Covid: quarantine from roommate after peak omicron cross-country flight?
January 11, 2022 9:11 PM   Subscribe

A friend must travel from Washington state (masks required indoors) to the East Coast (no mask requirement) this weekend to see a very sick relative (hospitalized, but not with covid). Should they quarantine from their roommate when they get back?

Friend, roommate, and relative are all double-vaxxed and boosted.

My friend (again: double-vaxxed and boosted) has been isolating a lot since spring 2020 (no indoor restaurants, no social visits, infrequent essential errands like groceries). Their roommate is similar. Both work largely from home.

Friend's sister is extremely ill. Friend will be flying to a mid-Atlantic state and back this week to see her, and will be in the hospital extensively during visiting hours. Friend has KN95 masks and plans to skip eating on the plane if possible.

Friend would like to avoid infecting roommate afterwards (and roommate would like to avoid getting infected). Given how hard it is to find tests right now, should friend just hole up in their room (or a basement is available) upon return, and if so, for how long?

If tests can be found, what days should testing happen, and how should friend then act on the results?

I would GREATLY appreciate links to supporting public health official recommendations, if you've got them; I trust the hive mind but I'm sure there'll be some conflicting answers, and it'd be helpful to have some citations to consult.

My friend and I - and roommate - thank you very much!
posted by kristi to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Best answer: This is based on CDC recommendations that people who are vaccinated and had an exposure do not need quarantine but should still get tested on day 5 and watch for symptoms up to day 10.

Given your description of your friend and the roommate, I think that the friend might want try very hard to stay separate for five days after the day that they return. Test on day 5 (hopefully test should be easier to find by then). If test is negative, COVID still could be developing but less likely. Continue to be careful and watch for symptoms until day 10. If symptoms develop, then isolate carefully and try to get a PCR test asap.

Also, by the time the friend goes and returns, tests may be more easily available. We found some last week on the CVS website and then also from Walgreen's. (Figured pharmacy chains should be more reliable source than Amazon or Walmart who are just doing fulfillment for some other seller)
posted by metahawk at 9:32 PM on January 11, 2022

Best answer: Take a look at the Washington State Department of Health's Current Travel Recommendations and Requirements. If your friend were not vaccinated the recommendation would be, upon return from domestic travel, to:
  • Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
The recommendation for a vaccinated individual is, upon return from domestic travel, to:
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
If the latter sounds like not enough precautions, a possible conservative approach would be for your friend to follow Washington State's recommendations as if they were not vaccinated. Another conservative approach would be for your friend to act as if they had been in close contact with someone who had COVID-19 while traveling home and follow the CDC recommendations for a vaccinated individual (on preview, the rest of my comment elided, as metahawk already suggested it).
posted by RichardP at 9:37 PM on January 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

More anecdotally: If they're coming to Maryland, we are a hotspot right now. It's to the point sick people are being ferried about in fire trucks because there are no more ambulances. The cold and flu aisle at my town drugstore is ransacked, and the streets are visibly depopulated.

I would assume I was Covid positive until proven otherwise after moving through BWI or spending time in a hospital here.
posted by champers at 3:54 AM on January 12, 2022

Best answer: I'd isolate where possible, wear a kn95/kf94/ffp2/n95 mask where not possible, eat/drink in my own space, try to keep windows open in shared spaces. As the roommate I might also try to avoid spaces like the shower/bath for a while after friend has used them, and air them out well.

If I had lots of tests to use I'd test right after return, 3 days after, and 5 days after just to be sure. If I had just one, I think I'd use it 5 days after - by that point I think either omicron or delta should be showing up. Regardless of tests, I'd probably just keep up my precautions a full 7-10 days anyway out of an abundance of caution, because I personally haven't found it that hard and I'd rather not worry that I'm infecting anyone.

Thanks to your friend for being so responsible.
posted by trig at 4:41 AM on January 12, 2022

Best answer: Tests are not *easy* to find, but with several days of lead time I would expect that you, your friend, or the roommate should be able to obtain a few - haunt your local NextDoor/facebook group/subreddit for the skinny on who has tests in stock, ask around in case friends/neighbors have a couple extra tests to spare, and/or place an order online from someplace like iHealthLabs (even if it looks unlikely to ship in time - worst case scenario is they're delivered too late, in which case you have tests for the next time something like this comes up, or you can pass them along to someone with a greater need).

Like, I just got some tests delivered yesterday and I have no immediate need - I would happily pass these along to your friend if she asked (and in fact last week I gave a couple tests to a stranger who asked on our local mutual aid facebook group).

The NHS recommends daily rapid testing (no quarantine) for vaccinated people for seven days after exposure to someone known to have COVID-19. Obviously that might not be possible given test availability in the US, but it's a guideline.
posted by mskyle at 5:49 AM on January 12, 2022

If it were my living space I'd suggest isolating as much as possible on return and mask use when not possible for 5 or 6 days. Testing on day 3 and if negative testing again on day 4 or 5.

At this point state level and CDC guidance are garbage for individuals trying to avoid infection and are instead geared towards probabilistic population level control and economic function. If you can do better you probably should.
posted by srboisvert at 7:58 AM on January 12, 2022

RE: tests, they're reliably arriving to me from Roman in 3 days (I'm in CA). Order 2 packs now and they should come by the time she's back, letting her test on days 1, 3, and 5, plus an extra.
posted by assenav at 8:03 AM on January 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This site can hopefully help for finding tests online.

I concur with what srboisvert says above. Isolate as possible, wear a mask and test on day 3 and day 4 or 5.

I just listened to the Andy Slavitt podcast episode Omicron & Testing: Your Top 20 Questions Answered and this feels like it would catch infection based on what is described on the show.
posted by jdl at 8:45 AM on January 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all SO MUCH for these amazing answers!

Thanks to your advice, friend has ordered some tests direct from iHealth and also from Roman, so hopefully some will have been delivered by the time they get back.

Friend and I are still interested in any additional info anyone would like to share.

Thank you all!
posted by kristi at 9:12 AM on January 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

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