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What's the upper bound of how long COVID is contagious?

by Raemon1 min read21st Mar 20207 comments

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A key question for people figuring out good longterm isolation practices is "how long do I have to be symptom-free before I'm 'certified safe'?"

This post on the typical-course-of-COVID-19 provides some studies that inform on the question, but doesn't directly answer it yet.

I recall hearing something like "most cases last less than two weeks", but I'm not sure if two weeks is actually a strong enough upper bound that I'd feel comfortable encouraging lots of people to act on it.

This contains two subquestions:

  • If you get sick with COVID-19, during what period will you be contagious?
  • If you are isolated, and don't appear to have symptoms, how long before you can be confident that you are not a carrier?

(I'm personally most interested in the answer to the second question right now, but both seem important)

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Since apparently some confirmed cases never develop symptoms (this study of Diamond Princess passengers estimates 18%), it seems the answer to your second question is "never"?

Worth pointing out that if we quarantine for X days and do not actually test, relying on symptoms, then we are selecting for slow incubation and/or mild/no symptoms before X days.

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