Heads up, employers! The CDC shortened its recommended COVID-19 isolation and quarantine periods.


Here’s some big news for workplaces.

(Looks like I’ll be a busy dude this week updating employer COVID-19 workplace policies and procedures.)

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it is shortening the recommended time for isolation from ten days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others. This change applies regardless of vaccination status.


Science demonstrates that most SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19.

For unvaccinated people or more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than two months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, an exposed person should always wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for ten days after exposure.

Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine after exposure but should wear a mask for ten days.  For all those exposed, the best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 on day five after exposure.

If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

At a minimum, employers should implement this new guidance. While I generally don’t recommend playing doctor, employers are free to impose more stringent quarantine and isolation policies for their employees. Indeed, some employers may need more rigid rules to comply with state or local law.

Whatever your business ends up doing, make sure to memorialize it in a written policy and communicate it to your workforce.

The CDC update is also an endorsement for booster shots. According to the CDC, data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%.

Vaccination is the best way to protect and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on your workplace. If you’re not going to mandate it for employees, please recommend that workers get vaxxed and boosted.

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