28 December 2021

CDC Shortens COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods

Yesterday evening, December 27, 2021, the CDC changed its recommendations for isolation and quarantine periods for the general public.  In Michigan, COVID-related job-protected leave is tied directly to the CDC guidelines.  Therefore, employers should pay careful attention to these changes, as they allow employees to return to work sooner.  For the quarantine period after exposure, the CDC does not distinguish between persons who are unvaccinated and those who are vaccinated but have not received a booster within the recommended timeframe (six months after a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series, two months after a Johnson & Johnson single dose).  The new recommendations are:

Positive COVID-19 Test (Isolation):

  • The person should isolate for five days after a positive test
  • If after five days, one has no symptoms or has had symptoms but they are resolving and no fever, the isolation period ends
  • The individual should wear a mask around others for an additional five days

Exposed to COVID-19 (Quarantine):

*Unvaccinated; OR
*Received second dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine more than six months ago with no booster; OR
*Received J&J vaccine more than two months ago with no booster
*Five days of quarantine
*Five days of wearing a mask around others
*Received second dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine within the last six months; OR
*Received J&J vaccine within the last two months; OR
*Fully vaccinated and have received a booster
*No quarantine
*10 days of wearing a mask around others

The new quarantine recommendation includes a caveat when “a 5-day quarantine is not feasible” after exposure, a person in that situation must wear a mask at all times when around others for 10 days. The CDC does not explain who determines when quarantine is not feasible, or how to determine if quarantine is not feasible.

As a reminder, Michigan Public Act 238 defines “isolation period” as the number of days an individual must be in isolation after displaying signs of COVID-19, “as prescribed in the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines regarding COVID-19.” Similarly, “quarantine period” is defined as the “recommended number of days that an individual be in quarantine after the individual is in close contact as prescribed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines regarding COVID -19.” Under the same statute, an employee must not report to work until the isolation or quarantine period (as defined by the CDC) has passed, and if symptomatic, the employee’s primary symptoms have improved and 24 hours have passed without fever; or the employee tests negative. Thus, employers may change the amount of days they permit employees to be absent from work, consistent with the new CDC recommendations, without running afoul of the Michigan statute. If an employee is under the care of a healthcare professional who recommends a longer isolation or quarantine period for the employee, employers may need to allow the employee time off consistent with the provider’s recommendation.

Employers with staff in other states should check the relevant state laws regarding isolation and quarantine of employees, or refer to Miller Johnson’s Multistate National Employment Law Compliance Practice Group for guidance.