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The CDC Cut Its Recommended COVID-19 Isolation Time From 10 Days To 5 If You Are Asymptomatic

Isolation should only end if a person with COVID-19 is asymptomatic after the fifth day.

Posted on December 27, 2021, at 5:45 p.m. ET

Mario Tama / Getty Images

The CDC is shortening the length of isolation time recommended for people with COVID-19, cutting it from 10 days to five, the organization announced Monday.

If a person is asymptomatic at the end of the five days, they may end their isolation. The new recommendations also say they should continue to wear a mask for another five days when around other people.

"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 CDC explained in a statement.

The guidance around quarantining after exposure is also changing. Previously, the CDC said fully vaccinated people did not have to quarantine if exposed to COVID-19. But in their Monday announcement, the organization said that would now only apply to people who have received their booster shot.

A five-day quarantine, followed by another five days of mask use, is now recommended following exposure to the virus for anyone who is unvaccinated, more than six months out from their last vaccine dose, or more than two months out from getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine without a booster.

If the exposed person is unable to quarantine, it is recommended they wear a mask for 10 days when in the presence of others.

But even people who have gotten their booster shot should still exercise caution following exposure to the virus. Though they don’t have to quarantine, the CDC said they should still wear a mask for 10 days following the exposure.

Regardless of vaccine status, the CDC recommends people get tested for COVID-19 five days after being exposed.

The new recommendations come as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has become the dominant strain in the US.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, said in a statement on Monday. "CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses."

Walensky said the updated guidance should "ensure people can safely continue their daily lives."

"Prevention is our best option," she said. "Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.