Live updates: Coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

A medical worker administers a COVID-19 test at a new testing site inside the Times Square subway station on December 27, 2021 in New York City. After a week of record-breaking positive COVID test rates, New York City officials and agencies are working to ramp up testing accessibility and turnaround times. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

CNN readers from around the world have asked more than 150,000 questions (and counting) about coronavirus. We’re reading as many as we can and answering some of the most popular questions here.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new isolation guidelines have sparked new questions about how to follow the measures and safely plan for New Year’s Eve events. 

Here are answers to some key questions:

Q: What should I do if I test positive for Covid-19? How long do I need to isolate?

A: “Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Dec. 27 update.

The update did not explicitly say how long infected people who still had symptoms need to isolate. The CDC has previously said people with symptomatic Covid-19 should isolate for 10 days.

“To calculate your 10 full day isolation period, day 0 is your first day of symptoms,” the CDC said Dec. 9. “Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.”

The decision to reduce isolation times for those who are asymptomatic after 5 days was motivated by research showing the majority of Covid-19 spread “occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the CDC said Dec. 27.

“Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.”

Q: What should I do if I was recently exposed to someone who now has Covid-19? How long do I have to quarantine?

A: It depends on whether you’re fully vaccinated and boosted, the CDC says.

Those who have received a booster shot “do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure,” the CDC said in a Dec. 27 update.

“For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days,” the CDC said.

“Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.”

For anyone who was exposed to someone with Covid-19, it’s a good idea to get tested 5 days after exposure, the CDC said.

“If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the CDC said.

Read the full Q&A here.

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