As omicron BA.5 and BA.2.75 subvariants spread across the country, more COVID-19 infections are occurring, leading to questions about the latest guidance and whether recommendations have changed based on the new subvariants.
As it relates to isolation, the guidance remains the same regardless of which strain a person has contracted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to isolate for five days, with day 0 being the day symptoms started. As long as symptoms have improved, isolation can end after the fifth day.
But once that day comes, are you required to test negative before leaving isolation? According to the CDC, testing out of isolation isn’t required.
However, getting tested may provide some peace of mind.
“…You don’t need to show a negative test to return to work for example, but those at-home tests can give you another level of support,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, explained during a question-and-answer session earlier this week.
After the five-day isolation period, strict mask use is recommended for an additional five days to ensure people are no longer contagious.
According to Arwady, the risk of spreading COVID drops significantly after day 10, including for those who have lingering symptoms.
“If you’re mostly feeling well, especially if what is still kind of lingering is a cough or a little bit of cough tends to be the last thing to go away after any virus, it is unlikely that you are still spreading disease,” the doctor said.
If your health still isn’t back to normal at that point, another test may be a good idea.
“Now at 14 days out and you’re still like… ‘I don’t know I’m still not feeling that well. You know, it’s possible when you’re not feeling well, limit your interactions, definitely wear the mask, but also you can take a COVID test and if it is negative, that’s another piece of information that suggests you’re very unlikely to be contagious at that point,” she explained.
The CDC says those who choose to take a test to end isolation should use an antigen test and not a PCR test. Those can be taken toward the end of the isolation period.
“Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved,” the CDC states. “If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.”