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How COVID-19 Public Health Guidelines are Changing

August 18, 2022

As we head into the fall, the CDC and the FDA have issued new COVID-19 guidelines about quarantining, testing, and what you should do if you’re exposed to someone with the virus.

The new public guidance comes during back-to-school season and reflects a new phase of the pandemic as vaccination, boosters, and treatments have become widely available.

“We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation,” said Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH. “This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”

With at-home testing, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has become harder to measure, but the nation seven-day average for COVID-19 cases is about 100,000 cases per day, according to the CDC. The nation’s seven-day average for new hospital admissions has declined about 3.5 percent from last week to about 5,845.

Here’s what you need to know about the new guidance:

  • If you’re positive:  You should stay home at least five days and isolate from others in your home.
    • If after five days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, you can end isolation, but should wear a high-quality mask through day 10
    • Avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11
  • Counting Days:  How you count the days of your isolation depends on whether you had COVID-19 symptoms.
    • No symptoms:  Day zero is the day you were tested, and day one is the first full day after you were tested.
    • Symptoms:  Day zero of isolation is when your symptoms started, and day one is the first full day after your symptoms began.
  • Back at one:  If your COVID-19 symptoms worsen, isolation should restart at day zero.
  • Exposure:  In a key change, those exposed to COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five, but they do not need to isolate immediately.
  • Test to confirm:  If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms after exposure, test again 48 hours after your first negative test, then 48 hours after the second negative test, for a total of at least three tests.

HAP encourages everyone to review the COVID-19 public health guidelines and stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider about your symptoms.

The new CDC guidelines for community settings are available online. The agency is expected to update guidelines for health care and congregate settings in the coming weeks.