California ends COVID isolation rule: If you test positive but are asymptomatic, no more need to be isolated

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated COVID-19 guidance on January 9, 2024. One of updates concerns how long people should isolate after a positive test result. California’s top public health official, Dr. Tomás Aragón, last week quietly rescinded the state’s previous order, which encouraged people infected withCOVID-19 to isolate for five days.

“It’s been a long time coming and we’ve seen this evolve,” Dr. William Tseng with Southern California Kaiser Permanente said. “We have to follow the science and see what’s happening with the virus to make sure that we don’t just have strict guidelines without looking at the data.”

As a result of the new guidance, the San Diego Unified School District amended its districtwide COVID policies to align with CDPH. One of the most notable changes — both at the district and statewide — is that if you test positive but are asymptomatic, you do not need to be isolated. Similarly, if you test positive but have symptoms, you must isolate until you have not had a fever for 24 hours and/or are improving, which significantly shortens the previously suggested timeline for COVID-positive cases.

“Instead of the usual five days it used to be where you isolate, now it’s just down to 24 hours,” Dr. Tseng said.

If someone tests positive for COVID and either does or does not have symptoms, CDPH suggests wearing a mask for 10 days and avoiding those who are considered high-risk.

In San Diego Unified Schools, students and staff who test positive and are asymptomatic may remain in school or at work. Students and staff who test positive and are experiencing symptoms may return to work or school when they start to feel better, their symptoms are mild and improving, and they have not had a fever for 24 hours without fever reducing medications. There is no longer a ‘5-day’ rule to stay home following a COVID-19 positive test if the individual is asymptomatic or feeling better.

Mask recommendations for those who test positive have not changed. Students who test positive are still encouraged to wear a mask when around others indoors for ten days from when they tested positive or until they have two negative tests taken one day apart. Staff members who test positive must continue to wear a mask through day ten per CalOSHA guidelines.

Leave a Reply