State DOH issues new guidance on respiratory illnesses

Following the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, the state Department of Health has revised its guidance on when to stay home and when to return to normal activities following respiratory illnesses. Guidance for COVID-19 had been different from guidance for other common respiratory illnesses such as influenza and RSV.

The new guidance is now the same for all three illnesses. They recommend people stay home if they have respiratory virus symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, cough, runny nose and headache, not explained by another cause, such as allergies.

Normal activities can be resumed when symptoms are getting better and there is no fever without use of medication for at least 24 hours.

The guidance also recommends that when going back to normal activities, individuals should take added precautions over the next five days, including taking additional steps for cleaner air, hygiene, masks, physical distancing and testing when they will be around other people, especially older adults, young children and those with weakened immune systems.

People may still be able to spread the virus that made them sick, even if they are feeling better, so it is important to take extra precautions after resuming normal activities, the DOH guidance says.

If a fever develops or symptoms return or worsen, it is recommended people stay home and away from others again. They should use the same criteria for returning to normal activities as when they first had symptoms and take added precautions over the next five days.

The guidance also says children younger than 2 should never wear a mask. Health care providers should discuss with their patients about how long a child younger than 2 should stay home.

These recommendations are only for non-healthcare settings and applicable for the school environment.