Back to the basics: How long you need to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19


WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A lot has changed since COVID-19 first set its sight on Tennessee.

Too many have died, most have recovered and some are now plagued with shame and sadness because loved ones have fears of getting the disease, even after they were medically cleared to be around others.

This Friday, we’re taking you back to the basics of quarantine and returning to work, as some of the guidance has changed from the CDC.

“I’ve had a lot of patients who have had COVID-19 and expressed that family members’ friends feel like they have the plague and don’t want anything to do with them for a while,” Dr. Aaron Milstone, Pulmonologist at Williamson Medical Center. “There’s no reason you should have any stigma against anybody that has had the virus.”

In fact, coming in contact with someone who just recovered from COVID-19 may be safer than coming into contact with someone who’s never had the virus and could possibly be carrying it and be asymptomatic.

“At the end of the 14 days, it is highly unlikely you are still infective or can infect someone after the 14-day period.”

But why are some only quarantining for 10 days?

Guidance from the CDC changed this summer that states if you test positive and present symptoms, you are allowed to have contact with others 10 days after the onset of symptoms as long as no fever is present for 24 hours.

If you test positive but don’t have symptoms, you can be with others after 10 days have passed since you had a positive viral test for COVID-19.

If you have come in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days after your last exposure to that person. If you happen to come in contact with another person who’s tested positive for COVID-19 during your 14-day quarantine, your quarantine will start over.

“It’s I kissed that person, I hugged that person, it’s I was in an hour-long meeting with that person if you reach that 15 min mark then the 14-day quarantine holds true,” Dr. Milstone said.

According to the CDC, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months, as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.

Earlier in the year if you tested positive for the virus, many employers required workers to test negative twice before being cleared to return to their jobs.

Dr. Milstone says we’ve since learned that’s not a good practice.

“We can continue to shed the virus after 14 days but that doesn’t mean you’re still infectious, so the idea of requiring a negative COVID test doesn’t make sense,” he said, adding that one does not need a doctor’s note to return to work.

The Singapore Academy of Medicine found that 70% of COVID-19 patients continue to test positive 15 days after they first become infected, but found a repeated positive test doesn’t mean the person is at risk of infecting others. In fact, the researchers found that Coronavirus patients stop being infectious 11 days after contracting the disease.

The CDC states that cases of reinfection have happened, but are rare.

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