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Alabama Department of Public Health reduces length of quarantine for some COVID-19 close contacts

As of Dec. 11, the quarantine time for "close contacts" to people with COVID-19 can be as little as 10 days, according to CDC guidelines for COVID exposure.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has announced some changes to how quarantine for COVID-19 "close contacts" will be handled and how long the required quarantine is.

For people with close contacts to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, quarantine can end after the tenth day for some individuals without testing, provided they have experienced no symptoms during the daily required monitoring period and they follow the additional requirements, which include monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19

  • Daily symptom monitoring must not show any clinical evidence of COVID-19 throughout the full 10 days of quarantine.
  • Daily symptom monitoring past 10 days must continue through quarantine Day 14.
  • Persons must strictly adhere to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions through quarantine Day 14. They must immediately self-isolate and contact their local public health department or healthcare provider to report if COVID-19 symptoms develop at any time after their last known exposure, and testing should be considered with any of the following symptoms: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.

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What is "close contact"?

The CDC defines "close contact" as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) additionally includes persons with direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case, direct care for a patient with probable or confirmed COVID-19 disease without using proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and other situations as indicated by local risk assessments. 

ADPH says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked states to review their COVID-19 situations, including their ability to handle an increase in demand for SARS-CoV-2 testing, to consider reducing the length of home quarantine. 

Why is the Alabama quarantine time 10 days and not seven days?

The CDC offered states the option of ending quarantine after seven days with testing, but ADPH determined this option is not feasible at this time due to a number of factors that include significant community spread that is not adequately mitigated, high case numbers, the increasing COVID-19 positivity rate in Alabama, and disparities and shortages in testing availability in areas of the state.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris noted that ADPH will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate whether it may eventually be feasible to adopt an option to shorten the quarantine period to seven days after an individual receives a negative COVID-19 test. The Alabama State Health Officer establishes state quarantine and isolation requirements.

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Health officials caution that the 10-day quarantine option is not without risk, and a 14-day quarantine is optimal. That is because the residual post-quarantine transmission risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 is estimated to be between 1 and 10 percent when quarantine ends after Day 10. 

Quarantine requirements for residents of long-term care and correctional facilities will not change from the current 14-day period.

Should I be worried about catching COVID-19?

With the upcoming holiday period, ADPH asks Alabama residents to continue consistent social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and surface cleaning. Unnecessary travel and gatherings beyond one’s household should be avoided, especially by people over age 65 and those who have significant health conditions.

For additional information concerning the CDC’s quarantine guidance, please go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html.

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