California updated its COVID-19 isolation guidelines. What does it mean for you?

California recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines to focus on high-risk individuals and reduce social disruptions.

The state’s new guidance no longer recommends that those who test positive for the coronavirus need to isolate for five days. Instead, as of Jan. 9, the California Department of Public Health says the length of someone’s isolation period should be determined based on the severity of their symptoms.

“Previous isolation recommendations were implemented to reduce the spread of a virus to which the population had little immunity and had led to large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths that overwhelmed our healthcare systems during the pandemic,” the state health department wrote.

California is in a period of “reduced impacts from COVID-19,” the department added.

The state health department recommends people who test positive for COVID-19 stay home until they:

  • Don’t have a fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications AND

  • Their other symptoms are “mild and improving.”

Those who have close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus should test and mask right away if they have new symptoms. If you’re high-risk, test within five days, guidelines state.

People who become sick or test positive with no symptoms should continue to wear a mask for 10 days while around others indoors.

The mask may be removed sooner with two consecutive negative test results taken at least one day apart, the recommendation states.

The infection period is two days before the onset of your symptoms or the date of your positive test (if asymptomatic) through day 10. Day zero is considered the onset date or the date of your positive test date.

The state health department advises sick people to avoid contact with high-risk individuals — people 65 and older, those living in group care facilities and individuals with immunocompromising conditions — for 10 days.

Is COVID-19 on the rise in California?

The number of reported COVID-19 cases across California spiked in the weeks following Christmas, with several counties in the northern portion of the state bearing the worst of the virus.

JN. 1, the latest COVID-19 variant being tracked by health experts, has been rapidly circulating. COVID-19 test positivity was at 11.8% as of Jan. 12, according to the state health department, compared to 9.6% on Dec. 22.

In the past week, 3,611 patients were admitted to the hospital due to the coronavirus, and about 3.7% of deaths were COVID-19-related, the state health department wrote in its weekly report.

Nearly 1,540 COVID-19-related deaths have been recorded across California, between Oct. 1, 2023, and Jan. 6, 2024.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 17 out of California’s 58 counties — including Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties — have reached medium levels for COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The latest COVID-19 surge could continue into February, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Case rates will likely go up,” digital content strategist Aliza Rosen with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health writes in a Jan. 9 article titled “What to Know About JN.1, the Latest Omicron Variant.

“We’re coming out of a period when we already expected transmission to go up, due to increased travel and holiday gatherings.”

COVID-19-related symptoms could appear within two weeks of exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Possible symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Chills

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Runny nose

  • Headache

  • Chest pain

  • Pink eye

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Rash

  • Nausea

Breathing could also become difficult, the clinic stated.

Symptoms could change based on the COVID-19 variant and vary depending on a person’s vaccination status, according to the CDC. Loss of taste and smell is not a common symptom with recent strains.

The state health department strongly recommends people get vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent severe illness and death.

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