how to quarantine at home correctly
June 30, 2022 12:14 PM   Subscribe

If I have been exposed but not tested positive despite being in constant close contact with someone testing positive, can I interact with both that person and the outside world after my initial 5 day quarantine?

I live in a household of 4 adults and 2 kids, with 1 kid still unvaccinated. One partner and I went to an event last weekend and she tested positive after. She and I have quarantined together in a hotel for 5 days -- and I still haven't tested positive. Neither of us have had covid before that we know of and both of us are vaccinated and boosted.

Tomorrow we go home to continue quarantine there for her.

So can I interact with both her and the kids? Can I assume I don't have it and can't pick it up and transmit it?
posted by quiet wanderer to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can I assume I don't have it and can't pick it up and transmit it?

Nah, for two reasons: 1) people do catch it later in an exposure not necessarily right away, 2) If you’ve been quarantining with her you could have it right now and not know yet, it can take a few days for rapid tests to turn + (explanations vary for this, might be that there isn’t enough infectious virus early in the course for vax+boosted people, or might be that the tests have trouble with omicron’s speed and pathways). Right now you aren’t post-exposure, you are still being exposed. You won’t know you’re in the clear until a few days after she tests negative, sorry.
posted by peppercorn at 12:26 PM on June 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It is not clear from your question if your test is an in-lab PCR test, or an at-home rapid antigen test (so-called "RAT"). Unfortunately, at-home antigen tests generally have relatively high false negative rates for detecting the omicron subvariants of the virus, which makes up the most prevalent strains at the moment. This means that if you have been exposed and test negative using a RAT, you could have a 1 in 5 (or worse) chance of still being infected, asymptomatic, and having levels of the virus detectable with an in-lab PCR test, but not detectable by an at-home antigen test. If your partner tested positive for an omicron subvariant of Covid, then you may still be at risk of being infected and being infectious, even if your at-home test returns a negative result and you are asymptomatic.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2022

Best answer: Not exactly.

I recently had to figure out all the potential timeframes when I got Covid but my husband and daughter didn't. I isolated solo through Day 5 (at that point I was no longer symptomatic and tested negative on a rapid test), and then wore a mask until Day 10. Technically, if you're living with someone and have Covid, each day that you're in the same area with them is a new exposure. So your "exposure" clock resets each day that you're around the sick person.

When you're exposed, if you're up to date on your vaccinations, you don't need to quarantine per CDC but should wear mask for 10 full days.

In your case, if you test positive and have been around the rest of your family, their 10-day quarantine clock starts. If one of them gets it, the clocks starts over for anyone who still doesn't have it.

This page from the CDC breaks it down, and at the bottom has helpful sections for people in the same household / ongoing exposure to a sick person.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:49 PM on June 30, 2022 [6 favorites]

People are still developing infections up to ten days after their last exposure. Since you have been quarantined together, you should continue to wear a mask for ten days around anyone else and test on days 3, 5, and 8 for your maximum chances of catching an infection. If you start having any symptoms (check for a list of omicron symptoms! Sore throat and stuffyness are common now) assume you are positive even without a positive RAT. I know masking at home sucks but better than accidentally spreading it
posted by Bottlecap at 3:09 PM on June 30, 2022

Is she testing negative at this point? I don’t think it’s a great idea to go home otherwise, especially with the unvaxxed kid. I’d say she needs to test negative for a few days before you risk going home.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:50 PM on June 30, 2022

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