On December 2, 2020, the CDC updated its Quarantine Guidance to include two additional shorter options for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19. It must be noted that the CDC still endorses the 14 day quarantine. However, the CDC explained that, “any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus.” With this new update, it follows that there are 3 courses of action that employers can take as they relate to the quarantine duration. This blog will provide an overview for all three options.
ORIGINAL 14 DAY QUARANTINE
The CDC originally came out with the 14 Day quarantine requirement for individuals who were in Close Contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. This original 14 day standard set out 4 scenarios and explained the quarantine associated with each.
- Scenario 1- Close Contact with Someone who Has COVID-19- Will Not Have Further Close Contact
Individuals who had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and will not have further contact/interactions with that Sick Person must quarantine for 14 days from the date of the Close Contact.
EXAMPLE: Sally has a close contact with a Sick person on December 1. Sally must quarantine from December 2 through December 15. Sally can return to work on December 16.
- Scenario 2- Close Contact with Someone who has COVID-19- Live With the Person but Can Avoid Further Close Contact
Individuals who lives with someone who has COVID-19, and that Sick Person has isolated from everyone in the household, then the individual must quarantine for 14 days from when the Sick Person’s home isolation began.
EXAMPLE: Sally’s wife was diagnosed with COVID-19 (“Sick Wife”). The Sick Wife can isolate from everyone in the household. Sick Wife began the home isolation on December 1. Sally must quarantine for 14 days after Sick Wife began home isolation. So, since Sick Wife began home isolation on December 1, Sally must quarantine from December 2 through December 15. Sally can return to work on December 16.
- Scenario 3- Under Quarantine and had Additional Close Contact with Someone Who has COVID-19
Individuals who live with someone with COVID-19 (“Sick Person”) and have a subsequent Close Contact with the Sick Person, or another household member gets COVID-19 (“New Sick Person”), then the individual must restart their quarantine from the last day the individual had a close contact with any Sick Person.
EXAMPLE: Sally’s Sick Wife has been in quarantine and isolation since December 1. Sally began a quarantine on December 2. On December 5, their son, who lives with them, was diagnosed with COVID (“Sick Son”). Sally must restart her quarantine. Her new quarantine must last from December 6, through December 19. She can return to work on December 20.
- Scenario 4- Live with Someone Who Has COVID-19 and Cannot Avoid Continued Close Contact
Individuals who live in a household where they cannot avoid Close Contact with a person who has COVID-19 (“Sick Person”) must avoid contact with others outside of the home while the Sick Person is still sick and in quarantine. The Individual must then quarantine for 14 days after the Sick Person meets the criteria to end home isolation.
EXAMPLE: Sally’s Sick Wife has COVID-19. The spouses do not have a separate bedroom, they live in close quarters where they are unable to keep a physical distance of 6 feet. Sick Wife met the criteria to end home isolation on December 1. Sally must quarantine from December 2 through December 15. She can return to work on December 16.
ADDITIONAL QUARANTINE OPTIONS ADDED DECEMBER 2, 2020
The CDC is explicit that it fully endorses the Original 14 Day Quarantine explained above. However, in addition to the Original Quarantine standards, individuals who were exposed or in Close Contact of a Sick Person, and remain asymptomatic, may end quarantine either:
- On Day 10 without testing, or
- On Day 7 after receiving a negative test result.
After these individuals stop quarantine, the CDC instructs that people should (1) watch for symptoms until 14 days after the exposure, (2) if they have symptoms they should immediately self-isolate and contact local public health authorities or health care providers, (3) 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.
LOCAL TRAVEL QUARANTINE ORDERS STILL APPLY
The CDC makes it a point to reiterate that “local public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions.” The CDC furthers that, “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.” This means that any local (or statewide) travel orders still apply, despite these new Quarantine Options.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?
Employers can update their COVID policies to reflect the new quarantine guidelines. Remember, the above options apply in scenarios when an employee was in Close Contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. The requirements for returning to work after being diagnosed with COVID-19 remain the same.
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