Isolation vs. quarantine: What to know about the latest guidance

Posted at 4:45 PM, Jan 13, 2022

We’re taking a closer look at the new guidance for COVID-19 isolation and quarantine.

Isolation is for people who are already sick. Quarantine is for people who are not sick but may have been exposed.

Whether you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or you’ve had it, you’ve had to do the math on how long you need to stay home.

The new isolation and quarantine guidelines handed down last month from the CDC and State Health Department have left some questioning what it means for them.

“Absolutely confusing. 100%,” said Kristi Miller who is visiting the Central Coast.

“I think it's confusing because you hear one thing and then it's like another thing,” added another visitor, Brittney Cole.

Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases that’s overwhelming local contact tracers, San Luis Obispo County Public Health has suspended its individual guidance for community members.

Instead, Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said during this week’s County Board of Supervisors meeting that if you test positive, you can isolate at home for five days instead of 10.

“We want to make sure that people understand that it still is a 10 day period of taking extra precautions so there needs to be strict masking wherever you go during that full 10 day period,” Dr. Borenstein explained.

She said it’s also important to note that leaving your home after five days is only with a negative test, ideally confirmed with an antigen test also known as a rapid test.

“So if you are symptom-free, you have a negative test, and you are diligent about mask-wearing after you've tested positive for COVID, you may leave your home on day six,” she said.

If you still have symptoms after day five, however, it’s recommended that you wait 10 days to leave home.

For those exposed to COVID-19 and up to date on the vaccine and booster, Dr. Borenstein says you do not need to quarantine.

“Certainly helps for people that don't have any of the complications or issues that go on with it and if the science says it's okay, I believe it,” said Terry Speizer of Pismo Beach.

If you’re not vaccinated and are exposed, it’s recommended to quarantine for five days at home followed by a negative test result. If it’s positive, you’ll want to wait a couple more days to test again.

According to the California Department of Public Health, health care personnel who test positive and are asymptomatic may return to work immediately without isolation and without further testing.