CDC Revises Covid-19 Quarantine Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released revised guidelines on December 2, 2020 outlining a change in quarantine recommendations.  The new guidance states that some people who have been exposed to COVID-19 may now quarantine for less than two weeks. The change in guidance is due to a better understanding of the virus contagion period.  

In October, CDC revised its definition of close contact  tightening the 15-minute exposure period to make it cumulative and not on per interaction basis.  As a result, a person who is within 6-feet of an infected individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over 24 hours would need to quarantine.  

CDC’s December guidance provides the following options as acceptable alternatives to a 14-day quarantine: 

  • Quarantine can end after 10 days without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring.


  • If testing is available, then quarantine can end after 7 days if a respiratory specimen tests negative and no symptoms were experienced. The specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation, but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than after day 7. This means testing should be initiated no earlier than 5 days after the close contact exposure occurs.

In either scenario, continued symptom monitoring and masking through 14 days must continue. The CDC recognizes that any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus. s Anyone who contracts the disease should self-isolate until at least 10 days after symptoms begin, and not leave isolation until their fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the benefit of fever-reducing drugs. Also, all symptoms must be stable or improving and there cannot be any new symptoms. 

Because the CDC’s guidelines are only recommendations and not legal requirements, it is important to understand that some states and local governments have mandated through executive orders, health department mandates, and state OSHA emergency rules have specific return-to-work criteria that conflict with this new guidance.  Before you update your policies, you need to confirm that implementing this new CDC recommended return-to-work criteria is acceptable at the local or state level.  

For more information, please contact PRINTING United Alliance’s Government Affairs Department at or Adriane Harrison, VP of Human Relations Consulting at

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