Devine Millimet | NH Law Firm

CDC Shortens Isolation and Quarantine Periods for General Population

Solal Wanstok, Esq.

January 5, 2022

On December 27, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced in a press release that its quarantine and isolation guidance has been updated.


The CDC now recommends that individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms should isolate and remain home for 5 days, regardless of vaccination status. After those 5 days, the individual may leave isolation if he or she is asymptomatic, or if symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours). However, the individual should continue to wear a mask when around others for 5 additional days after leaving isolation.


Individuals should quarantine when they have been in “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 (“close contact” means being within 6 feet of that person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period). The CDC has revised quarantine recommendations depending on the individual’s vaccination status:

The following individuals are not required to quarantine if they are asymptomatic, but should wear a mask around others for 10 days and get tested on day 5, if possible:

  • Individuals who have received a COVID-19 booster;
  • Individuals who have received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within the last 6 months; and
  • Individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine within the last 2 months.

The following individuals should (i) stay home for 5 days and continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days; or (ii) if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, they should wear a mask around others for 10 days:

  • Individuals who are unvaccinated;
  • Individuals who have completed their Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series more than 6 months ago and are not boosted; and
  • Individuals who have completed their J&J vaccine more than 2 months ago and are not boosted.

The CDC also recommends that any individual who develops symptoms should get tested and stay at home until testing negative.

Employer Takeaway

Employers should consider updating their existing COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols and policies to reflect the new recommendations.

Many states are already beginning to revise their recommendations based on the CDC’s updates. Because local guidance may differ from the CDC’s recommendations, employers should keep in mind all applicable state and local requirements when deciding whether to amend their own internal rules on isolation and quarantine periods. In other words, employers should remember to check whether any stricter state or local requirements are still in effect. Finally, they should keep in mind that they are free to adopt more rigorous isolation and quarantine requirements, including mandatory testing before an exposed or infected individual may return to the workplace.

It remains unclear whether OSHA will incorporate these changes in its existing vaccination and testing rule for employers with 100 or more employees, as the Supreme Court prepares to hold a special hearing on January 7, 2022 regarding its enforceability. We will, of course, keep you informed of any future significant developments.

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