Masks, testing, quarantine: latest CDC guidance on COVID safety

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(WETM) – The world is 19 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and in that time, guidance on everything from testing, quarantining and masking has changed several times.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is continuing to update guidance; the lasted recommendations are below.

MASKS

The latest CDC guidance on which type of mask is best to wear and slow the spread of COVID-19 lists a few options.

Any mask should completely cover your nose and mouth, with a sealed fit the bridge of your nose and sides of your face.

If you’re wearing a cloth mask, the CDC says it should block the light if you hold it up to a bright light source. Plus, a mask with a nose wire will help ensure a snug fit along the top. The CDC says cloth masks with vents should not be worn.

If you’re wearing a disposable mask, the CDC recommends knotting the ear loops to make it tighter against the sides of your face. And if you want even more protection, a cloth mask can be worn on top of a disposable mask or a mask with straps that go all the way around your head.

If supplies are available, people can choose disposable N95 masks for personal use or masks that are labeled with certain performance levels. However, these shouldn’t be worn if it’s hard to breathe, with other masks, or with certain types of facial hair.

Previously, the CDC said N95 masks should be reserved for health care workers, but supplies have since expanded.

TESTING

Early on in the pandemic, COVID tests were hard to come by as supply was low, but today they’re readily available for almost everyone.

CDC guidelines say there are two types of tests you can use for COVID-19: a viral test or an antibody test.

A viral test is used to detect a current infection, whereas an antibody test is used to determine past infection.

In terms of who should get tested, the CDC says anyone with symptoms or has been in close contact, which is defined as “within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

You can find tests in a lot of places now. Most pharmacy chains like Rite-Aid, Walgreens or CVS, plus health departments and healthcare providers offer COVID tests. Sometimes, your healthcare provider might suggest using an at-home test kit, which can also be purchased at most pharmacies.

QUARANTINE and ISOLATION

The talk of how to quarantine or self-isolate has died down since the pandemic began, but the CDC has updated its guidelines just last week.

Quarantine is distinct from isolation: quarantine is for unvaccinated people who may have been in close contact, and isolation is for people who are infected with COVID-19.

If you need to quarantine, the CDC says to stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who had COVID-19, check for symptoms, and stay away from people in your home as much as possible. And after the 14 days are up, continue to watch for symptoms and self-isolate if you do have symptoms.

Fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine, but the CDC says they should get tested 3-5 days after they come in contact and wear a mask indoors for 14 days.

Isolation, for people with a COVID-19 infection, includes recommendations that people separate themselves as much as possible from the rest of their home. This includes using s separate bathroom is possible and limiting contact with pets.

Recommendations as for when you can be around other people again if you had COVID are 10 days after symptoms first appeared (or 10 days after a positive test if you were asymptomatic), 24 hours without a fever with no use of fever medicine, and if other symptoms are improving.

The CDC’s full lists of guidelines for testing, masking and quarantining can be found on its website.

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