When COVID-19 first invaded our lives at the beginning of 2020, the world began experiencing unprecedented quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Now, as we are getting into sick season, we are seeing the COVID numbers on the rise once again. While many expected this would be the case, we still don’t know to what degree we can expect the increase. So, after some trial and error in the first go-round, the CDC is making some adjustments to quarantine guidelines. As the CDC focuses on containing the virus, employers are wondering how new quarantine guidelines are going to affect businesses. While they certainly want to do their part to reduce the spread of the virus, they still want to keep operations moving.
Of course, the CDC also shares the same sentiments as employers. Therefore, this is a good time to compare the quarantine guidelines between our experiences from the past and where we are now. This way, we can better anticipate how CDC recommendations will affect businesses in the foreseeable future.
Past Quarantine Guidelines
When we first began to see quarantines and stay-at-home orders in March, the CDC recommended those who were exposed to COVID-19 to remain at home and isolated from others for a full 14 days. This was based on the perceived incubation period of the virus. The incubation period is the time between exposure to a pathogen and when signs or symptoms of infection appear. At the time, the CDC believed the incubation period to be anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Now, these guidelines eventually became problematic. Specificially, there were many people who turned out not to be infected with the virus. However, they still had to stay in quarantine for the full 14 days. As you can imagine, and maybe even have experienced, having many employees out due to a long quarantine can halt operations altogether. Unfortunately, many businesses had to close their doors because they couldn’t keep up with demand without a sufficient number of workers.
New Quarantine Guidelines
Since March the CDC has learned a lot more about COVID-19. Regarding the incubation period, it is still likely 2-14 days after exposure, but now we know symptoms typically appear within five days. Of course, the bad news is people may be contagious up to three days prior to the first signs. That means, many people have transmitted the virus without knowing they themselves were even infected. Furthermore, some people are asymptomatic, but still contagious. This is the reason the quarantine guidelines have been so broad.
Although the CDC continues to endorse a 14-day quarantine as a best practice, this time around they have modified their guidelines. Specifically, they have shortened the quarantine periods based on certain criteria.
Abbreviated Quarantine Periods
Here are the most current CDC recommendations for quarantining after COVID-19 exposure:
- Ten-day Quarantine Recommendation – If an individual exposed to COVID-19 has not taken a test for infection, but has no symptoms, that person may end quarantine after 10 days from exposure date.
- Seven-day Quarantine Recommendation – If an individual has been exposed to COVID-19 and receives a negative test result, that person may end quarantine after seven days.
As you can see, these guidelines continue to help reduce the spread. Still, they also allow employees to return to work a little sooner, as long as they are in the clear. Hopefully that is great news for businesses who were struggling with the previous CDC guidelines.
More to Come
While we all want to get back to business as usual, the truth of the matter is that we are still amid a pandemic. Therefore, individuals and businesses alike have a responsibility to tweak the they we operate to account for the current reality. Without a doubt, it can be difficult for employers to know how to handle COVID situations. Thus, that is why it’s best to look to the CDC for answers. No one should take this on alone, and we definitely shouldn’t try to make decisions without sound advice from the experts. So, continue to stay alert for new quarantine guidelines as they roll out so you will know the best way to safely keep your business operating.