To Test or Not to Test? CDC COVID Isolation Guidance Creates Confusion

The CDC's new guidance shortens the isolation period for someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and does not require a second test to end that isolation

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has clarified its guidance for testing after isolating with COVID-19.

The agency says people who previously tested positive for the virus can take a fresh rapid test on day five, but if it’s positive, you’ll have to isolate for another five days.

However, a test is not required to end that isolation period– which is creating a lot of confusion.

For people like Gretchen Becker of Framingham, whose boyfriend tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday, the seemingly constantly changing isolation guidance is incredibly confusing.

"I’m not sure if he needs to test again before his – when his five days are up, or how it works, that part, I have no idea and neither did he," Becker said.

Several people were perplexed over the fluctuating advice from public health experts.

"Things constantly change, and people are not used to it," Johnny Turner of Framingham said.

"You’ve got to get everyone on the same page," said Framingham resident Patrick Mutrie.

“The guidance is constantly shifting,” said Tiffany Li, an assistant professor of law at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law.

Li’s recent tweet on just how exasperating the mixed messaging can be went viral overnight.

"There’s been so much confusion and just exhaustion, this pandemic has been going on for so long, I think at this point we’re all just looking for an end," said Li.

"Unfortunately, it has rekindled kind of all the old confusions from 2020," said Dr. Shira Doron with Tufts Medical Center.

Doron said while the changes in guidance can be frustrating, we’re at a point in the pandemic where she believes the isolation period needed to be shortened, with or without a test requirement, so society doesn’t grind to a halt again.

“The fact of the matter is that there’s so much COVID out there,” said Doron, “that it’s the person that you don’t know that has COVID that is placing you at greater risk of acquiring COVID than the person that you do know that’s on day six.”

Doron said people who do want to test before leaving isolation should only take an antigen test, not a PCR test, which can remain positive months after you’re no longer infectious.

Contact Us