Where the CDC stands with isolation, quarantine and booster shot recommendations

COVID-19 testing virus
Posted at 12:44 PM, Jan 04, 2022

A lot has changed in recent weeks regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arrival of the highly infectious, but likely less severe, omicron variant has forced U.S. health officials to re-examine guidance and issue new recommendations quickly as more Americans become infected.

The core of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations remains consistent. They say everyone 5 and up who haven't gotten vaccinated should seek out a shot, everyone should wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, and people who have symptoms should avoid others and seek out a test.

However, the CDC has made some major changes to its COVID-19 recommendations in recent weeks. Here's where the guidance currently stands.

How long do I need to self-isolate if I test positive?

Late last month, the CDC shortened the recommended isolation time for people who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days.

"The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after," the agency said in updating the guidelines.

Do I need to test negative in order to leave isolation?

Not currently. The CDC's guidance currently says that anyone can leave isolation after five days, even without a negative test. However, top health officials have said they are considering adding a testing recommendation in the coming days and weeks.

The CDC adds that everyone who tests positive should wear a well-fitting mask when around others for at least five days after leaving isolation.

How long do I need to quarantine if I'm exposed to COVID-19?

Those who have gotten a booster shot or are within six months of their final COVID-19 vaccine dose do not need to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19. However, those exposed should wear a well-fitting mask when around others for the next 10 days following their exposure.

Anyone who is not up to date on their vaccinations or booster doses should quarantine for five days following exposure to COVID-19.

"Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure," the agency says.

The agency recommends anyone exposed to the virus take a test five days after exposure.

"If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19," the agency says.

Who can get a booster shot?

Right now, everyone aged 16 and up is eligible for a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone aged 18 and up can receive booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Later this week, the CDC is expected to issue emergency approval to the Pfizer booster shots for adolescents as young as 12, meaning people aged 12 to 15 could start getting boosters as soon as this week.

Which booster should I get?

The CDC also says everyone aged 18 and up can get whichever booster shot they choose, regardless of which vaccine they initially received. Mixing and matching vaccines and booster shots still offers protection against COVID-19. However, the CDC says the Pfizer or Moderna booster shots are "preferred" in most situations.

As of right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only booster shot available to people younger than 18.

When should I get a booster shot?

Those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should seek a booster shot two months after their single-shot vaccination. Anyone who got the Pfizer vaccine should get a booster five months after their second dose, and anyone who got the Moderna vaccine should seek out a booster six months after their second dose.