WASHINGTON D.C. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cut the isolation restrictions for COVID-19 patients from 10 to five days.
The CDC said the guidance comes from growing evidence that people with COVID-19 are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor, said that it’s possible that the federal government could shorten the quarantine or isolation period for people outside of the healthcare sector who have been exposed to COVID-19.
“Because there are a lot of people in society that are essential for the smooth running of the infrastructure of our society,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN. “So the idea about cutting down the period of quarantine for people who have been exposed, and perhaps the period of isolation for people who have been infected, is something that is under, I would say, serious consideration.”
The decision also comes as cases surge with the omicron variant. While early research had suggested that it may cause milder illnesses than other variants, the number of people becoming infected threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, according to experts.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of omicron cases.
“Not all of those cases are going to be severe,” she said. “In fact, many are going to be asymptomatic. We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”
The guidance is not a mandate, but more of a recommendation for employers and state officials.
The isolation rules are for people who are infected and are the same for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. These rules state that the clock starts the day you test positive; an infected person should go into isolation for five days, at the end of five days if there are no more symptoms, that person can return to normal activities while wearing a mask for five days.
If you still have symptoms after isolating, the CDC says to stay home until you feel better and then start the five days of wearing a mask at all times.
For quarantining, the rules are for people who were in close contact with an infected person, but not infected themselves and the clock starts the day someone is alerted that they may have been exposed.
Previously, the CDC had said that people who were not fully vaccinated and came in close contact should stay home for at least 10 days, but is now saying that only people who received their booster shot can skip quarantine if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days.