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Your vaccination status determines whether you should quarantine if exposed to COVID-19

Some people should still quarantine for at least five days after a COVID-19 exposure, according to CDC guidance. But this depends on vaccination status.
Credit: AP
FILE - DeMarcus Hicks, a recent graduate of nursing school who is working as a contractor with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, gives a person a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, Dec. 20, 2021, on the first day of a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Federal Way, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

On Dec. 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 isolation and quarantine policy for the general public in response to the omicron variant. This included updates based on vaccination status to the recommended quarantine period for anyone who is exposed to COVID-19. 

There was a lot of confusion following the CDC’s announcement. Several VERIFY viewers have reached out about what that now means for quarantine guidelines.  

THE QUESTION

Should you quarantine if you’re exposed to someone with COVID-19?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

This claim needs context. Guidance from the CDC for quarantining when exposed to COVID-19 depends on a person’s vaccination status and whether they have been infected with the virus in the last 90 days. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 14-day quarantine period if testing is not available, though this can be shortened with testing. Some groups may be exempt from quarantine altogether, according to the WHO.

VERIFY explains the quarantine guidance available based on vaccination status. 

WHAT WE FOUND

WHO GUIDANCE 

If COVID-19 testing is not available, the WHO recommends that someone quarantine for 14 days from the last contact with a confirmed or probable case. The agency does not outline whether a person’s vaccination status impacts this guidance. However, the WHO says it is possible to shorten the quarantine period with testing. Some countries have adopted policies of adding testing using rapid antigen tests or PCR testing at day 7 or 10, the WHO wrote in an emailed statement. 

Health authorities within the government may consider that people who have recently been infected with COVID-19 in the last three to six months or who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could be at lower risk of further infection and may be exempt from quarantine, according to guidance posted on the WHO website

CDC GUIDANCE 

According to the CDC, quarantine refers to a person staying away from others when they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Isolation, on the other hand, impacts people who are sick or have been infected with the virus, even if they are asymptomatic. 

The CDC’s quarantine guidance for those exposed to a person with COVID-19 differs based on vaccination status and whether the person exposed was recently infected with the virus. Day one of quarantine is the first full day after a person’s last contact with someone who has had COVID-19.

If you are unvaccinated or haven’t gotten a booster shot

Yes, you should quarantine for at least five days. 

The CDC recommends that those who were exposed to COVID-19 and are not up-to-date on their vaccinations, and those who are unvaccinated, stay home and quarantine for at least five days. The agency defines people who are “up-to-date on vaccines” as those who have received a booster dose or additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised, the CDC says

Many people can receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot five months after their second dose, according to the CDC. Those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots should wait six months after their second dose to get the booster shot

People in this group should also get tested for COVID-19 at least five days after they had close contact with someone with COVID-19, regardless of whether the person exposed develops symptoms. The CDC currently defines a close contact as someone who was less than 6 feet away from a person infected with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour-period. 

But even if five days pass with no symptoms, there are still precautions you should take.

The CDC also recommends that people watch for symptoms until 10 days after they last had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, along with wearing a well-fitted mask in the home or in public during that time. If a person develops COVID-19 symptoms, they should immediately isolate themselves and get tested. 

If you've had all vaccines for which you're eligible or had COVID-19 in the past 90 days

No, you do not need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms.

Those who are vaccinated and have received their booster shot, or had a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 90 days, do not need to stay home if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, the CDC says in its quarantine guidance.  

The CDC still recommends that people within this group get tested for COVID-19 at least five days after they had close contact, continue to watch for symptoms and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. Additionally, a person should immediately isolate themselves and get tested if they develop symptoms.

If you are a child ages 5 to 17 who is fully vaccinated

No, you do not need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms.

According to the CDC's guidance for COVID-19 prevention in schools, children ages 5 to 17 who have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines do not need to quarantine either if they come into close contact with a COVID-19 case. A primary series for this group consists of two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The CDC now recommends an additional dose of the Pfizer vaccine for immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11. Additionally, children ages 12 to 17 can get a Pfizer booster shot five months after completing the primary series of vaccines, the CDC says.

 The CDC still recommends that children in this group get tested for COVID-19 at least five days after they had close contact, continue to watch for symptoms and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. Additionally, they should immediately isolate themselves and get tested if they develop symptoms.

More from VERIFY: Fact-checking Supreme Court justices' claims about flu deaths and kids with COVID-19 in ‘serious condition’

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