For the 3rd time in less than 2 weeks the CDC has published a new (and hopefully, improved) version of their Quarantine and Isolation guidance, after considerable confusion and some criticism emerged following the release of the first two versions.
- The first iteration (see CDC Shortens COVID Quarantine & Isolation Times For General Public), released in late December, was criticised for eliminating the requirement for a negative test before returning to work, and for its complexity.
- A revised version was released a week later (see The CDC's Newly Revised (Jan 4th) Quarantine and Isolation Guidance) that - while no less complex - added back the option of getting a test - assuming that one is a available - but didn't make it a requirement.
Given the limited availability of home tests - and the long lines and waiting times at other testing venues - getting tested before returning to work or school is becoming increasingly impractical. And with hundreds of thousands of people getting infected every day, those shortages are only going to get worse.
Yesterday, in an attempt to present these guidelines in a more readable format, the CDC published a 3rd version, that - while still undeniably complex - should be easier for most people to navigate.
It provides two useful charts (one for Quarantine and the other for Isolation), but you'll still need to read the fine print in the 11 clarifying subsections that follow, and apply them to your situation.
As far as the testing option to go back to work or school, you'll have to scroll down to near the bottom of the page in the section called Ending isolation for people who had COVID-19 and had symptoms (excerpt below).
As I wrote last week, this guidance is obviously a compromise; based a need to keep society running, a lack of testing resources, the futility of stopping community transmission of Omicron, and the impossibility of creating a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines.
If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test1 towards the end of the 5-day 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 (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). 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. Follow additional recommendations for masking and restricting travel as described above.