Sympton versus Testing Based Strategy

As of July 20, the CDC has updated its guidance for when individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms may end home isolation.  The CDC no longer recommends a test-based approach (with limited exceptions, described below) and has made key changes to its guidance on a symptoms-based approach.

These guidelines are important to consider in deciding when it is safe for an employee who has experienced symptoms to return to work.

Previously, the CDC had advised than when an individual tested positive but was not experiencing symptoms, the individual should isolate at home for 10 days following the positive test.  The CDC no longer recommends this test-based approach in most cases.

The CDC has updated its symptoms-based approach as follows.  An individual experiencing COVID symptoms may end home isolation when:

  1. 10 days have passed since symptoms began;
  2. The individual has not experienced a fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication); and
  3. Other symptoms have improved

Previously, the CDC had advised waiting until 72 hours had passed with no fever; this number has been reduced to 24 hours.  Additionally, the previous CDC guidance provided that the individual should wait until respiratory symptoms specifically had improved; now, the CDC has removed the term “respiratory” to address expanding list of symptoms associated with COVID.

The CDC still recommends a test-based approach for individuals who are severely immunocompromised.

Locally, the California Department of Health has yet to update its home isolation guidance based on the new CDC changes.  It still recommends waiting for 72 hours with no fever and addresses respiratory symptoms specifically, and still provides for a test-based approach.  The same is true for Orange CountyLos Angeles County has updated its symptoms-based approach to match the CDC’s, but also still provides for a test-based approach.

It is possible that local authorities will modify their policies in the coming days to bring them in line with CDC’s findings.  We will continue to provide updates as the situation develops.