Just when you thought you had it all figured out, the CDC updated its ‘close contact’ guidance (again!)

You and me, we’re a lot alike.

I mean, I feel you.

It’s tough enough to retain and immediately recall all of the various federal, state, and local guidance on COVID-19. Take the quarantine/isolation rules, for example. Between the various state rules for interstate travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for those who have COVID-19, and the ones for close contact, it’s difficult to keep everything straight.

And then, yesterday, the CDC went and updated the rules for close contact.

Here’s what you need to know:

If one of your employees comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19, the CDC continues to recommend that s/he should stay home for 14 days after the last contact, watch for fever (100.4◦F) or other symptoms of COVID-19, and stay away from others.

Except, while the CDC prefers the 14-day quarantine period, it now proposes two quarantine alternatives. Based on local availability of viral testing, for people without symptoms, quarantine can end:

  • On day 10, without testing
  • On day 7, after receiving a negative test result

As a reminder, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.

Now, someone asked me how this new CDC guidance may impact 14-day quarantine rules that many states have imposed for out-of-state travel. The CDC guidance has no impact on these rules. Indeed, the CDC said as much:

Local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last in the communities they serve, based on local conditions and needs. Follow the recommendations of your local public health department if you need to quarantine.

So what should you do with the new CDC guidance?

Well, hopefully, most of you have people working remotely anyway. So, there a moot point. As for the rest of you, check the rules from your state and local health departments. Also, you may want to inquire about whether COVID-19 tests are readily available locally. If so, stick with the 14-day CDC recommendation. If not, utilize the alternatives. If you’re a multi-state employer, good luck!

Whatever you decide, communicate the options to employees in a policy update.

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