Quarantine Period Is Changed By CDC After An Exposure to COVID-19

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, employers are discerning appropriate actions to prioritize health and safety within their workplace. Organizations are responsible for protecting the health of their employees, which can include recommending a quarantine period to employees who have been exposed to COVID-19. An exposure to COVID-19 may take place within the workplace, or an employee may report an exposure outside of the workplace.
This HR Insights article provides an overview of guidance from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) for quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. This guidance addresses who should quarantine, as well as how long quarantine should last. Employers should continue to monitor current guidance from the CDC and follow recommendations from local health providers.


Quarantine After an Exposure to COVID-19

Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the disease without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.


Who Should Quarantine

Quarantine is recommended for people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past three months. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within three months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.


What Counts as Close Contact?

A person is considered to have been in close contact in the following situations:
  • Been within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • Has provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Had direct physical contact with a person who has COVID-19 (hugged or kissed them)
  • Shared eating or drinking utensils with a person who has COVID-19
  • Has been sneezed or coughed on, or received respiratory droplets from a person who has COVID-19


The New Quarantine Period Timeline

The CDC recommends a quarantine period of 14 days after exposure to COVID-19. The quarantine should start and end at the same time of the day. For example, if starting quarantine at noon on one day, quarantine should end at noon on the 14th day. However, in scenarios where a person has additional exposure to COVID-19, quarantine may require an extension.
For those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but are without symptoms, the CDC also recommends two additional options for a shorter quarantine period:
  • Ten-day quarantine period—A person may end quarantine 10 days after exposure if the person does not take a COVID-19 test.
  • Seven-day quarantine period—A person may end quarantine seven days after exposure if the person tests negative for COVID-19.

After The Quarantine Period Is Over, the person should:


  • Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
  • If this person develops symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate and contact their local public health authority or health care provider.
While offering these shorter alternatives, the CDC still recommends a 14-day quarantine as the safest option.
The recommendations provided in this article should not be considered legal advice. Employers should consult with local legal counsel for legal advice. Employers should continue to monitor current guidance from the CDC and follow recommendations from local health care providers. Contact Next Generation Payroll for additional COVID-19 resources.
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