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When are people with COVID-19 most contagious? Doctor explains the timeline

When is a person most-contagious with coronavirus? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on quarantine and isolation that it’s less than the previous standard of 10 days.

But not all local health departments agree. Much like the ‘mask mandate’ it appears as though local health departments will be left navigating isolation and quarantine guidance themselves, too.


Among those who say they will continue to follow the old guidance of 10-days isolation and quarantine for those with COVID-19 is Monroe and Tompkins counties.

However, local health experts gave a glimpse into the point at which people are most-contagious if they catch COVID-19.

“We believe that people who get infected and ultimately develop symptoms – for those people we believe the 48 hour period before they develop symptoms and the 72 hours after the symptoms begin, that 5 day window is the high period when someone is infectious to somebody else,” Dr. Stephen Thomas told CNYCentral.

Five days is the contagious period, which explains the CDC guidance.


That doesn’t mean symptoms shouldn’t be taken very seriously. Even a simple cold or seasonal congestion can be a serious concern. “Unfortunately at this point even the common cold or at this point what people think of as allergies can no longer be considered something very simple. It very well could be COVID. The reduced use of masks and physical distancing along with the fact that colds are in circulation makes the picture even more complex than it was last year,” Dr. Thomas added.



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