Medical Technology

COVID-Positive, or Exposed? What should I do next?

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidelines in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Many people are currently in the same issue like before. A friend or family member has been found to be positive for COVID-19 and the holiday celebration or visit or return to work are just days away. Now what?

The CDC issued a new guideline on Monday that reduces the recommended quarantine and isolation durations for the general public. This comes after the agency had previously cut the timeframe for health professionals.

WebMD reached out to two specialists in infectious diseases to answer frequently asked questions in these situations.

If you have tested positive for COVID, what next?

“If you’ve found yourself positive, you’re infected. In the moment you’re either symptoms-affected or pre-symptomatically infected”, says Paul A. Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center and a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In that case you’ll need to be isolated for 5 days, according to the latest CDC guidance. (This timeframe has been reduced from 10 days to 5 days).

Isolation is the process of separating infected people from their peers. Quarantine is what you should do if you’re infected by COVID or have been exposed to it.

The new CDC guidelines permit the removal of the mask and return to normal after 5 days.

Amesh Adalja MD, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Amesh Adalja MD, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health who are positive for HIV should inform their family members and friends.

According to the CDC the decision to introduce the shorter time for quarantine was prompted by research “demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 infection occurs in the beginning stages of the disease, typically within the first 1-2 days before symptoms appear and for the next 2-3 days thereafter.”

What should you do if are exposed to COVID-infected people?

Adalja states that if they have been vaccinated and their immunity has increased there is no need for them to be quarantined. However the CDC guidance recommends that those exposed wear a properly-fitting face mask for at least 10 days following exposure.

For all others, including those who have not been vaccinated and are more than 6 months away from their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose or more than two months after their J&J dose the CDC recommends a quarantine for 5 days , and wearing masks for 5 days following that.

On a practical level, Adalja says he thinks those who are vaccination-free but not yet boosted can also skip the quarantine and wear a mask for 10 days. Offit also agrees. Since many exposed people have difficulties in obtaining a quarantine, Offit advises those exposed who don’t follow the guidance to be sure to wear masks for 10 days when they are indoors. Another option is suggested by the CDC If a five-day quarantine seems impossible the person who was exposed must wear a mask for ten days around other people.

However, if a person who was exposed develops symptoms, they will be placed in the category of those who are infected and follow that guidance, Offit says.

When should the person who was exposed get checked?

Offit recommends that you wait at least two days following exposure. “The virus will reproduce itself.”

Testing should be done by those exposed at least once, Adalja says.

“But there is data that can be used to guide them actions, but this information is not from the CDC.” Home tests are sufficient for this reason.”

At what point can the affected person be able to mix safely with others?

Adalja says, “Technically, it is possible to live for 10 days with no mask, and 5 days without masks if you are suffering from.” “I think this could also be influenced by home tests negatives as a guideline as to whether you should mixwith others.”


CDC: “CDC Updates, Shortens Recommended Isolation Period for the General Population.”

Paul A. Offit, MD, director, Vaccine Education Center, and professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Amesh Adalja MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Baltimore

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