With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Massachusetts and most of the state now considered high-risk for community transmission, it may be time to revisit quarantine guidance.
What should you do if you test positive for COVID-19?
The latest virus quarantine guidance, posted on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website, is based primarily on two factors: how long it has been since your positive test result, and whether the activity you want to do allows you to use a mask or not.
If you test positive, you must stay home and isolate for at least the first five days. If you have never experienced symptoms, or if your symptoms are improving, you can resume most of the normal activities you can do while wearing a mask on day 6. You must wear a mask around other people for a full 10 days, including people you live with.
If you cannot wear a mask, or the activity you want to do does not allow one, you must stay home and self-isolate for 10 days. If you have never had symptoms or your symptoms are improving, you can resume normal activities on day 11. You are still encouraged to wear a mask around others in your household for 10 days.
This guidance is the same whether or not you are vaccinated against COVID-19.
How do I count the days to isolate myself?
- Day 0 of isolation should be the first day of symptoms or the day the positive test was taken, whichever comes first.
- Days 1-4 are strict isolation days, unless you are going to receive medical care.
- Day 5 is the last full day of isolation if you were asymptomatic or if symptoms have improved.
- Day 6 is when you can come out of isolation, if you wear a mask.
- Day 11 is when you can come out of isolation without a mask.
What if I was exposed to someone with COVID-19?
This is where guidance differs based on your vaccination status. If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus and are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, you do not need to self-quarantine, but you should wear a mask around other people for 10 days, including at home. You should also have a rapid antigen or PCR test done on day 5, or if you develop symptoms. If you test positive, follow isolation guidance. If you are unable to wear a mask, you must self-quarantine for 10 days after exposure and follow the same testing guidelines as above.
If you are a close contact and are not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations or are unvaccinated, it is recommended that you self-quarantine for five days after exposure, wearing a mask around others, including at home. It is also recommended that you wear a mask around other people for an additional five days after that quarantine period, including at home. If you can’t wear a mask, extend that quarantine to 10 days. You should test on day 5, or if symptoms develop. If you do not take a test on day 5, you must self-quarantine for a full 10 days.
When should I seek emergency medical attention?
The CDC recommends that you watch for the following emergency warning signs* for COVID-19:
- breathing difficulties
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Inability to wake up or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or bluish skin, lips, or nail bed, depending on skin tone
*This list does not include all possible symptoms. Call your healthcare provider if you have any other symptoms that are serious or worry you.
When should I get tested?
The CDC outlines several scenarios for getting tested: if you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (as described above), or are going to an indoor event or large gathering. The latter is especially important if you are attending a meeting with high-risk individuals, older adults, anyone who is immunocompromised, or anyone who is not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, including young children who cannot yet be vaccinated.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
COVID-19 can manifest itself in various ways. These are the most common symptoms. Symptoms can appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus.
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body pain
- New loss of taste or smell
- Throat pain
- Stuffy or runny nose
- nausea or vomiting
Latest COVID-19 data from Massachusetts
All but three of Massachusetts’ 14 counties are now considered high-risk for COVID-19, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Massachusetts COVID metrics, tracked on the coronavirus interactive dashboard target, have dropped since omicron’s surge, but case counts and hospitalizations are beginning to rise once again.
What about the rest of New England?
In New Hampshire, the entire state is now considered high or medium risk. Grafton, Rockingham and Sullivan counties are designated high risk, while the rest of the state is medium risk.
In Vermont, only Essex County remains low risk. Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Orange, Rutland Washington, and Windsor are at high risk, while Caledonia, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orleans, and Windham counties are at medium risk.
Four counties in Maine (Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot and Piscatiquis) are considered high risk, with the rest of the state in the medium risk category.
In Connecticut, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, Tolland and Windham counties are all high risk, with Fairfield and New London in the medium risk category.
All of Rhode Island remains in the medium risk category for the second week in a row.
Residents of high-risk counties are urged to wear masks indoors in public and on public transportation, to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and get tested if they have symptoms, according to the CDC.