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When to be social after COVID-19 infection

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Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 4:18 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - If you see two red lines on your COVID-19 test, it’s time to quarantine. How long you stay away from others, though, depends on just how sick you are.

“With mild cases of COVID-19, the five days keeps people isolated for the time most likely to spread the infection,” Doctor Bill Petri with UVA Health said.

“It’s going to be little bit variable person-to-person,” Doctor Costi Sifri with UVA Health said.

Both doctors say it is important to use your own judgement before going back to work or school. This means staying home, in some cases, longer than five days.

“If you’re having fever, still [after five days], then there’s probably a good reason to extend that isolation period past five days to 10 days,” Petri said.

The antibodies you build when you’re sick protect you, but they don’t stay forever.

“They do naturally taper away in the following weeks and months. What we know about the immune system after infection is that it does provide a level of immunity, but it’s not quite as robust as after vaccinations,” Sifri said.

Even with antibodies, masking, and distancing, you could feel better and still be contagious.

“There can still be some spread infection from five days out to 10 days, and so that’s the reason to be extra careful,” Petri said.

If you get hospitalized from a severe COVID-19 case, Petri says your quarantine should run even longer: “Patients with severe disease, it’s 15 days. It’s not like the five days,” he said.

Wearing a mask is really important if you head back into social settings between six and 10 days after initial exposure. Petri says this is not the window of time to see immunocompromised people or anyone elderly.

Click here for additional guidance from the Virginia Department of Health.

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