ALBANY, Ga. -- The Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Public Health have instructed employers to use the symptom-based strategy for employees to return to work after having COVID-19 but not being hospitalized. Employers should not use the former test-based strategy (requiring two negative tests at least 24 hours apart), requiring employees undergo repeat testing, except in the event of severely compromised immune systems.

“The reason is that almost no one with COVID will remain contagious when 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms or since the date of the patient’s first positive test result,” saysDr. Charles Ruis, District Health Director for Southwest Public health District 8-2. “In addition, it often takes three months for the test result to revert to normal, and that could create a financial and health hardship on them.”

CDC has reported prolonged positive test results without evidence of infectiousness. In one study, individuals were reported to have positive COVID-19 tests for up to 12 weeks post initial positive.

The ability to promptly obtain COVID test results is a challenge due to limited capacity of commercial laboratories, adds Dr. Ruis. The unnecessary repeat testing also wastes the valuable supplies and human resources required for specimen collection. 

Effective July 20 per CDC - Revised Symptom-Based Isolation Ending Criteria

  • Improvement of symptoms
  • Fever-free for 24 hours, while using no fever lowering medicine
  • 10 days since onset of symptoms or first positive test

More information about the science behind the symptom-based strategy for discontinuing isolation can be found at:

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