Public Health Topics
Isolation and Quarantine

New Instructions for COVID-19 Cases and Close Contacts:

January 11, 2024 Update: This week, Public Health released new instructions for COVID-19 cases and close contacts. The notable change is to the amount of time a COVID-19 case is required to isolate, which was made in alignment with updated isolation guidance released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and with Cal/OSHA guidance for workplaces. As a reminder, all individuals who test positive need to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask for a total of 10 days after their symptoms began or, if they do not have symptoms, the date of their initial positive test, whenever they are around others. This includes individuals who test positive and have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Under the new instructions, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms can leave isolation once they are fever free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication AND other symptoms are mild and improving, provided they wear a well-fitting high-quality mask when around others for 10 days following symptom onset. Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms are not required to isolate provided they wear a well-fitting, high-quality respiratory mask whenever they are around other people for 10 days following their positive test result. It remains strongly recommended that an individual test for COVID-19 prior to ending isolation and extend isolation until day 10 if they continue to test positive. Previous guidance required individuals to isolate for at least five days if they tested positive regardless of symptoms.

Other aspects of the updated instructions largely mirror previous Public Health instructions. Key highlights include:

  • Masking for persons who test positive for COVID-19 – When around others, all individuals who test positive need to wear a well-fitting, high-quality respiratory mask for 10 days after their symptoms began or, if they do not have symptoms, from the date of their initial positive test. This is because individuals who are positive for COVID-19 are considered infectious starting two days before their symptoms began and for 10 days after symptoms began or the first positive test if no symptoms.
  • Testing for close contacts – With easy access to at-home testing for COVID-19, it is important for individuals to assess their status if they have respiratory symptoms or had a known exposure to a person infected with COVID-19. Public Health advises everyone who is a close contact to a confirmed case to test immediately if they have symptoms and within 3-5 days of their last exposure date if they are not symptomatic.
  • Ability for more protective policies – Businesses, organizations and schools can continue to implement more protective policies to protect their employees, students and customers, including adhering to the prior guidance on isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19.

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