We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. Why trust us?

How Long Should You Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure? The New CDC Tool Will Tell You

Experts say the new tool is “long overdue.”

  • The CDC released a new online quarantine calculator to help people determine their isolation and quarantine status after exposure to COVID-19.
  • The tool is not designed for those who are immunocompromised or severely ill with COVID-19.
  • Experts hope that the tool will be helpful and encourage people to continue to follow CDC guidelines if exposed to the coronavirus.

    If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you aren’t quite sure if you need to quarantine or isolate yourself due to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally has a definitive answer for you. The CDC recently released a new digital tool: the quarantine calculator. It’s a new website feature that allows users to answer a few short questions to determine if they need to quarantine or isolate due to exposure, regardless of what strain of COVID-19 you have.

        According to the CDC, the tool is designed so “people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 can use this tool to determine if they need to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.” They note that the calculator does not apply to certain groups and high-risk settings.

        How to use the quarantine and isolation calculator

        The main CDC page with the quarantine and isolation calculator tool looks similar to other COVID-19 CDC landing pages you’ve probably used in the past. When you get to the quarantine and isolation calculator and select “get started,” a chat box pops up that allows for users to answer a few questions to determine if they need to quarantine or isolate.

        The chatbox first asks if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 or if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms. Depending on your answer, you’ll be routed to additional questions about when your exposure was, symptoms you have, vaccination status, and more. Then, the chatbox will respond with an answer, telling you if you need to quarantine or isolate.

        As a reminder, symptoms of mild COVID-19 include:

        • Fever or chills
        • Cough
        • Lost sense of smell or taste
        • Fatigue
        • Sputum production, congestion, and runny nose
        • Sore throat
        • Aches, pains (like back pain), and painful headaches
        • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

          Severe symptoms of COVID-19 include:

          • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
          • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
          • Confusion or inability to wake up or stay awake
          • Bluish lips or face

            What do experts think about this new tool?

            “Creating this tool is an excellent step forward to standardize and simplify the recommendations,” says Robert Quigley, M.D., D.Phil., an immunologist specializing in infectious disease and Global Medical Director of International SOS.

            Though he says the tool is “long overdue,” he applauds the CDC for finally releasing a tool like this because the website itself can be very difficult to navigate and many of the rules and regulations around COVID-19 isolation and quarantine keep changing. This has been especially frustrating for those who are sick and aren’t getting a definitive answer.

            “People ask me questions like this every single day, so in many ways, it helps,” says Robert G. Lahita, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of Immunity Strong. He adds that he likes that the calculator will tell you not just if you need to isolate or quarantine, but for how long.

            But Dr. Lahita worries the technology may be a little difficult for some people to access or even more confusing than just clear guidelines. Additionally, there are still loopholes that the CDC hasn’t addressed that may cause confusion, he says, like what kind of test (rapid COVID-19 test versus a PCR test) someone should be taking when their quarantine period is over.

            It’s also important to note that Dr. Quigley encourages anyone who is immunocompromised or severely ill to talk with their healthcare provider for a more individualized approach.

            When you should quarantine

            Quarantining (staying at home and away from other people) is typically for someone who may have come in contact with COVID-19 but does not have symptoms or a positive test result yet.

            If you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (meaning you have a full series of vaccinations and one booster dose) or have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, the CDC says you do not need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms. You should also get tested for COVID-19 at least five days after exposure.

            If you are not up to date on your vaccinations (or are unvaccinated altogether), the CDC says to stay home for at least five full days and wear a well-fitting mask when around others, like KN95 and N95 face masks. You should also get tested at least five days after exposure.

            When you should isolate

            If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for the virus with or without symptoms, the CDC recommends isolating yourself from others, regardless of your vaccination status. You should also get tested after five days, and wear a well-fitting mask around others. Those who are in isolation should stay home and away from others in a designated area and should use a separate bathroom from others, if possible.

            The CDC recommends you isolate for five days, and you can end isolation after five full days if you don’t develop symptoms or are fever-free for 14 hours and your symptoms are improving. If you became very ill from COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system, the CDC suggests isolating for 10 days and checking with your doctor before ending isolation.

            The bottom line

            Dr. Quigley reminds everyone that they can still get quite sick from COVID-19, and following the CDC’s guidelines to either quarantine or isolate is essential to keeping yourself and others safe and healthy. “We have to be responsible with our behaviors and recognize this is still a disease,” he says.

            If you find that some of these guidelines are confusing, it may be helpful to try the CDC Quarantine and Isolation calculator to determine your best course of action.

            This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
            Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
            More From COVID-19