When the CDC updated its quarantine guidelines at the end of December, it was met with plenty of confusion—not to mention a slew of terrible-advice tweets criticizing the change. 

Then there are all those thoughts on masking, our ever-expanding booster eligibility, reports from France about another freaking variant, and the fact that our local public health agencies sometimes offer their own take on things.

In short, it's confusing up in here. Consider this a quick Covid catch-up, with a King County bent.

What are the latest CDC quarantine guidelines?

In the simplest of terms, the CDC slashed its previous 10-day quarantine period to five days. And if you're as vaccinated as you can be and aren't experiencing symptoms, you don't even need to quarantine in the first place. That applies if you:

  • Are 18 or older and have received your full vaccination series and a booster
  • Are 5–17 and have received your full vaccination series
  • Tested positive for Covid within the last 90 days

The change prompted many public health entities, like the Washington State Department of Health, to follow suit. After all, if the "CDC says" it's fine....

What are the best masks to protect against Covid?

In the early days of the pandemic, legit PPE was purposefully reserved for frontline workers. Then suddenly we were MacGyvering our own versions out of rubber bands and tea towels. The subsequent months brought a blissful proliferation of multilayered, filtered, and stylish cloth face masks. But the arrival of omicron has changed the thinking on that.

Right now, the CDC's mask guidance doesn't differentiate between types of face masks; as long as you're wearing a mask properly, it's all good in their books. On January 14, the CDC clarified its stance on masking to note that "loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection," while surgical masks and KN95s offer more protection, and respirators like N95s offer the most of all. Weeks before that, Public Health—Seattle and King County already explicitly listed its mask preference from highest to lowest quality: N95, KN95, or KF94; followed by surgical masks; followed by cloth masks with at least two layers.

Other health experts across the country agree it's time to upgrade your mask stash.

Who can get Covid booster shots?

To kick off 2022, the CDC announced several changes to booster eligibility. For one, they've shortened the waiting period for Pfizer and Moderna booster shots from six months to five months. Johnson and Johnson remains unchanged at two months.

Then a CDC advisory panel voted to expand booster eligibility for kids 12–15 as well as for immunocompromised children ages 5–11. The latter group can receive a third shot 28 days after their second.

So far, more than 789,000 King County residents have gotten boosted. Chances are the latest booster guidance—and the horrifying tear omicron has had in our area—will only up those numbers. Oh and if you want to know where to get a booster shot, we've got you. 

What does it mean to be fully vaccinated now?

Sure, omicron has thrust boosters back into high demand, but public health agencies are stopping just shy of mandating the extra doses, noting that they are simply "highly recommended."

The CDC still considers "fully vaccinated" individuals as those who are two weeks out from their second Pfizer or Moderna jab or their lone J&J. But as Dr. Anthony Fauci has noted, that conversation about redefining what it means to be fully vaccinated is actively underway

For right now, since vaccine eligibility for five- to 11-year-olds was just approved two months ago, King County is only requiring that people 12 and older show proof of vaccination to do things like dine in a restaurant or attend sporting events. It's all but a given that this will eventually become a requirement for the younger set, too, but when exactly is anyone's guess. 

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