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Vaccinated People Should Get Tested if Exposed to COVID-19, CDC Says

Australian swimmer getting tested for COVID-19

Delly Carr / Swimming Australia / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The CDC is advising people who are fully vaccinated to get tested if they are exposed to someone who may have COVID-19, even if they display no symptoms.
  • These people should resume mask-wearing in public indoor spaces, wait three to five days after exposure before getting tested, and quarantine for 10 days if testing positive.
  • Experts say testing is important in detecting and stopping asymptomatic spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed its previous guidelines, now recommending that vaccinated people should get tested if they come into contact with someone who may have COVID-19, even if they show no symptoms.

On Tuesday, the agency also updated its mask guidance, urging fully vaccinated people in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission rates to resume wearing masks.

The new recommendations come amid reports of breakthrough infections from the Delta variant, which is transmissible among both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. Breakthrough infections are typically mild, but provide opportunities for the virus to continue to mutate and spread.

David Edwards, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard University and founder of FEND, says the testing recommendation is for the good of public safety as opposed to the personal safety of someone who is fully vaccinated. FEND is a device that stops some airborne particles from entering a person’s upper airways.

“The idea of people still being tested is a good one because I may be vaccinated, but I still may be a host,” Edwards tells Verywell.

Sean Parsons, CEO of Ellume, a company that develops diagnostic products including an at-home COVID-19 test, says testing will be important in identifying cases of asymptomatic spread. These are more and more likely to occur as we move toward the “post-pandemic world,” he adds. 

“COVID is going to continue to circulate and people will continue to contract COVID even if they're vaccinated,” Parsons tells Verywell. 

Ellume’s at-home COVID-19 test comes with an app, which walks users through how to properly take and test a nasal sample. The results are 96% accurate and display on the app within 15 minutes, according to Ellume. 

For people who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, the purpose of testing is less for connecting them to treatment and more for preventing community spread that could harm others, Parsons says. This can be particularly crucial in school-aged children and people who live with older adults.

“Reducing severe outcomes for those people in at-risk groups, but then reducing viral transmission for the other groups is really where we're headed," Parsons says.

What This Means For You

People who have been around someone with COVID-19 should wait three to five days after their exposure before getting tested, and wear a mask inside public spaces for 14 days after their exposure or until their test is negative, according to the CDC. If the person’s test is positive, the CDC says to self-isolate for 10 days.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Updated July 27, 2021.