LEONARDTOWN, MD (December 7, 2020) – The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) is announcing new options for some county residents in quarantine after they have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19. This is consistent with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The shortened quarantine timelines are available only for those close contacts without any symptom of COVID-19 and must be approved by SMCHD. These options do not apply to those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have any symptom of COVID-19.

Quarantine keeps people who may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 from infecting others. A 14-day quarantine period is the safest approach because it can take up to 14 days for a person who is exposed to COVID-19 to show symptoms or to build up enough virus to test positive. However, most people who get infected from their exposure will develop symptoms or test positive soon after day 5 post-exposure.

SMCHD will now offer the following quarantine options for close contacts without any COVID-19 symptom:

  • After at least 7 days of quarantine have passed since the date of last exposure AND after receiving a negative PCR test result (PCR test must have been taken on day 5 post-exposure or later). Rapid antigen tests will not satisfy the testing criteria given the high rate of false negatives with antigen tests.
  • After 10 days of quarantine have passed since the last date of exposure without testing, with only a negative rapid antigen test, or if a PCR test was conducted before day 5 post-exposure

“To be clear, a 14 day quarantine time period is still the safest option and has the least risk of asymptomatic spread of illness in our community. We encourage employers and residents to continue to use the 14-day quarantine as feasible,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer. “However, these additional quarantine pathways for asymptomatic close contacts  allow some level of risk in order to accommodate the need to keep our workplaces and essential services functioning.”

SMCHD will offer the adjusted quarantine options on a case-by-case basis during the contact tracing process. Persons approved for a shorter quarantine must still monitor themselves for symptoms and take extra care to follow health guidelines, such as wearing a mask, social distancing in public spaces, and avoiding gatherings, for a total of 14 days post-exposure. People who start to have symptoms should immediately isolate themselves, contact their healthcare provider or SMCHD, and get tested within 24 hours.

For local COVID-19 updates, information and data, please visit www.smchd.org/coronavirus or call the St. Mary’s County Health Department at (301) 475-4330. 

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