CDC Provides Options to Shorten Fourteen Day COVID-19 Quarantine But Advises Adherence to Local Health Authority Guidelines
On December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted “[o]ptions to reduce quarantine” on its website. Employers should be aware, however, that in the same communication, the CDC advises that “[l]ocal public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions.” Employers should therefore continue to follow their local Department of Health guidelines.
For example, the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine for an individual who has had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, as stated in guidelines issued on November 30, 2020, which can be found here.
Notably, the CDC’s two new options for the duration of quarantine are “for people without symptoms” and depend on the availability of testing. Under these two options, which can be found here, people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms can end quarantine:
- On day 10 without testing
- On day 7 after receiving a negative test result.
In addition, after stopping quarantine, people should:
- Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
- If they have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact their local public health authority or healthcare provider.
- Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash their hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite issuing these new options, the CDC “continues to endorse quarantine for 14 days.” The CDC has nevertheless issued these options because of the burdens a 14-day quarantine can impose, which include:
- personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health;
- economic hardship that may reduce compliance;
- additional burdens on public health systems and communities during periods when new infections, and consequently the number of contacts needing to quarantine, are rapidly rising;
- a longer quarantine may dissuade recently diagnosed persons from naming contacts; and
- a longer quarantine may dissuade contacts from responding to contact tracer outreach if they perceive the quarantine as onerous.
The CDC recognizes that “any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus.”
As noted above, employers should continue to follow the quarantine guidelines issued by the public health authorities in the jurisdiction where the employer is located. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that it “will continue to evaluate new information and update recommendations as needed.”
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