CDC Offers Shorter Alternatives to 14-day COVID-19 Quarantine

The standard 14-day quarantine can be burdensome to some Americans exposed to COVID-19. In response, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered ways to shorten the separation to 10 or even 7 days. Find out what is required to comply with the shorter quarantine and how the risk compares to the longer period.

ATLANTA – Pharmacists fielding questions about novel coronavirus quarantine now can offer additional options to questioners.

Noting that quarantine options for individual jurisdictions are determined by local public health authorities, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends a quarantine period of 14 days.

It now advises, however, that based on local circumstances and resources, shorter quarantine periods might be acceptable alternatives. Specifically, the CDC suggests that quarantine can end after Day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. The agency adds that, with that strategy, residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 1% with an upper limit of about 10%.

Another alternative suggests that, when diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, it might be possible for quarantine to end after Day 7 if a diagnostic specimen tests negative and if no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring.

“The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation (e.g., in anticipation of testing delays), but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after Day 7,” according to the scientific brief from the CDC, which adds, “With this strategy, the residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 5% with an upper limit of about 12%.”

Public health officials emphasize that, in both situations, additional criteria --, continued symptom monitoring and masking through Day 14 -- must be me.

The article explains that recommendation for a 14-day quarantine was based on estimates of the upper bounds of the COVID-19 incubation period and that the importance of quarantine increased once it became evident that patients are able to transmit SARS-CoV-2 before symptoms develop, and that a substantial portion of infected persons – estimated as between 20% to 40% --) never develop symptomatic illness but can still transmit the virus. “In this context, quarantine is a critical measure to control transmission,” the authors add.

Separating out those who have been exposed reduces the risk of transmitting infection and improves monitoring of patients in case they can become symptomatic. Lengthy quarantine also has downsides, however, according to the brief.

The CDC explains that “ a 14-day quarantine can impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as cause economic hardship that may reduce compliance. Implementing quarantines can also pose additional burdens on public health systems and communities, especially during periods when new infections, and consequently the number of contacts needing to quarantine, are rapidly rising. Lastly, the prospect of quarantine may dissuade recently diagnosed persons from naming contacts and may dissuade contacts from responding to contact tracer outreach if they perceive the length of quarantine as onerous.”

Alternative options were devised, according to the authors, to reduce the burden and potentially increase community compliance.

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