New quarantine guidelines adopted for close contacts


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently gave guidance to public health officials that would allow for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases to reduce their quarantine times if they met specific criteria. The CDC says local public health authorities will make the final decision about how long quarantine should last, based on local conditions and needs.

Following the CDC’s announcement of updated quarantine guidance, the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) immediately adopted a 10-day quarantine for symptomless close contacts. After reviewing the feasibility and safety of other quarantine options, the Missoula City-County Health Department is officially adopting the following:

• A 10-day quarantine for symptomless close contacts.

• A 10-day quarantine for close contacts with symptoms who test negative for COVID-19.

• The 14-day quarantine will remain in place for long-term care facilities/senior living due to the high-risk of an outbreak in those facilities.

All those released from a 10-day quarantine must still monitor themselves for symptoms on days 11-14. Although the chances are low, it is still possible for the virus to be present in your body and reach infectious levels on those days. The CDC still endorses a 14-day quarantine and recognizes quarantines shorter than 14 days give a small possibility of spreading the virus but offered these quarantine alternatives as lengthy quarantines put financial stress on many families.

The CDC gave a shorter seven-day quarantine option for communities to use at their discretion. To meet that criteria, a person has to remain symptomless and must get a negative test result on day five or later after their exposure. MCCHD looked at multiple solutions to try to implement a seven-day quarantine, but ultimately found no viable option to adopt it with our current resources.

This is largely due to our inability to test asymptomatic close contacts and the turnaround time for test results. MCCHD will also not accept negative tests from private clinics given on day five or later to shorten quarantine for close contacts for the sake of having one clear blanket rule and as to not overwhelm private clinics with close contacts seeking testing.

MCCHD would also like to make it clear that even though frontline workers have started receiving vaccines, the pandemic is not over. Complying with quarantine and isolation is still critical to the health of our community. We are several months away from the general public being eligible for inoculation. While the end is in sight, precautionary actions are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately saving lives.


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