Since March 2020, COVID-19 rules have been confusing at best. On August 11, 2022, in an effort to streamline the guidance and reflect the current state of the pandemic, the CDC once again issued updated guidance. The new guidance focuses on individual responsibility and is designed to help the public better understand how to protect themselves and others if they are sick or exposed.
The most recent CDC COVID-19 recommendations include the following:
- Vaccination. The CDC continues to promote the importance of being up to date with vaccination to protect people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. However, while the CDC continues to recommend vaccination, its guidance no longer differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated.
- Quarantine. The CDC no longer recommends quarantining following COVID-19 exposure, regardless of vaccination status. Instead of quarantine, the CDC recommends anyone exposed to COVID-19 wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 6. Previously, the CDC recommended a 5-day quarantine for anyone who was not up to date with vaccinations.
- Isolation. The CDC continues to recommend that regardless of vaccination status, individuals should isolate from others if they are sick and suspect that they have COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The CDC recommends that individuals with COVID-19 stay home for at least 5 days. After 5 days, if the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and their symptoms are improving (or they never had symptoms) they can end isolation.
- However, the CDC now recommends that individuals who had moderate illness (experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing) or severe illness (were hospitalized) due to COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system, should isolate through at least day 10 and those who had severe illness or have a weakened immune system should consult with their healthcare provider before ending isolation.
- The CDC also recommends that someone who has ended isolation should avoid being around anyone who is at high risk for a serious case of COVID-19 until at least day 11.
- Finally, the CDC recommends that if an individual’s COVID-19 symptoms worsen, they should restart their isolation at day 0.
- Testing. The CDC no longer recommends screening testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures in most community settings.
- Physical Distance. The CDC emphasizes that physical distance is just one component of how individuals can protect themselves and others. The CDC recommends considering the risk in a particular setting, including local COVID-19 Community Levels and the important role of ventilation, when assessing the need to maintain physical distance.
The CDC’s focus on individual responsibility, the removal of distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated, the removal of quarantine recommendations and the discussion of mask wearing as an individual responsibility are good news for employers who are considering relaxing COVID-19 workplace requirements.
This likely will not be the last we hear from the CDC on this topic. Indeed, the CDC stated that it intends to issue more specific guidance for settings such as healthcare, congregate living, and travel.