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CDC backtracks on earlier guidance on three-month period of immunity

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Dr. Robert Redfield is the director of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. Redfield also works as the current Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10 p.m. on Aug. 14 to reflect new guidance released from the CDC late Friday night.

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, the question of how long immunity lasts after being infected with COVID-19 has been at the forefront of discussion. 

A recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that immunity against the novel coronavirus may last at least three months.

"People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms," the agency said.

At the end of July, the CDC noted that for most people with COVID-19 illness, isolation and precautions can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours.

RELATED: CDC estimates 40% of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic

In other words, the CDC recommended that people do not need a second test for COVID-19 after they recover, but rather after 10 days they are free to stop isolation. However, the CDC noted that "a limited number of persons with severe illness," including those who are immunocompromised, may need to self-isolate for up to 20 days.

This update was the first definitive timeline the agency has given regarding potential immunity against the virus, and currently, nearly 5.5 million people across the country have been infected.

UPDATE: On Friday, Aug. 14, the CDC issued a press release late in the evening backtracking earlier guidance released in August about the potential window of immunity after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19.

"On August 3, 2020, CDC updated its isolation guidance based on the latest science about COVID-19 showing that people can continue to test positive for up to 3 months after diagnosis and not be infectious to others. Contrary to media reporting today, this science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection," the agency said.

"The latest data simply suggests that retesting someone in the 3 months following initial infection is not necessary unless that person is exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms cannot be associated with another illness."


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/25)
944 31 3.3%
Total (8/4)
35,583 2,255 6.3%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 25, 2020