Why The CDC Shortened The Recommended COVID-19 Isolation, Quarantine Periods

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made some necessary changes to the recommended isolation and quarantine periods for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and for those who have been exposed to the virus, respectively. 

On Monday, the national public health agency released a statement via its website to announce the updated isolation and quarantine periods that should be followed moving forward. The CDC said that the changes were made in response to the data they currently have on the global COVID-19 situation and the omicron variant. 

Adjusted Guidelines

For people who tested positive for COVID-19, the recommended isolation time has been lowered from 10 days to five days, provided they do not manifest the symptoms. After the period, they are advised to wear a mask when around other people for the next five days. This is to minimize the risk of infecting others once they leave isolation. 

For those who have been exposed to the virus, the new guidelines state that they should quarantine for only five days if they are unvaccinated or if it has been more than six months since they got their second dose of any of the mRNA vaccines. This should also be followed by 5 days of masking around other people. If quarantining for five days is not feasible, the CDC said it would be best to wear a well-fitting mask at all times around other people for 10 days after the exposure. Meanwhile, people who are already fully vaccinated and boosted are no longer required to quarantine.

Shortened Periods

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the CDC said of the new recommended isolation period.

However, the agency advised those who have a fever to stay at home even if the 5-day isolation period is up. They are only allowed to stop isolation once they are no longer febrile. People exposed to the virus are encouraged to get tested and stay at home once they develop symptoms. 

Omicron Wave

Despite the omicron wave, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky maintained that the altered recommendations will benefit everyone, especially those who are now fully vaccinated and boosted. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives,” Walensky said. 

In another update posted on its website, the CDC made it clear that the new isolation and quarantine recommendations for the public do not override the state, local, tribal and territorial laws, rules and regulations. So, it is best to reach out to the local public health experts for the specific guidelines in one’s respective area. 

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