Atlanta—Pharmacists field a lot of questions about quarantine or isolation, ranging from what people should do if they test positive for COVID-19 to how they should respond if they might have been exposed to the virus.

A helpful tool is now available online. The Quarantine and Isolation Calculator can help determine how long someone needs to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.

It does not apply, however, to people who are moderately or severely ill or immunocompromised, according to the CDC.

For those who are less Internet savvy, pharmacists should advise anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, to stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in the home.

If they must be around others at home, they should wear a well-fitting mask, and they definitely should not travel.

Isolation can be ended after 5 full days if the patient is fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication and symptoms are improving). Those without symptoms can end isolation at least 5 full days after a positive test.

Patients who became very sick from COVID-19 or have weakened immune systems should isolate for at least 10 days and consult their physician before ending isolation. Precautions, including wearing a mask and avoiding travel, should be taken until at least Day 10.

They also should avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

In terms of exposure to COVID-19, unvaccinated people should stay home and quarantine for at least 5 days and wear well-fitting masks around others, including in the home. They also should avoid traveling the first 5 days and take extra precautions the second 5 days until all 10 days have passed.

Those patients are urged to get tested at least 5 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19, even if they have no symptoms. The CDC advises that they should keep watching for symptoms for a full 10 days postexposure, after which they can resume travel.

Those who are up-to-date on vaccines and have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to stay home unless they develop symptoms. In either case, they should get tested at least 5 days after the last close contact. They also should watch for symptoms for 10 days.

If any symptoms develop, fully vaccinated people should isolate and get tested. They should stay home and wear well-fitting masks around others until they get their test results. They also should take precautions until Day 10, while also masking and taking precautions during travel.

The CDC advises healthcare professionals that they should extend isolation to 20 or more days (Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or a positive viral test) for people who are moderately or severely immune-compromised. Public health officials also advise frequent testing and consultation with an infectious disease specialist in those cases.

The guidance adds that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can continue to have detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA in upper respiratory specimens for up to 3 months after illness onset. "However, replication-competent virus has not been reliably recovered from such patients, and they are not likely infectious," the CDC noted.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.