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The CDC Just Changed How Long You Have to Quarantine After COVID-19

Symptoms—not testing—should be used to determine whether a coronavirus patients is still contagious.

One of the most important aspects of controlling the spread of COVID-19 is making sure that anyone who has been infected remains quarantined from others until the virus runs its course and is no longer able to pass it to others. Since the start of the pandemic, researchers have been attempting to pinpoint exactly how long individuals remain infectious after their first symptoms appear — to identify when they can safely return to their work, family, and lives without worry of infecting others. Initially, the CDC relied on coronavirus testing to determine whether the virus was still infectious. However, new research has inspired the governmental health organization to change their recommendations

Based on new research, the CDC guidance now states that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 cases can stop isolating after just 10 days and do not need to be tested before returning to work—they just need to be fever free for 24 hours

Symptoms, Not Testing, Should Be the Gauge

They explain that symptoms—not testing—should be used to gauge how infectious an individual is, so that a person is "not kept unnecessarily isolated and excluded from work or other responsibilities." 

Keep in mind that people with severe COVID-19—primarily those who end up in the hospital—may be infectious for much longer, even as many as 20 days. However, the CDC does point out that the majority of severe COVID-19 patients — over 88 percent — were no longer infectious after 10 days and 95 percent could not infect others by the 20 days mark. 

In the document they also point out that "reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 has not yet been definitively confirmed in any recovered persons to date," and "if, and if so when, persons can be reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 remains unknown and is a subject of investigation."

However, they explained that in some cases it may look as if someone is being reinfected, as testing can pick up bits of the virus no longer capable of reproducing. While this would make them test positive, they would no longer be infectious. Additionally, some people may shed the virus in their secretions, which would result in them testing positive over several weeks. 

This is why the CDC is basing their recommendations on symptoms and not testing. "Serologic testing should not be used to establish the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 infection or reinfection," they conclude. 

How to Avoid COVID-19 Where You Are

To avoid getting coronavirus in the first place, wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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