TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has, after a brief delay, followed in the footsteps of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and has shortened the isolation guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to 5 days.

The guidance, which accompanies today’s COVID-19 update at 4:30 p.m., is now as follows:

Isolate at home away from others for 5 days from symptom onset or test date.

If asymptomatic at the end of 5 days or symptoms are improving, isolation ends, and you should wear a well-fitting mask around others for an additional 5 days.

People who are immunocompromised should continue to follow the full 10 days of isolation.

People who are unable to wear a mask for 5 days after isolation should follow the full 10 days of isolation.

Notify close contacts that they may have been exposed, should monitor themselves for symptoms, and follow the quarantine guidance below.

For those who are currently in isolation, the health department will be contacting them to assess symptoms and “determine if [they] meet the criteria for a shortened release from isolation.” Like the CDC’s guidance, there does not appear to be a testing requirement.

As for those who have been exposed to someone positive with COVID-19 but haven’t actually tested positive themselves:

If unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or fully vaccinated but not yet boosted, quarantine at home for 5 days from last exposure and wear a well-fitting mask for 5 additional days.

If fully vaccinated and boosted or not yet eligible for a booster, no quarantine is required, but people should still wear a mask around others for 10 days after the last day of exposure.

If you have access to testing, test at day 5. Testing continues to be free of charge for Tompkins County residents at the Mall Site and at neighboring NYS Test sites, or you may use a self-test.

If you develop symptoms, quarantine and seek testing. If testing is not done, isolate according to the isolation guidance above.

“This change in isolation and quarantine guidance is a change in our approach to addressing what we now know about how the disease, especially the newly predominant Omicron variant, is spreading and how it is impacting people,” said Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “TCHD will continue to adapt as we learn new information and do what is best to keep the public safe and healthy.”

The health department will assess the impact of the new guidance on places with potential for much spread, such as preK-12 school settings, congregate living facilities and more. Continuing, Kruppa addressed the reduced isolation and quarantine times.

“These tools have worked well throughout the pandemic to stop COVID-19 from spreading,” Kruppa said. “As more information has become available about the disease, we are learning that 5 days of isolation and quarantine can be effective in limiting the spread. You are most infectious two days prior to symptoms and three days after, so you’ve likely already transmitted COVID-19 before realizing you are infectious or getting sick. Your ability to infect others has been shown to drop off dramatically after the first five days, and the risk of continuing to spread the disease over a full 10 days is lower. With the shortened isolation period, it is imperative that individuals adhere to the additional 5 days of masking to ensure they are protecting others from possible infection within their home, workplace, and public settings. Getting vaccinated and boosted continue to be safe ways to protect yourself from severe illness.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com