Coronavirus: CDC recommends shorter COVID isolation, quarantine times

U.S. health officials announced the cutting of isolation restrictions for Americans who catch COVID-19, trimming the wait time from 10 days to five, The Associated Press reported.

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Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said in a news release that the guidance is in keeping with increasing evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are most susceptible two days before and three days after symptoms develop, according to the AP.

A recent surge in omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant, also factored into the CDC’s decision.

The recommendation is not a mandate, but merely guidance for employers and state and local officials, according to the AP.

According to the CDC, isolation begins the day a person tests positive. A person should go into isolation for five days; if there are no symptoms, they can return to normal activities but must wear a mask for the next five days -- even at home around others, the CDC said.

Quarantines begin the day someone is alerted to being exposed to the virus. Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and came in close contact with infected people should stay home for 10 days. The CDC recommended that five days would suffice.

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The CDC added that only people who received booster shots can skip quarantine if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days.

“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “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. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico are among the areas that have reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period, The New York Times reported.

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While omicron may cause milder illnesses than COVID-19 or its delta variant, the number of people infected by the latest strain threatened to overwhelm hospitals, airlines and other businesses to remain open, the AP reported.

The national record for average daily cases is 251,232, set in January 2020, the Times reported.

Nearly 71,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 8% higher than the last week but well below previous peaks, the newspaper reported.

Walensky said the country is about to experience more omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” Walensky told the AP on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

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