As Covid cases increase, here are CDC guidelines for testing, isolation

A wave of cases of the BA.2 omicron subvariant seems to finally hit the US

Although the country’s Covid admissions are at a record low level, the average daily number of cases has increased by 9 percent in the last two weeks, according to NBC News’ statement. Many experts agree that the true extent of the virus’s spread is far greater because infections are underestimated.

BA.2 accounts for about 86 percent of cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But some of the agency’s guidelines on masking, testing and isolation have changed since the big wave of omicron cases earlier this year.

For those who are again navigating what to do if you are exposed or test positive, here is what the CDC recommends.

When to wear a mask

  • Since February, the CDC has based masking guidelines on three measurements – hospital capacity, new Covid cases and hospitalizations. Check your county’s risk level using the agency’s online tool to determine if masks are needed. Immunocompromised people and people in their households should consult physicians about masking in middle-risk counties.

If you have been exposed to one that has tested positive

  • Persons who have been unvaccinated or have not been boosted must be quarantined for at least five days. If symptoms occur, get a test as soon as possible. If you are asymptomatic, get a test after five days. Either way, this group should wear masks around others and avoid traveling for at least 10 days.
  • Vaccinated and boosted people do not need to be quarantined unless they develop symptoms. If symptoms occur, get a test as soon as possible. If not, test after five days and wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Those who tested positive for Covid within 90 days prior to their exposure do not need to be quarantined or tested, but they should still wear masks around others for 10 days.

If you have covid symptoms

  • Get a test and isolate yourself for five days (your first day of symptoms is considered day zero). Wear a mask around others and avoid traveling for at least 10 days.

If you test positive

  • Isolate for at least five days after your positive test. Wear a mask around others and avoid traveling for at least 10 days. If you develop symptoms in the middle of isolation, the five-day period starts all over again, with your first day of symptoms becoming day zero.
  • Notify your close contacts – all you saw at less than 6 feet away for at least 15 minutes during the two days before your symptoms started, or before you tested positive. Do this even if your contact was wearing a mask.

During isolation with a Covid infection

  • If you live with others, try living in a separate room and using a separate bathroom. Wear a mask around everyone else in the household, wash your hands often, clean surfaces regularly and avoid sharing things like utensils or towels. Open doors and windows, and turn on fans to improve airflow. Consider filtering the air in your home, either through settings on your HVAC system or by using a portable air purifier.
  • Get hydrated and rest. You can take over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, to relieve symptoms such as fever or muscle aches.
  • People at high risk for serious illness should seek treatment quickly. Test to Treat sites offer prescriptions for antiviral pills to eligible people who test positive. The National Institutes of Health prefers Paxlovid, though Test to Treat sites also offer Lagevrio, another pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Both should be taken within the first five days after symptoms.
  • Go to the hospital if you develop severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest or pale, gray or blue skin, lips or nail beds.

When to leave the insulation

  • If you are asymptomatic, you can complete the isolation at least five days after your positive test.
  • If you have been fever-free (without antipyretic medication) for 24 hours and your symptoms improve noticeably, you can also finish the isolation after five days.
  • If you have access to a quick test, use it five days after your first positive test. If it is negative, you can finish the isolation, but you should continue to wear a mask around others for a total of 10 days after the onset of symptoms or your first positive test. If you test positive again, extend your isolation to a total of 10 days. To improve the accuracy of rapid tests, it is best to take two, with a distance of 24 to 48 hours. PCR tests can remain positive for up to 12 weeks, so they are not useful for testing outside isolation.
  • Immunocompromised individuals should isolate for 10 to 20 days after the onset of symptoms, depending on the advice of their physician.
  • The CDC’s ‘quarantine and isolation calculator’ can help you decide when to stay or leave home based on your circumstances.

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