By Adam R. YoungMelissa A. Ortega, A. Scott HeckerJames L. CurtisBrent I. ClarkBenjamin D. Briggs, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: On August 11, 2022, the CDC, through a press release, eased its COVID-19 guidance to “help us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” while acknowledging that the pandemic is not over.

Citing the fact that many Americans now have some level of immunity to COVID-19 and the arsenal of tools to combat COVID-19, including vaccinations, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) eased its COVID-19 guidance. Specifically, the CDC eased isolation recommendations for individuals who are not up to date with their vaccines, individuals who are exposed to COVID-19, and individuals who have or suspect they may have COVID-19.

Updated Guidance for Individuals who are Not Up to Date with Vaccines

The CDC now recommends the same quarantine and isolation guidelines for those who are not up to date with vaccines as those who are up to date with vaccines.

Previously, the CDC recommended that individuals who were not up to date on their vaccines and were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 isolate for at least 5 days. Now, all individuals regardless of vaccination status, do not need to isolate if they are in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Updated Guidance for Individuals who are Exposed to COVID-19

Previously, the CDC recommended quarantine for people who were exposed to COVID-19. Now, the CDC solely recommends that individuals exposed to COVID-19 wear a “high-quality” mask for 10 days and test on day 5, regardless of vaccination status.

Updated Guidance for Individuals who Have or Suspect they May Have COVID-19

For those who test positive, the CDC is now recommending isolation for at least 5 days (down from 10 days). If a person must be around others in their home or in public, the CDC recommends the use of a high-quality mask. If, after 5 days, an individual is fever-free for at least 24-hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, and other symptoms (if any) are improving, those individuals may end isolation, but should continue to wear a high-quality mask through day 10 and avoid being around other who may be at risk of serious illness until at least day 11.

Individuals who test positive and are experiencing moderate illness, i.e. difficulty breathing, or severe illness, i.e. hospitalization, should isolate at least through day 10. For those who experience severe illness or have weakened immune systems, the CDC recommends they consult with their healthcare provider before ending the isolation period.

For individuals who end isolation after testing positive but symptoms worsen, the CDC recommends they restart the isolation period.

For individuals who are sick and suspect they may have COVID-19 but do not have positive test results, the CDC also recommends isolation until they obtain a negative test result.

The CDC continues to promote the importance of staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines to protect individuals from serious illness, hospitalization, and death and emphasizes that social distancing is also one of many components recommended to protect oneself and others. The CDC also updated its Quarantine and Isolation guidance for individuals with COVID-19 and will update the Quarantine and Isolation Calculator, which will be available here when updated.

Many employers are reevaluating their policies in light of the recent CDC changes.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.