CDC shortens isolation window for positive COVID-19 results

Sebastian Hughes, DCNF

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the amount of time it recommends people who test positive for COVID-19 isolate themselves, shortening the window from ten days to five.

“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others,” the CDC said in a statement Monday.

The change was made because the science indicates the majority of COVID-19 transmission takes place early in the course of the illness, “generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the statement said.

The CDC also updated the time it recommends those exposed to COVID-19, but who have not necessarily contracted the virus, isolate themselves. It asks unvaccinated individuals and those more than six months out from their second shot of an mRNA vaccine, typically Pfizer or Moderna, advised to quarantine for five days, followed by five more of strict mask use.

Vaccinated individuals who have received a booster shot do not need to quarantine after being exposed but should wear a mask around other individuals for 10 days, according to the statement. If symptoms occur, the CDC recommends they quarantine until receiving a negative COVID-19 test result.

Cases have skyrocketed in the wake of the more transmissible Omicron variant, with the CDC acknowledging in the statement that two doses of an mRNA vaccine is about 35% effective in protecting individuals from infection, based on data from South Africa and the U.K. A booster shot raises protection against infection to 75%, the CDC said.

“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,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in the statement. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

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