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US Health Officials Recommend Shorter COVID Isolation Periods

US Health Officials Recommend Shorter COVID Isolation Periods
Source: BBC

On Monday, US health officials reduced the period that asymptomatic Americans with the coronavirus must be isolated from 10 to five days, as well as the time that close contacts must be quarantined.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice is in line with accumulating data indicating persons infected with the coronavirus are most infectious two days before and three days after symptoms appear.

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the omicron form, also influenced the decision.

According to preliminary studies, omicron may produce milder infections than previous coronavirus strains. However, experts warn that the sheer number of individuals who become sick — and hence need to be isolated or quarantined — threatens hospitals, airlines, and other organizations’ capacity to stay open.

According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the country is on the verge of seeing a surge in omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases will be serious. In fact, she told The Associated Press on Monday that many people will be asymptomatic. “We want to make sure there’s a system in place that allows us to securely keep civilization running while adhering to science.”

Last Monday, the EPA relaxed guidelines that previously required health-care employees to take a 10-day leave of absence if they tested positive. Workers might return to work after seven days if they test negative and have no symptoms, according to the revised guidelines. If there are serious personnel shortages, the period spent in isolation might be reduced to five days or even less, according to the agency.

The CDC is now modifying the general public’s isolation and quarantine guidelines to be even less strict.

People who are not suffering symptoms will benefit from the modification. People who acquire symptoms during isolation or during quarantine are advised to stay at home.

The CDC’s isolation and quarantine guidelines have perplexed the public, and the new recommendations “come at a time when more individuals are testing positive for the first time and seeking assistance,” according to Lindsay Wiley, a public health law specialist at American University.

Nonetheless, the instruction remains complicated.

It’s not risk-free to terminate both seclusion and quarantine after five days.

Many people are tested when they first notice symptoms, but many more are tested for other reasons, such as determining whether they can visit relatives or work. According to experts, a positive test result may not disclose when a person became infected or provide a clear picture of when they are most infectious.

After five days, the chance of spreading the infection lowers significantly, but it does not eliminate for everyone, according to Dr. Aaron Glatt, a New York physician and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“Even if you reduce it to five days, you’ll still have a small but considerable number of infected people,” he added.

That’s why, according to Walensky, wearing masks is an important element of the CDC’s advice.

The new CDC policy is a suggestion to businesses and state and municipal governments, not an obligation. New York state said last week that it will expand on the CDC’s recommendations for health-care workers to include people who work in other important sectors with significant staffing shortages.

Other states may want to abbreviate their isolation and quarantine regulations, and the CDC is attempting to anticipate this trend. Walensky added that rather than a jumble of regulations, “it would be useful to have standard CDC recommendations” from which others may draw.

The upgrade “is likely to be regarded as coming in reaction to pressure from commercial interests,” Wiley said, given the timing with soaring case counts. Shorter isolation and quarantine periods looked to be adequate to curb the spread, according to several specialists, who had been asking for the adjustment for months.

The CDC’s action follows a decision by UK officials last week to shorten the time of self-isolation for vaccinated persons who test positive for COVID-19.