The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends discontinuation of isolation 10 days after symptom onset or first positive test result. And it does not require a negative test after the ten day isolation period.
But what if a person who has clinically recovered from Covid still tests positive? Is that person infectious? A new, large cohort study of the 2020 NBA season in Orlando helps shed light on the answer to this question, and it is good news.
3648 NBA players, staff, and vendors participated in the NBA’s regular and postseason occupational health program in Orlando for the 2020 season. Of these participants, 36 got COVID and clinically recovered, but persistently tested positive after recovery. They were monitored up to 100 days, and these people had repeated unmasked interactions. There were no cases of transmission of the virus.
This is a great study because of its size and real world setting. It further supports ending isolation after 10 days from symptom onset or first positive test. Further, it shows that those who have recovered from COVID but are still testing positive are likely not infectious.
Questions remain, however, and the authors allude to this at the end of the paper:
“Our results support the safety of the time-based CDC public health recommendations regarding discontinuation of isolation precautions. As the pandemic progresses, and particularly if the number of reported reinfection cases increases, interpretation of subsequent positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test results in recovered individuals will become increasingly challenging.”
If someone tests positive again after recovering, is that a reinfection? Given these data, if someone has recovered from Covid, do they even need to test again, especially if they have no symptoms? More research is needed.
Still, this study gives further support — and adds further data — to the recommendation of a time-based, rather than testing-based, isolation for those who contract SARS CoV-2. It is nice to know that the CDC got it right with this 10-day recommendation.