After testing positive for COVID and spending five days in quarantine (which probably seems like an eternity), you can’t wait to get back to your normal life (while wearing a mask, of course). However, new data suggests that those five days you spent quarantining, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines may not be enough.
What did they find?
In two new preprints, scientists found that people infected with COVID-19 remained infectious after five days. In fact, one from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston showed that one-quarter of COVID patients may still be infectious eight days after first testing positive.
President Joe Biden’s “above and beyond” approach after testing positive for COVID, also serves as an indication that we should be quaranting longer. Biden first tested positive last Thursday, but said he would wait until he tests negative before returning to the public. Ultimately, he spent five days in isolation, but only returned to the public after testing negative for COVID Wednesday.
This evidence is poking holes in the guidance that so many Americans rely on to determine when it’s safe to return to work, school, or other everyday activities.
Knowing when to safely return to normal life is key as COVID is currently spreading like wildfire, with the rise of the Omicron BA.5 sub-variant.
How long should you isolate after testing positive for COVID?
If five days isn’t enough, how long should you quarantine?
The study suggests that extending the isolation period from five to ten days may be the safer route.
“There is not data to support five days or anything shorter than ten days [of isolation],” Amy Barczak, a physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital Infectious Disease Division, who contributed research to the study, tells Nature.
A set number of isolation days aside, your safest bet is to remain in quarantine until