The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a finalizing rule to shorten the quarantine period for people exposed to COVID-19 from 14 days to seven to 10 days, according to an exclusive report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Henry Walke, the CDC’s coronavirus incident manager, indicated that a shortened quarantine period would include a requirement that the person receive a negative test before ending their quarantine period.
The CDC’s current guidance indicates that workers should be considered to be at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus if they were within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the 48 hours before the infected individual exhibited symptoms or, if asymptomatic, 48 hours before the COVID-19 test was administered. The CDC currently recommends that these employees self-quarantine for 14 days after last exposure to ensure the infection does not spread.
The CDC’s proposed changes would significantly shorten this 14-day period to seven to 10 days; the exact number of days has not been officially finalized. Walke indicated that the proposed change is the result of studies that the CDC has conducted on the spread of the virus that indicate that the vast majority of those who contract the virus do so in the first four to seven days. Under the proposed rule, an employee could end their self-quarantine after seven to 10 days if they test negative at the end of that period. If employees are unable to receive a test, the CDC’s guidance would require that they remain quarantined for 14 days.
This would be a significant development for employers. A reduced quarantine period would help alleviate the strain contact tracing has placed on many workforces, especially in light of the CDC’s latest guidance recommending that exposed critical infrastructure only remain at work as a last resort.
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