cdc covid guidelines

How Many Days Are You Contagious With COVID? Here's What the CDC and Doctors Say

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Anyone who contracts COVID-19 is advised to isolate for at least five days, but could you be contagious even after that?

It's a possibility, according to Chicago's top doctor.

People are likely the most infectious in the first five days after contracting the virus, health officials state, hence why isolation is recommended.

As a precaution, those who test positive are encouraged to wear a well-fitting face mask through day 10, even though the risk has gone down at that point.

Once day 10 rolls around, the risk drops significantly, including for those who have lingering symptoms, Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, previously stated.

"If you're mostly feeling well, especially if what is still kind of lingering is a cough or a little bit of cough tends to be the last thing to go away after any virus, it is unlikely that you are still spreading disease," the doctor said.

If after 5 days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation.

If you're still getting a positive test after six to 10 days, Arwady said you could still be contagious.

"Generally if their symptoms have resolved, they are very unlikely to still be spreading a lot of COVID. But if you still have a positive rapid test, make sure you are wearing a mask, consider isolating," Arwady said.

She clarified that the positive test applies more so to rapid results, as opposed to PCR. PCR COVID tests can stay positive for a "very long time" after recovering from the virus because they pick up on any dead infection.

Explaining most Americans have some level of immunity, the CDC issued major changes to its COVID guidelines Thursday, altering the recommendations for quarantine, social distancing and even testing.

The changes, which come more than 2 1/2 years after the start of the pandemic, are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, agency officials said.

Those who do get infected with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 will likely remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin. Individuals with severe-to-critical illness stemming from a COVID infection likely aren't infectious 20 days after symptoms first began.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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