Colorado following new CDC guidance for shorter quarantine period

By: - December 28, 2021 3:43 pm

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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment updated its COVID-19 quarantine isolation guidelines on Monday to match recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for a five-day isolation period for infected people who are asymptomatic.

That is down from the previously recommended 10-day isolation period. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and is asymptomatic on the fifth day of their isolation, they can exit isolation but should continue to wear a mask around others for an additional five days. 

“This change is based on data showing that the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness,” a release from CDPHE reads. 


There is also updated guidance on what people should do if exposed to COVID-19 but not necessarily infected. Unvaccinated people, people more than 6 months from their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine dose and people more than two months from their Johnson & Johnson vaccine should quarantine for five days and wear a mask for another five days following an exposure. 

Boosted people and people who recently completed their primary vaccine series don’t need to quarantine after an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

Both groups of people, however, should get tested five days following the exposure — or sooner if symptoms develop.

Post-Christmas uptick

The new CDPHE guidance also says that boosted health care workers who are asymptomatic don’t need to be excluded from work after a high-risk exposure. Health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 can return to work after seven days with a negative test, down from the previously recommended 10 days. 

That shortened quarantine for health care workers could be crucial to maximize staffing resources in already-strained Colorado hospitals, according to the Colorado Hospital Association.

“As we move into this Omicron-driven surge where breakthrough cases appear more likely to impact vaccinated health care workers, the staffing difficulties hospitals are already facing will be even greater. This updated guidance from the CDC will be incredibly important to Colorado hospitals and health systems,” a Dec. 28 statement from the association reads.

The association says it will use this new quarantine guidance in alignment with the activated crisis standards of care for staffing framework.

“Our focus will remain on the safety and health of our patients and employees, while also protecting our ability to provide care for our communities,” the statement reads.

These updated recommendations come as the omicron variant spreads in Colorado and hospitals are experiencing a slight uptick in patients following Christmas. As of Dec. 27, there were 1,018 hospitalized confirmed COVID-19 patients, up from 992 on Christmas Day. 

While there is no statewide mask mandate, Denver extended its mask requirement through Feb. 3.

“As the Omicron variant continues to spread during this holiday season, and hospital capacity remains strained, we simply cannot afford to let up now,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. 

Businesses that do not want to enforce a mask mandate can still choose to only admit vaccinated people.


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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.