because the latest scientific data show most people are no longer infectious 10 days after symptoms begin.

Equivalent data for infants and children is not currently available. In the absence of specific data, the same guidelines apply to the pediatric age group.

According to the CDC, close contacts to a known COVID-19 case – such as a spouse, for example – should quarantine for at least 14 days. Even if the person tests negative for COVID-19 or feels healthy, he or she should still quarantine since symptoms can appear two to 14 days after last known exposure to the virus.

The quarantine period for a close contact with ongoing exposure requires adding the 14 days to the “last date of exposure.”

The “last date of exposure” for a close contact is the last date of isolation for the COVID-19 case, the day the person can discontinue isolation/quarantine.

Put another way, if the person with COVID-19 ends isolation after day 10, the close contact must remain in the home the 10 days the COVID-19 case is infectious, plus an additional 14 days, since they can be infected up to 14 days after last known exposure to the virus.

As the medical community better understands how people are infected and transmit the virus, another significant change is that retesting is no longer recommended in order for most patients to discontinue isolation.

There have been nationwide delays in obtaining results for diagnostic testing. Dr. Karen Landers, medical officer for the Northern and Northeastern Public Health Districts, emphasized the importance of patients with COVID-19 symptoms isolating at home after being tested for the virus.

“While waiting for their test results, these persons are likely to be contagious and need to receive instructions from a doctor or the Alabama Department of Public Health before returning to work and leaving their residence,” Landers explained.

Additional revised CDC guidelines include the following:

  • If a COVID-19 patient has had a fever, the recommended number of hours to have passed since their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications is reduced from 72 to 24 hours to discontinue isolation.
  • Asymptomatic people can discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
  • For people who were diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19 and remained asymptomatic after recovery, retesting is not recommended within 3 months after the date symptoms began for the initial COVID-19 infection.
  • For people who never developed symptoms, the date of the first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA should be used in place of the date of symptom onset to determine length of isolation.

As of Tuesday afternoon, coronavirus deaths totaled 1,446 in the state – plus another 45 noted as probable COVID-related deaths – 20 of those in Franklin County. Stats for Franklin County note 140 cases in the past 14 days.

For more information about COVID-19, visit alabamapublicheath.gov.