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COVID-19 Update: CDC Updates Isolation Guidance for COVID-19 Infections

(ITHACA, NY, March 1, 2024) – Tompkins County Whole Health is alerting the community to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding COVID-19 isolation periods. This change aligns COVID-19 guidance with previous guidance for other common respiratory illnesses such as the flu and RSV. This update is for the general public and does not reflect guidance for healthcare settings.

Prior Guidance: The previous COVID-19 guidance recommended a minimum isolation period of 5 days plus a period of post-isolation precautions.

Revised Guidance: Stay home and away from others (including people you live with who are not sick) if you have respiratory virus symptoms that aren't better explained by another cause. These symptoms can include fever, chills, fatigue, cough, runny nose, and headache, among others.

You can go back to your normal activities when, for at least 24 hours, both are true:

  • Your symptoms are getting better overall, and
  • You have not had a fever (and are not using fever-reducing medication).

People tend to be more infectious when they have a fever. It is important to note that with this change, a person’s isolation period could vary depending on the severity of their symptoms.

Improving symptoms means that a person is starting to feel better, and their body is returning to normal after an infection. A respiratory virus infection can have many types of symptoms, some of which can last beyond when someone is infectious, such as a lingering cough. 

Once people resume normal activities following their isolation period, they are encouraged to take precautions for the next 5 days to curb disease spread, such as wearing a well-fitting mask, reducing contact with others, and practicing good hygiene.

The following strategies are recommended to reduce your risk of severe illness and reduce spread of respiratory illnesses:

  • Staying up to date with vaccination to protect people against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. This includes flu, COVID-19, and RSV if eligible.
  • Practicing good hygiene by covering coughs and sneezes, washing or sanitizing hands often, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
  • Taking steps for cleaner air, such as bringing in more fresh outside air, purifying indoor air, or gathering outdoors.
  • If you are sick with a respiratory virus, stay home and isolate away from others.
  • Testing remains a tool to identify the presence of a specific infection, which can inform you of next steps to take, such as seeking treatment.
  • If symptoms are not improving or are worsening, contact your healthcare provider or seek emergency medical treatment.

Tompkins County Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa stated, “We are encouraged by this update in guidance from the CDC, as it reflects a turning point in the course of this pandemic. With effective vaccines and treatment available, risk of severe illness is significantly lowered. We must remember that respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, the flu and RSV more severely impact those with underlying health conditions, people with disabilities, older adults, young children, and pregnant or recently pregnant persons, so it is essential to protect others by staying home when you are feeling sick, wearing a well-fitting mask when around others as needed, and staying up to date on your vaccinations.”

To find a COVID-19, flu or RSV vaccine appointment, go online to or speak to your healthcare provider. If you need assistance with finding or scheduling a vaccine appointment, please contact 211 (1-877-211-8667). COVID-19 test kits and KN95 masks remain available, free of charge, at a variety of locations throughout the county. For a list of distribution locations, visit our website at:


Tompkins County Whole Health envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at, and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord,