The Department of Health recently announced that, effective immediately, it has aligned its quarantine guidance for people exposed to COVID-19 with the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This provides an option for a 10-day quarantine without testing, or a seven-day quarantine with a negative test on or after day five of quarantine.
This guidance does not apply to healthcare settings or those living in certain congregate settings, such as nursing homes or prisons.
“We must stop the spread of this virus and quarantining once you have been exposed is essential,” said Secretary of Heath Dr. Rachel Levine. “The incubation period for COVID-19 remains at 14 days and it is still most protective to quarantine for the full two weeks. However, the CDC has affirmed that quarantine can end after 10 days if the person doesn’t develop symptoms, or after seven days if the person tests negative and has no symptoms.”
The department issued a Health Alert Network advisory for healthcare providers outlining how to implement the new quarantine guidance. Quarantine may not be shortened to less than seven days. CDC recommends that people who have been exposed monitor their symptoms for the full 14 days after their last exposure.
The recommendation for a 14-day quarantine was based on the incubation period of the virus. CDC’s intention with the option to shorten quarantine is to gain better compliance with quarantine and contact tracing activities.
“If you have been identified as a close contact to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, are in quarantine and have no symptoms, you may get a test as soon as your fifth day of quarantine. If the results are negative you may end your quarantine after the seventh day of quarantine,” said Levine. “However, you will need to wait for a negative test result to stop quarantining. Providers should know that people seeking tests who are symptomatic should be placed above those seeking tests to shorten their quarantine.”
This recommendation also applies to all quarantine orders, including the travel orders issued on Nov. 25 by Levine. She stressed this doesn’t change the need for Pennsylvanians to continue to wear masks, wash hands, avoid all gatherings and social distance.