January 4, 2022

CDC Isolation and Quarantine Updates

As of Monday, December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.

COVID-19 Exposure

The CDC has updated the recommended quarantine period for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Additional Information

Individuals should refer to the CDC website for updated information on protocols following a COVID-19 exposure or positive test.


December 9, 2020

Updated Quarantine Recommendations in Pennsylvania

On December 4, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated their quarantine recommendations for individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19. These recommendations have been updated in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines that include options to reduce the quarantine period. These recommendations are subject to change.



Important Note

This guidance does not apply to healthcare or congregate settings. Patients and residents in healthcare settings who have been exposed to COVID-19 should be treated as per healthcare guidance outlined in PA-HAN-526 or its successor. Staff working in a healthcare setting who are exposed to COVID-19 should follow guidance outlined in PA-HAN-510 or its successor.

See page three of this document for more information.


Quarantine is used to separate someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. While individuals in quarantine may or may not develop illness, quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they have the virus. Any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden to the individual under quarantine against a small possibility of increasing the spread of the virus.

While a shortened quarantine period may increase the public’s willingness to adhere to public health recommendations, the overall reduction in transmission and increased compliance will require evaluation; not only in terms of compliance with quarantine and contact tracing activities, but also for any potential negative impacts such as post-quarantine transmission. The most protective recommended quarantine period remains at 14 days post exposure.

How Does Quarantine Work?

Quarantine begins one day after a person has been last exposed to someone with COVID-19 who is infectious. For individuals with COVID-19 who are unable to isolate themselves from their household members, the household members’ quarantine period begins when the case is no longer infectious. For information on infectious periods, please refer to PA-HAN-518.

Quarantine Length

In accordance with recommendations and research from the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends the following quarantine periods:

    • Option 1: Complete a full 14-day quarantine period which would begin the day after you last came into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 who is infectious. This option is the most protective and poses the lowest risk for post-quarantine transmission of the virus. Other options should only be considered if this option causes an undue burden.
    • Option 2: Individuals can end their quarantine period after Day 10 without testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. However, individuals should continue to monitor their symptoms until Day 14.
    • Option 3: Individuals can end their quarantine period after Day 7 if they complete a COVID-19 test on Day 5 (or later), receive a negative test result within 48 hours before the time of planned quarantine discontinuation, and exhibit no symptoms during the quarantine period. Quarantine cannot be ended earlier than Day 8. COVID-19 tests completed before Day 5 of quarantine will not be sufficient to allow quarantine to end early.

Testing for the purpose of earlier discontinuation of quarantine should only be considered if it will have no impact on community diagnostic testing. Testing of symptomatic individuals seeking evaluation for infection must be prioritized.

Additional Criteria

Individuals can discontinue their quarantine periods in accordance with any of the options above only if the following criteria are also met:

    • no clinical evidence of COVID-19 has been elicited by daily symptom monitoring during the entirety of quarantine up tot he time at which quarantine is discontinued;
    • daily symptom monitoring continues through quarantine Day 14; and,
    • individuals are counseled regarding the need to adhere strictly through Day 14 after exposure to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (masking, physical distancing, etc.).

If any symptoms develop, individuals should immediately self-isolate and contact the Department of Health at 1.877.724.3258, their local health department, or their healthcare provider to report this change in clinical status.

More Information

For more information, read the full Health Alert document. For questions, call your local health department or 1.877.724.3258.

This information has been provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.