CDC recommends shorter COVID isolation, quarantine for everyone

MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

U.S. health officials on Monday lowered isolation restrictions for Americans contracted the coronavirus from 10 to five days, similarly cutting the time it takes close contacts to quarantine.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the guidelines are in line with mounting evidence that people with the coronavirus are most contagious in the two days before and three days after symptoms appear.

The decision was also driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Omicron variant.

Early research suggests that Omicron can cause lighter illnesses than previous versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people who become infected – and therefore must be quarantined or quarantined – threatens to affect the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the country will see many Omicron cases.

“Not all of these cases will be serious. In fact, many will be asymptomatic, ”she told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can keep society running safely while we follow science.”

Last week the agency relaxed the rules that previously asked health care workers to be unemployed for 10 days if they tested positive. The new recommendations said workers could return to work after seven days if they tested negative and showed no symptoms. And the agency said isolation time could be cut to five days or even less if there is a severe staff shortage.
Now the CDC is changing its isolation and quarantine guidelines for the general public to be even less strict.

The guidelines are not a mandate; it is a recommendation to employers and state and local officials. Last week, New York state said it would extend the CDC’s guidelines for healthcare workers to employees who have other critical jobs facing severe staff shortages.

It is possible that other states will try to shorten their isolation and quarantine policies, and CDC is trying to stay ahead of the move. “It would be helpful to have uniform CDC guidelines” that others could draw on, rather than a mishmash of guidelines, said Walensky.

The CDC’s guidelines on isolation and quarantine appeared confusing to the public, and the new recommendations come “at a time when more people are testing positive for the first time and seeking guidance,” said Lindsay Wiley, an American public health law University expert.

However, the instructions remain complex.

The isolation rules apply to infected people. The same applies to unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated or refreshed people.
They say:
—The clock starts on the day you test positive.
– An infected person should be isolated for five days instead of the previously recommended 10.
– If after five days you have no symptoms, you can return to your normal activities, but you will need to wear a mask anywhere, including at home around others, for at least another five days.
—If you still have symptoms after being in isolation for five days, stay home until you feel better, then start the five days of wearing a mask at all times.

The quarantine rules apply to people who have been in close contact with an infected person but have not infected themselves.
For quarantine, the clock starts on the day someone is made aware that they may have been exposed to the virus.
Previously, the CDC said that people who were not fully vaccinated and came into close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.
Now the agency says that only people who have received booster syringes can skip the quarantine if they wear masks for at least 10 days in all settings.
That’s a change. Previously, people who were fully vaccinated – what the CDC has defined as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – could be exempted from quarantine.
Now people who have received their first vaccination but not a booster vaccination are in the same situation as those who have been partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all: They can end the quarantine after five days if they then wear masks in all settings for five days.

Suspending both isolation and quarantine after five days is not without risk.
Many people are tested when they first experience symptoms, but many Americans are tested for other reasons, such as: B. to see if they can visit family or work. That means a positive test result may not reveal exactly when a person has been infected or give a clear picture of when they are most contagious, experts say.
When people become infected, the risk of spreading drops significantly after five days, but it doesn’t go away for everyone, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a New York doctor who is spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“If you cut it down to five days, you will still have a small but significant number of people who are contagious,” he said.
Because of this, wearing masks is an important part of CDC guidelines, Walensky said.

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