Opinion: The five-day quarantine is too short

Though Covid case numbers are in decline, the CDC’s quarantine guidance comes at an unfortunate time when the virus is more contagious than ever


Erik McLean / Unsplash

Even though the CDC changed their quarantine guidance from 10 to five days, walking back into school only five days after testing positive for COVID puts students and staff at risk.

Campbell Bitterman, Freshman Correspondent

A student walks through the halls after being isolated for five days, their mind racing, wondering if they’re still contagious or if they’re infecting someone else. Their nose is stuffy, their eyes watery, and their smell hasn’t made a full recovery yet, but they were expected to come back to school after their 5 days. This time period is too short for a covid quarantine, especially if someone works with several other people or even gets exposed to people daily. 

The CDC’s recent guidance states that if a person tests positive for COVID, they should stay home for five days. If after five days they don’t feel any more symptoms, they can leave their house and return to work or school. Many people have celebrated this shortened time period required after testing positive, however it is not wise for someone to assume they’re COVID free after such a small period of time.

Should people who test positive for COVID-19 be allowed to return to school after only five days of quarantine?

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Though COVID is only contagious for 10-12 days, according to VeryWellHealth, one’s body can shed the virus for as long as 83 days. Five days of isolation is nowhere near the amount of time your body needs to recover or even get rid of the virus. Lots of people have tried to rush this isolation time since many people need to get back to work or school, but the most important factor in a global pandemic is staying healthy, no matter how long someone is absent. 

Some may argue that if the CDC says that five days without any symptoms is what it takes to leave your house, then everyone should believe it. However, with all the new variants of this virus, including Omicron and the new subvariant that is 1.5 times more contagious than regular Omicron, no one — including fully vaccinated individuals —  is completely protected. It’s simply not safe to assume that their quarantine strategy is safe. 

Many people may return to their normal activities since they’ve gone through the five days in isolation, but could still be carrying or spreading the virus elsewhere, since they may not feel like they have to be tested. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, even though a person could test negative, they could spread the virus for an additional 12 days if they had the virus previously.  

Many think that they need to return to their jobs or school as soon as possible, but it’s that attitude that can keep this virus around for several more years. Returning to work is not a priority when you have COVID, it’s keeping yourself safe and others from getting sick as well. 

Stay home until testing negative, or it could impact other people around you.