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Vaccinated people can skip the quarantine, CDC says

However, masking and social distancing still apply

ST. LOUIS — Staying away from others, quarantining for 7-14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, is one way to prevent the spread of the virus and might be a thing of the past for people who are fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance this week to say a quarantine is not necessary for people exposed to the virus if it's within three months of full vaccination and they do not show COVID-19 symptoms; full vaccination means at least two weeks have passed since the final required dose of any vaccine option. 

"These quarantine recommendations for vaccinated persons, including the criteria for timing since receipt of the last dose in the vaccination series, will be updated when more data become available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are authorized," the CDC said on its website

However, typical COVID-19 safety measures are still recommended, which include mask wearing, social distancing, increased hand hygiene, etc. 

"As a vaccinated individual, my likelihood of being infected is exceedingly, exceedingly low," said Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University and Barnes Jewish. "When I add on the fact I'm vaccinated, and I go out and I wear a mask and I do distancing: now, the chances become so, so small that the quarantining isn't necessary."

In other words, those typical measures offer layers of protection against spreading the virus. Vaccines offer such a great degree of protection that, when masking, etc. is continued, precautions as extreme as quarantine or isolation become unnecessary after a COVID-19 exposure. 

"One might say punishment of quarantine doesn't really meet the crime of being maybe exposed while you're masking around people," said Dr. Newland.

However, quarantine and avoiding exposure to others is the only way to completely eliminate risk of COVID-19. Extra care should be taken around those individuals who are at high-risk for developing severe complications and have yet to be vaccinated.