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Revised Guidance from CDC on COVID-19 Quarantine

On December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued additional guidance regarding quarantine timeframes after COVID-19 exposure. The Arkansas Department of Health subsequently adopted the alternative quarantine procedures. The revision states that coronavirus quarantines may be shortened to seven or 10 days under certain circumstances.

The CDC and Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) continue to recommend a 14-day quarantine period to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, both entities now endorse two “acceptable alternative quarantine periods”:

  • Individuals can end their quarantine after seven days if they test negative for COVID-19 during the last two days of seven-day period and report no symptoms with daily monitoring. The ADH notes that send-off PCR tests are preferred, although rapid PCR or antigen tests are acceptable.

  • Individuals can end their quarantine after 10 days without testing if the individuals continuously monitor their symptoms and have none during the 10-day period.

Under both of these alternatives, the ADH requires that individuals continue to monitor their symptoms until 14 days have elapsed, wear masks, and maintain social distancing. If individuals develop symptoms, they should return to quarantine and seek medical advice. Individuals should begin to count on the day of the last known exposure to a person with COVID-19.

The ADH has also confirmed that these alternative procedures fall under its mandatory quarantine order for those exposed to COVID-19. For employers this means if you do elect to allow employees to utilize these alternate procedures, the state’s mandatory quarantine order will be applicable for FFCRA leave purposes. The ADH has also indicated that employers should consider the type of environment employees work in when utilizing these procedures. The ADH recommends that employees quarantine for the entire 14-day period if their jobs require interaction or close contact with others.

According to the CDC, these reduced quarantine periods do present a “small residual risk,” but they also reduce the burden on individuals who quarantine, including economic hardship for those who cannot work remotely. The CDC also predicts that greater compliance with these revised guidelines will outweigh the risks and ultimately result in fewer infections.

Additionally, the CDC recommends the following actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • universal face mask use,

  • physical distancing,

  • avoiding nonessential indoor spaces,

  • increasing testing,

  • prompt quarantine of exposed persons,

  • safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death,

  • protecting essential workers,

  • postponing travel,

  • enhancing ventilation and hand hygiene, and

  • achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

In response to these latest developments, particularly concerning the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination, CGWG attorney Greg Northen spoke to KATV Channel 7 on the impact the vaccination will have on employers. “The EEOC has taken the position that a virus such as COVID does constitute a direct threat to a workforce and as such, employers are able to determine that vaccines are mandatory to protect their workforce from outbreaks,” said Northen. To read or watch this interview, in which Northen further addresses the COVID-19 vaccination and employers, click here.

CGWG will continue to monitor the latest COVID-19 developments. If you have a question about the revised CDC guidelines or the COVID-19 vaccination’s potential effects on businesses, contact an attorney at our Firm.

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