Here is what University of West Georgia students need to know about the new 5-day quarantine and isolation guidelines. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recently shortened the isolation and quarantine guidelines by 5 days following the CDC’s recommendations released in December. These guidelines apply to all students, faculty and staff at UWG.
The differences between isolation and quarantine are important to differentiate to understand the guidelines. Quarantine applies to individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19, while isolation refers to individuals who have tested positive for the virus.
Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should now isolate for 5 days, according to the new guidelines. Following the isolation, the infected individual can return to normal activities while wearing a mask for another five days if their symptoms are resolving or they are without fever for 24 hours.
For a COVID-19 exposure, these new guidelines differ for unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated individuals who have become vaccinated within the past six months (or last two months with the J&J vaccine) do not need to quarantine at home. Instead, the DPH encourages mask wearing for a full 10 days and testing on day five.
Unvaccinated individuals and individuals who became vaccinated more than six months ago (or the last two months with the J&J) should quarantine at home for five days, followed by five days of mask wearing. Testing on day five is recommended.
The CDC cites research demonstrating that most COVID-19 transmissions occur early on in the course of illness as a factor for the updated guidelines.
Dr. Eric Heine, Medical Director of Health Services at the University of West Georgia, said that even with this research, there are limitations and it is important for individuals to wear their mask for the full five days.
“There are several studies that the CDC used to come to these recommendations, but they also cite that there are limitations to the evidence from these studies,” said Dr. Heine. “Even the CDC recognizes that there can be ongoing viral transmission after five days, which is why they state that it is very important that (a) individuals’ symptoms must be improving and that (b) they wear a “well-fitting mask” for another five days while around other people.”
It is important that individuals be fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications to end the isolation to end the quarantine, according to Dr. Heine. Individuals who did not exhibit fever from the start of the infection can use the improvement of other symptoms to gauge progress.
“…The DPH recommends that the other symptoms (such as cough/congestion, body aches, etc.) should be improved before qualifying for the five-day option,” said Dr. Heine. “Loss of taste/smell, however, can last weeks to months.”
COVID-19 vaccinations and tests are provided free of charge to all students, faculty and staff at the UWG Health Center.