Implications of Shortened Quarantine Among Household Contacts of Index Patients with Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection - Tennessee and Wisconsin, April-September 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Jan 1;69(5152):1633-1637. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm695152a1.


To prevent further transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), CDC currently recommends that persons who have been in close contact with someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection should quarantine (stay away from other persons) for 14 days after the last known contact.* However, quarantine might be difficult to maintain for a prolonged period. A shorter quarantine might improve compliance, and CDC recommends two options to reduce the duration of quarantine for close contacts without symptoms, based on local circumstances and availability of testing: 1) quarantine can end on day 10 without a test or 2) quarantine can end on day 7 after receiving a negative test result. However, shorter quarantine might permit ongoing disease transmission from persons who develop symptoms or become infectious near the end of the recommended 14-day period. Interim data from an ongoing study of household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were analyzed to understand the proportion of household contacts that had detectable virus after a shortened quarantine period. Persons who were household contacts of index patients completed a daily symptom diary and self-collected respiratory specimens for 14 days. Specimens were tested for SARS-CoV-2 using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Among 185 household contacts enrolled, 109 (59%) had detectable SARS-CoV-2 at any time; 76% (83/109) of test results were positive within 7 days, and 86% (94 of 109) were positive within 10 days after the index patient's illness onset date. Among household contacts who received negative SARS-CoV-2 test results and were asymptomatic through day 7, there was an 81% chance (95% confidence interval [CI] = 67%-90%) of remaining asymptomatic and receiving negative RT-PCR test results through day 14; this increased to 93% (95% CI = 78%-98%) for household members who were asymptomatic with negative RT-PCR test results through day 10. Although SARS-CoV-2 quarantine periods shorter than 14 days might be easier to adhere to, there is a potential for onward transmission from household contacts released before day 14.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Contact Tracing*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Humans
  • Quarantine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tennessee / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology