State alters COVID quarantine and isolation guidelines

Monitor staff
Published: 1/6/2022 4:48:28 PM
Modified: 1/6/2022 4:47:48 PM

State health officials announced looser quarantine recommendations for those exposed to COVID-19 to alleviate the burden of the pandemic on daily life.

Under the new guidance, those who have been exposed to COVID-19 only need to quarantine if the infected person is a household contact.

“We’re sort of looking at this as the next step in the pandemic, trying to lessen the burden of isolation and quarantine and learning to live better with COVID-19,” state epidemiologist Ben Chan said at a press conference Thursday.

Unvaccinated Granite Staters who have an infected housemate should stay away from others for five days and get tested at the end of that time period. For ten days after that, they should wear a face-mask and avoid contact with immunocompromised people, according to the new guidance.

Those who have received all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — which includes a booster dose — do not need to quarantine at all.

The Department of Health and Human Services also announced new isolation guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19 themselves, regardless of their vaccination status. Chan said those with a positive test should isolate at home and away from others for five days. The isolation period will end after that time, as long as the person has improving symptoms and is fever-free for at least a day.

For ten days after that isolation period, an infected person should wear a face mask, avoid others who are immunocompromised and avoid travel.

This change is generally in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shortened the federally recommended isolation period by half late last month.

Healthcare workers fall under a different set of quarantine and isolation guidelines.

New Hampshire has averaged about 1,500 new infections per day in the last week. However, Chan said he expects these numbers to become increasingly inaccurate as home-tests, which do not provide data to the state, become more popular.

Omicron, a highly contagious COVID-19 variant, is still relatively uncommon in New Hampshire — the state most recently reported 42 cases of the variant. It is likely only a matter of time before the variant overtakes Delta, Gov. Chris Sununu said.

Hospitalizations, which Sununu said is one of the most important metrics to determine the severity of the pandemic, has slightly declined since the beginning of December. Sununu credits the decline to his executive order which reduced barriers to nurse licensing and cleared low-acuity patients from hospital beds.

“This does not mean we’re out of the pandemic,” he said. “What this means is our healthcare system is managing.”

Even with COVID-19 hospitalizations on the decline, staffing has placed immense burden on the healthcare system. To address this problem, Sununu announced that the he would deploy 100 national guardsman — in addition to the 70 already deployed — to assist long term care facilities and hospitals with staffing shortages.

“I think over the last six weeks we’ve made some huge strides but we’re not out of this,” Sununu said. “We’re still very much in it.”

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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