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COVID-positive? Five-day isolation still recommended in Michigan

 close up of woman making self testing coronavirus test at home
If you’re COVID positive, the recommendation remains: Stay home and isolate for at least five days. Some argue that’s no longer practical. (Shutterstock)
  • COVID continues to circulate in Michigan and beyond, but it lost its deadly punch long ago for most people
  • The CDC still recommends isolating at home for five days if you’re positive and staying away from family
  • Some say that recommendation is out-of-sync and conflicting reports indicate a change may be coming to guidelines

Michigan continues to recommend those who are COVID-positive isolate for five days, amid conflicting reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon loosen the recommendation.

Both California and Colorado no longer urge COVID-positive people to isolate, as long as they have no symptoms.


In Michigan, the state health department still follows the CDC guidelines, offering direct links to the CDC’s recommendation for people who have been exposed to COVID or who have tested positive.


As of Friday, those recommendations remain to isolate for five days.

The confusion began this week when the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the CDC plans to change its recommendations for the first time since 2021. The new guidelines, the news outlets reported, would mirror guidance on how to avoid transmitting flu and RSV.

But another news report suggested that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, COVID continues to circulate in Michigan, with an average of 521 new cases every day, according to state data released Tuesday. And COVID remains deadly, especially for those over 80 years old.

The CDC now recommends several steps if you test positive for COVID:

  • Stay home for at least five days and isolate from others in your home.
  • Wear a high-quality mask — even in your home — if you are around others.
  • Avoid places where you are unable to wear a mask.
  • Do not travel.
  • Stay home and separate from others as much as possible.
  • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “considers CDC recommendations first when making recommendations to Michigan families,” spokesperson Chelsea Wuth said in an email to Bridge.

“We encourage Michiganders to use tools available to them including staying up-to-date on vaccinations, staying home if unwell, keeping a supply of tests handy, and other hygiene to prevent illness including hand-washing,” she said.

The recommendations pit science — COVID is still contagious and even deadly for a few, against the practical — against economic and practical concerns, as not everyone can afford or wants to miss school or work for the sniffles or less.

And an unknown number of people unknowingly work and go to school or socialize without knowing they are COVID-positive because they have no symptoms. Moreover, nearly every American had some sort of antibodies from previous infection or vaccination, according to the CDC’s own report.

All of this makes it difficult to persuade people to stay home, said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease expert at Wayne State University.

“If there’s 100% protection in the public policy, but zero compliance to that policy, the outcome is still zero,” she said.

To be clear, she’s not suggesting ignoring the current guidelines. Rather, she said, it’s the reality of everyday life deep into a fourth year alongside the virus.

President of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Beena Nagappala said CDC recommendations should stay in place, at least for now, “smack-dab in the middle of respiratory season.”

Most of her patients with COVID are not severely ill, but serious cases still happen, she said. One of her patients less than two weeks ago was hospitalized with COVID.

Immunity from past infections or the vaccine are reassuring, she said, but they are “no guarantee.”

Others say changes are long overdue.

If the CDC were to drop the recommendations, they’d “be catching up to where the rest of the world has been for about a year and a half,” said Brian Calley, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“People have been treating (COVID) for at least the last year according to their own risk tolerances,” he said.


Dr. Mark Hamed agreed that it’s time to drop the strict isolation guidelines.

Hamed is medical director for several public health departments, and an emergency room doctor at McKenzie Health System in Sandusky, in Michigan's Thumb.

Four years into COVID, Michiganders know to stay home when they’re sick and they’re used to masks and social distancing, he said.

“The knowledge that we have now from COVID allows us to shift towards this revised guideline,” he said. “This is common sense. Let's not downplay it, but we're smarter now. We have immunity through vaccinations through infection. I think we'll be OK.”

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