U.S. Officials Advocate a Shorter Covid Isolation and Quarantine Period

Health officials in the United States on Monday reduced the length of time that asymptomatic Americans who contract the coronavirus must be isolated from 10 to five days, and they also reduced the length of time that close contact must be quarantined.

In a statement, authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the warning is in line with accumulating data indicating people infected with the coronavirus are most infectious two days before and three days after their symptoms appear.

The decision was also influenced by a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, which was attributed to the omicron form.

In preliminary studies, it appears that coronavirus omicron may produce milder diseases than previous variants of the virus.

However, experts warn that the sheer number of people who become infected — and who must be isolated or quarantined as a result — threatens to cripple the ability of hospitals, airlines, and other organizations to continue operations.

According to Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country is set to see a large number of omicron cases.

“Not every one of those cases is going to be life-threatening. As she explained to The Associated Press on Monday, “many people will be asymptomatic.”

“We want to make certain that there is a mechanism in place that allows us to safely maintain society’s functioning while adhering to scientific principles.”

Last week, the agency relaxed guidelines that previously required healthcare workers to miss a total of 10 days of work if they tested positive for a prohibited substance. Workers might return to work after seven days if their tests came back negative, and they were not experiencing any symptoms, according to the revised recommendations.

In addition, the agency stated that if there are acute staffing shortages, isolation time could be reduced to five days or even less.

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Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is revising the isolation and quarantine guidelines for the general public to be even less rigorous.

It is intended for people who are not experiencing symptoms to make the change. People who experience symptoms during isolation, or who acquire symptoms during quarantine, are advised to remain at their residence.

Public confusion over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s isolation and quarantine recommendations has increased, and the new recommendations “come at a time when more people are testing positive for the first time and looking for guidance,” according to Lindsay Wiley, an American University public health law expert.

Despite this, the information continues to be difficult to understand.


The isolation restrictions apply only to those who have been infected. There is no difference in outcomes for persons who are not vaccinated, who have only partial vaccinations, who have full vaccinations, and for those who have been boosted.

These are the words of those who claim to be experts in the field:

—The clock begins ticking the day after you test positive.

—Instead of the previously advised ten days of isolation, an infected person should be placed in isolation for five days.

—If you have no symptoms at the end of five days, you can resume your normal activities. However, you must wear a mask everywhere you go, including at home where others are present, for at least another five days.

—If you are still experiencing symptoms after five days of isolation, stay at home until you feel better, and then begin your five-day period of wearing a mask at all times again.


These apply to those who have been in close contact with an infectious person but have not become ill themselves, according to quarantine guidelines.

When it comes to quarantine, the clock begins ticking on the day someone is informed that they may have been exposed to the virus.

Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that those who were not completely vaccinated and who came into close contact with an infected person stay at home for at least 10 days.

Only persons who had booster doses will be allowed to skip quarantine, according to the FDA, if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days.

That represents a shift. Previously, those who were completely vaccinated — as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — were exempt from quarantine.

People who received their initial vaccinations but did not receive booster shots are now in the same situation as those who are only partially vaccinated or have not been vaccinated at all: they can be released from quarantine after five days if they wear masks in all settings for the next five days following their initial vaccination.


Suspension of both isolation and quarantine after five days is not without its risks, however.

Many people are tested when they first notice symptoms, but many more Americans get tested for other reasons, such as to determine whether they will be able to visit family or go to work.

According to specialists, a positive test result may not disclose when a person was infected or provide a good picture of when they are most contagious, even if the person tested positive.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, a New York physician and spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said that when people become sick, the danger of spreading decreases significantly after five days, but it does not eliminate for everyone.

“Even if you shorten it to five days, you’ll still have a tiny but considerable number of people who are contagious,” he explained.

According to Walensky, wearing a mask is an important aspect of the CDC’s recommended precautions.

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The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy is not a mandate; rather, it is a recommendation to businesses, state, and municipal governments.

Last week, New York State said that it will broaden the scope of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for health care workers to include people who work in other important jobs that are experiencing a significant staffing crisis.

Other states may seek to abbreviate their isolation and quarantine regulations in the future, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is attempting to get ahead of the curve.

“It would be beneficial to have uniform CDC guidelines,” Walensky said, rather than a “mishmash of regulations” from which others may draw inspiration.

Because of the timing, which coincides with an increase in the number of reported cases, the change “will be regarded as being in response to pressure from business interests,” Wiley said.

Some specialists, however, have been asking for the change for months, claiming that shorter isolation and quarantine periods were adequate to slow the spread of the virus, according to her.

The action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follows a decision made last week by officials in the United Kingdom to shorten the period of self-isolation for those who have been vaccinated but have tested positive for COVID-19.

With the assistance of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education, the Associated Press’s Health & Science Department is able to produce quality content. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all of the content.

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