Been exposed to someone with COVID-19? DOH updates guidance on quarantine

HARRISBURG – As guidelines frequently change on COVID-19, it can be hard to know what to do if/when you’ve been exposed.

The Department of Health has notified healthcare providers 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 that 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.

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 Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel 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.

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,” Levine said. “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.”

Levine stressed that this does not change the need for Pennsylvanians to continue to wear masks, wash hands, avoid all gatherings and social distance. These efforts must continue to stop the spread of COVID-19

To reduce the spread of the flu and COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.