COVID

When should you end isolation after omicron? Local doctor weighs in.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University, offers three options.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician at Rhode Island Hospital, stands for a portrait.

A local health expert recently took to Twitter to talk about how and when to safely end isolation after contracting the omicron variant of COVID-19

According to Dr. Megan Ranney, those infected with COVID can still be contagious after five days — the most recent recommended period of isolation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ranney, an emergency physician and professor at Brown University, said those who’ve been infected have three options.

Related

Option 1: Stay in isolation for 10 days.

“This is old-school. It’s safe,” she said.

Ranney also noted that 10 days may be a bit much for as many as 50 percent of those who’ve contracted the virus, especially for those who are vaccinated and have no symptoms.

Option 2: Stay in isolation until symptom-free and five days pass.

“Even then be sure you can wear a good fitting mask until the 10-day mark,” she said.

Advertisement:

This would mean avoiding, for example, eating in a breakroom with coworkers. Ranney noted this approach could be complicated, especially for kids.

Option 3: Test out of isolation with two consecutive negative tests.

Once symptom-free, someone who contracted COVID-19 could test out of isolation with two negative tests.

“With two negative tests, you are scot-free, even without a mask,” Ranney said.

She likened Option 3 to pulling a Chance card in the game Monopoly.

There’s a possibility of getting out of isolation sooner, if symptoms subside quickly. There’s also a possibility of staying in isolation longer, if symptoms persist.

“Because if your rapid test is still positive, even 10 days out, do not pass go UNTIL you have a NEGATIVE rapid test,” she added.

Ranney noted tests could still be positive after 10 days, meaning the person with COVID should remain in isolation.

Those who need to break isolation should wear a “great mask,” Ranney said.

For those interested in the science behind these recommendations, she pointed to two studies from the NBA, both showing that although the median clearance is around five to six days, a significant portion of infected folks can “shed the virus” longer.

“The vaccinated seem to clear more quickly, per the pre-omicron study,” Ranney said.

The doctor also pointed to a study of hospitalized, and therefore sicker, patients in Japan that suggests the highest detection of the virus was seen in days three to six.

Advertisement:

“But of course, omicron is only (about) six weeks old, so we’re still learning,” Ranney said.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com