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CDC updates guidance on quarantine length, testing, travel

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine period for exposed “close contacts” of someone who has COVID-19.

However, the agency announced two “acceptable alternative” approaches for close contacts on Dec. 2, based on extensive research and modeling.

  1. Without a test, quarantine may end 10 days after exposure if no symptoms are experienced.
  2. With a negative test result, quarantine may end 7 days after exposure if no symptoms are experienced.

The goal behind these guidelines is to ease the burden on health care systems and the working public.

The CDC cautions that the residual risk of the close contact is infected in the first scenario is between 1% and 12%, while residual risk in the second scenario is anywhere from 5% to 10%.

A close contact as defined by the CDC is “someone who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”

“Testing does not eliminate all risks,” according to the CDC. As always, the CDC stresses the importance of hand washing and sanitizing, physical distancing and wearing masks.

In addition, as the holidays near, the CDC also updated travel guidance. It still recommends that travel be avoided entirely. But for those who do travel, the CDC suggests that travelers get tested 1-3 days prior to boarding a plane or train, as well as getting tested 3-5 days after their trip. For those who go untested after travelling, the agency asks that they reduce non-essential activities for 10 days.

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