The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased isolation guidelines for people who test positive for COVID-19 from a recommended 10 days down to five.


The agency announced the shift to less stringent guidelines to reflect evidence that people are most infectious early in the course of illness, generally in the one or two days prior to the onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.

“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. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

Under the agency’s new recommendations, people who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate for five days. If they are asymptomatic when those five days are up, the agency says they are safe to leave isolation as long as they wear a mask out in public for another five days.

Unvaccinated people and those who have not gotten boosted should also quarantine for five days after being exposed to the virus followed by five days of wearing a mask. People who received their booster doses do not have to quarantine if exposed.

The CDC updated similar isolation guidelines for healthcare workers last week, revising them to say that asymptomatic workers who test negative for the virus after seven days of isolating can return to work. Depending on how short-staffed the worker’s employer is, that isolation period could be cut down further to five days. The recommended period for healthcare workers to self-isolate after testing positive was previously 10 days, a period of time that hindered busy hospitals already strapped for workers.


The change to isolation guidance comes as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads widely across the United States, driving up caseloads beyond those recorded earlier in the pandemic in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C. Roughly 214,000 new cases were reported on average nationwide over the past seven days, according to tracking maintained by The New York Times.