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Quarantine and Isolation

Q: What is considered to be a close contact?

A: A close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of someone who has probable or confirmed COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Q: What steps should an agency take if an individual who is up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, or had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days, comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19?

A: If an asymptomatic individual comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19, they do not need to quarantine if they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including recommended booster shots and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people, or they had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (they tested positive using a viral test).

Agencies should instruct these individuals to watch for symptoms for 10 full days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19 (the date of last close contact is considered day 0 and day 1 is the first full day after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19). Agencies also should instruct these individuals to take precautions for 10 full days from the date they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, including by wearing a well-fitting mask when around others (see FAQs on mask-wearing), avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities and gyms where they may be unmasked around others, avoiding people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and avoiding nursing homes and other high-risk settings. If an individual is unable to wear a mask, then they should quarantine for 10 days.

As part of agency testing protocols, agencies should require that these individuals be tested at least 5 full days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19 (unless they tested positive for COVID-19 with a viral test within the previous 90 days and subsequently recovered and remain without COVID-19 symptoms, in which case they do not need to get tested after close contact). If they test positive or if they at any time develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should isolate from other people, following CDC recommendations on isolation.

CDC’s setting-specific guidance provides additional recommendations for settings such as congregate settings and healthcare settings; where there is a conflict with more general guidance, setting-specific guidance should be followed. CDC generally recommends a 10-day quarantine for certain congregate settings (including correctional or detention facilities) that have a high risk of secondary transmission. Decisions to shorten quarantine in these settings should be made in consultation with State, local, Tribal, or territorial health departments and should take into consideration the context and characteristics of the facility.

Note that this guidance does not supersede applicable Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

Q: What steps should an agency take if an individual who is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19?

A: If an individual who is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, and has not had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days, comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19, they should quarantine at home for at least 5 full days after their last close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (the date of exposure is considered day 0, and day 1 is the first full day after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19). If they are unable to wear a mask when around others, such as pursuant to a medical condition or disability for which they have received a reasonable accommodation from their agency, they should quarantine for 10 full days.

During quarantine, an individual should watch for COVID-19 symptoms, and if they develop symptoms, they should isolate immediately, get tested, and remain isolated until they receive their test results—if they test positive, they should follow CDC recommendations on isolation. The agency should instruct individuals who have quarantined to continue to take precautions for 10 full days from the date they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, including by wearing a well-fitting mask when around others (see FAQs on mask-wearing), avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities and gyms where they may be unmasked around others, avoiding people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and avoiding nursing homes and other high-risk settings.

As part of agency testing protocols, agencies should require that these individuals be tested at least 5 full days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19. If they test negative, they can return to their workplace and interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities. If they test positive, they should follow CDC recommendations on isolation. If the individual is unable to get a test 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, an agency may determine it will allow them to return to their workplace after day 5 if they have been without COVID-19 symptoms throughout the 5-day period.

CDC’s setting-specific guidance provides additional recommendations for settings such as congregate settings and healthcare settings; where there is a conflict with more general guidance, setting-specific guidance should be followed. CDC generally recommends a 10-day quarantine for certain congregate settings (including correctional or detention facilities) that have a high risk of secondary transmission. Decisions to shorten quarantine in these settings should be made in consultation with State, local, Tribal, or territorial health departments and should take into consideration the context and characteristics of the facility.

Note that this guidance does not supersede applicable Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

Q: Should agencies limit official travel for individuals who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, regardless of the individual’s vaccination status?

A: Yes. Agencies should not approve official travel for an individual who has come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, for 10 days after the close contact. In the rare circumstances where the agency has an urgent mission-critical need for the individual who had a close contact to undertake official travel during that time period, the agency should instruct the individual to wear a well-fitting mask when around others for the duration of the travel during the 10 days.

Q: How should an agency determine which protocol its employees should follow after a close contact, given that protocols vary based on vaccination status?

A: If an agency does not yet have processes and systems in place for determining whether their employees are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, including recommended booster shots, agencies should share information about the quarantine safety protocols with their employees, and employees should follow the protocol that applies to them. Once an agency has processes and systems in place to determine whether employees are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, including recommended booster shots, agencies can treat individuals who have not provided information or documentation of booster shots as not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines for purposes of applying safety protocols.

Q: What if agencies determine that an individual is unable to quarantine due to significant operational considerations, such as the nature of the employee’s work?

A: Should agencies identify certain limited functions or roles where individuals are absolutely unable to quarantine due to significant operational considerations, such as the nature of the employee’s work, the agency should consult with their COVID-19 Coordination Team and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Generally, in these rare instances, those employees who would otherwise quarantine would instead take other precautions for 10 full days from the date they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, including wearing a well-fitting mask when around others (see FAQs on mask-wearing) and, to the extent possible, avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities and gyms where they may be unmasked around others, avoiding people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and avoiding nursing homes and other high-risk settings.

Q: What should agencies instruct individuals with probable or confirmed COVID-19 to do?

A: Any individual with probable or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, should isolate at home, consistent with CDC recommendations on isolation and the workplace safety protocols set forth by their agency, and monitor their symptoms.

This includes people who have a positive viral test for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, and people with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results or have not been tested. People with symptoms should isolate even if they do not know if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Q: When should an agency allow an individual to return to a Federal workplace or interact with members of the public as part of their official duties after they have had COVID-19?

A: Individuals who had COVID-19 and had symptoms can end their isolation after 5 full days from the onset of symptoms if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, their other symptoms have improved, and they have met any agency testing requirements. Note that loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​. Those individuals who end their isolation after 5 full days should continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days.

Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and never developed symptoms can end isolation after 5 full days after their positive COVID-19 test, assuming they have not developed symptoms and comply with any agency testing requirements. Such an individual should continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days after the end of their 5-day quarantine. If they develop symptoms at any point, they should start a 5-day isolation period over, with day 0 being their first day of symptoms.

As part of agency testing protocols, agencies may require that an individual take a viral antigen test prior to returning to a Federal workplace or interacting with the public as part of their official duties after isolating. Individuals should only collect a test sample if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms have improved. If their test result is positive, they should continue to isolate until day 10. If their test result is negative and 5 full days have passed since they began their isolation, they can return to their workplace or begin to interact with the public as part of their official duties. Such an individual should continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days after the end of their 5-day quarantine.

As part of agency testing protocols, agencies may have employees take antigen tests twice over a three-day period with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours between tests, prior to returning to a Federal workplace or interacting with the public as part of their official duties after isolating. In determining whether to use a two-test approach, agencies should consider operational issues such as workforce availability, the nature of the individual’s work environment, as well as availability of funding to support diagnostic testing through the use of viral tests among isolating employees.

CDC’s setting-specific guidance provides additional recommendations for settings such as congregate settings and healthcare settings; where there is a conflict with more general guidance, setting-specific guidance should be followed. CDC generally recommends a 10-day isolation period for certain congregate settings (including correctional or detention facilities) that have a high risk of secondary transmission. Decisions to shorten isolation in these settings should be made in consultation with State, local, Tribal, or territorial health departments and should take into consideration the context and characteristics of the facility. The recommendations above do not apply to healthcare professionals.

Note that this guidance does not supersede applicable Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

Q: When should an individual who was severely ill with COVID-19 or has a weakened immune system end isolation?

A: People who are severely ill with COVID-19 (including those who were hospitalized or required intensive care or ventilation support) and people with compromised immune systems need to isolate for at least 10 days. Individuals should consult with their healthcare provider regarding when they should end isolation.

Q: What steps should individuals take after ending isolation?

A: Even after ending isolation, for 10 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of a positive viral test for asymptomatic individuals, an individual who has ended their isolation should wear a well-fitting mask when around others (see FAQs on mask-wearing), avoid eating and drinking around others, avoid environments such as dining facilities and gyms where they may be unmasked around others, avoid travel, avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and avoid nursing homes and other high-risk settings.

Q: What if a Federal employee must undertake urgent mission-critical travel during days 6-10 after their first day of symptoms or the day of a positive viral test for an asymptomatic individual?

A: If an agency determines that an employee absolutely must undertake urgent mission-critical travel during days 6-10 after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of a positive test for an asymptomatic individual, the agency should instruct the employee to take other precautions for the entire duration of their travel, including wearing a well-fitting mask when around others (see FAQs on mask-wearing) and, to the extent possible, avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities and gyms where they may be unmasked around others, avoiding people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, and avoiding nursing homes and other high-risk settings.