NEW YORK (AP) – US health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to be quarantined. it occurs.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the guidance was in keeping with mounting evidence that people with the coronavirus are most contagious two days before and three days after they develop symptoms.
The decision was prompted by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases induced by the Omicron variant.
Read more: Australia’s most populous state reports Omicron’s death for the first time
Early research suggests that Omicron may cause milder illnesses than older versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people getting infected – and therefore isolated or quarantined – threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.
CDC Director Rochelle Valensky said the country is going to see a lot of Omicron cases.
“All those cases are not going to be serious. There are actually going to be many asymptomatic,” she told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure that there is a mechanism by which we can continue to make society function safely while adhering to science.”
Last week, the agency loosened rules that previously asked health care workers to be out of work for 10 days if they tested positive. The new recommendations state that employees can go back to work after seven days if they test negative and do not have symptoms. And the agency said that if there is a severe shortage of staff, the isolation time could be reduced to five days or even less.
Now, the CDC is changing the isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public to be even less strict.
Guidance is not a mandate; This is a recommendation for employers and state and local officials. Last week, New York state said it would include CDC’s guidance for health care workers who have other important jobs facing severe staffing shortages.
It’s possible that other states will want to shorten their isolation and quarantine policies, and the CDC is trying to get ahead of the shift. Valensky said “it would be helpful to have uniform CDC guidance” that could draw from others rather than a mishmash of other policies.
The CDC’s guidance on isolation and quarantine seems to be confusing to the public, and the new recommendations are taking place “at a time when more people are testing positive for the first time and seeking guidance,” said Lindsey Wiley, an American University’s public health law expert said.
Still, the guidance remains complex.
Isolation rules are for infected people. They are the same for people who have not been vaccinated, partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated, or extended.
-The clock starts the day you test positive.
An infected person should go into isolation for five days instead of the 10 days mentioned earlier.
—At the end of five days, you can return to normal activities if you have no symptoms, but a mask should be worn everywhere
— even at home around others — for at least five more days.
—If you still have symptoms after five days of isolation, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.
Quarantine rules are for those who were in close contact with an infected person but were not infected themselves.
For quarantine, the clock starts from the day someone is alerted that they have been exposed to the virus.
Earlier, the CDC said that people who were not fully vaccinated and who came into close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.
Now the agency is saying that only people who get a booster shot can leave the quarantine if they wear a mask in all settings for at least 10 days.
This is a change. Previously, people who were fully vaccinated — which the CDC defined as two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine — could be exempt from quarantine.
Now, people who got their initial shots but didn’t get boosters are in the same situation as those who have been partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all: They can stop the quarantine after five days if they Wear masks in all settings for five days.
Suspending both isolation and quarantine after five days is not free from danger.
Many people get tested the first time they feel symptoms, but many Americans get tested for other reasons, such as to see if they can leave for family or work. That means a positive test result may not reveal exactly when a person was infected or give a clear picture of when they are most contagious, experts say.
When people become infected, the risk of spreading drops significantly after five days, but it doesn’t disappear for everyone, says Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“If you reduce that to five days, you’re still going to have a small but significant number of people who are infectious,” he said.
So wearing a mask is an important part of CDC guidance, Valensky said.