These days, it’s much easier to contract the coronavirus as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads worldwide. As people face this current reality, it’s important to note that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed its guidelines around isolation and quarantine. Many have questions about what to do if they or a family member ends up catching Covid-19.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, answers some key questions.
CNN: What if everybody in your family tests positive? Do they need to isolate from one another?
Wen: If everyone has Covid-19, they do not need to isolate from each other. That’s because it’s highly unlikely that they have different strains of coronavirus; they probably all got the same strain from one another, and they aren’t going to reinfect each other so quickly. The entire family, of course, should be isolating from other people.
CNN: How long should someone be in isolation?
Wen: The CDC’s new guidelines essentially shorten the isolation period from 10 days to five days, with an additional five days wearing a mask. This means that you should stay fully isolated for the first five days. After that, you can go out — to work, to the grocery and so forth — but you should wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when out in public. Don’t go to settings where you will be maskless, such as restaurants.
When it comes to people in the same family, this guidance means you really shouldn’t have meals together or have other casual, maskless encounters with uninfected members of your family in the 10-day period. If families are in two pods, the two shouldn’t mix for 10 days inside their house.
CNN: If someone had symptoms on Monday, got tested on Wednesday and then got results back on Friday, when does the five-day clock start?
Wen: Monday. The five-day clock starts when someone first starts getting symptoms. If someone is tested and they are asymptomatic but have a positive result, the five-day clock starts when they first got the test. If you are unsure — for example, if you are feeling a little rundown Sunday but don’t really have full symptoms until Tuesday — use the date that you are certain of the symptoms.
Remember that the count starts at day zero. Day one is the first full 24 hours after the onset of symptoms or after the positive test.
Read more answers to key questions here.