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Impact of Shorter COVID-19 Quarantine on Workplaces

Coronavirus, Employment Law, Health, NYC

On Monday, the CDC announced changes to its recommended isolation and quarantine time from 10 days to 5 days for asymptomatic people with COVID-19. They recommend that people leaving isolation after 5 days continue to wear a mask for the following 5 days. The CDC also similarly updated its recommendations for those who have been exposed to others with COVID-19. For anyone who is unvaccinated or is more than 6 months from their second Moderna or Pfizer dose (or more than 2 months after their J&J vaccine) and has not yet gotten a booster shot, the CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by mask-wearing for 5 days. Individuals who have received a booster shot are asked to wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure but not to quarantine. [1]

The updates are based on the current science regarding the Omicron variant and what is currently known about the COVID-19 booster shot’s effectiveness. These shortened periods come at a time where many businesses face staffing issues due to infected or exposed employees having to isolate themselves for 10 days. Businesses can now update their existing COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols to reflect the CDC’s changes and should communicate them to their employees. [2]

This recommendation is coupled with evolving local regulations regarding vaccination status for employees. For example, beginning this week in New York City, all employees attending a workplace in-person, or interacting with the public in the course of business, must be at least partially vaccinated by Moderna or Pfizer shots or fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot. By February 10, 2022, all employees in New York City will have to be fully vaccinated (everyone must have received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna shots or one shot of Johnson & Johnson). [3]

These mandates will work to increase the vaccination status, while the CDC’s guidelines reduce the amount of time a vaccinated employee will have to isolate should they be exposed. In tandem, these changes will likely alleviate at least some of the staffing burdens New York businesses are facing this winter.

Businesses with staff in other states should check the relevant state and local laws regarding isolation and quarantine for employees.

[1] “CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Dec. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html. 

[2] Rivers, Nicole M., et al. “Shorter COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods Will Impact Workplaces.” The National Law Review, 28 Dec. 2021, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/shorter-covid-19-isolation-and-quarantine-periods-will-impact-workplaces. 

[3] “Covid-19: Vaccine.” COVID-19: Vaccination Workplace Requirement – NYC Health, NYC Health, 27 Dec. 2021, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccine-workplace-requirement.page. 

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