CDC COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Guidelines Clarified | Kiowa County Press

The CDC’s new recommendations have caused consternation among the public, the media and even among doctors. Justin Paget/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Guillaume Petri, University of Virginia

In December 2021, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines for how long people should self-isolate following a COVID-19 infection. The agency shortened the isolation from 10 days to five, followed by five days of mask-wearing for those no longer showing symptoms.

The change came at the height of the omicron variant surge and related staff shortages in hospitals, schools and businesses. Some critics suspected the move was more driven by practice than science to allow workers, especially health and other essential workers, to return to work more quickly.

As a result, I thought it was helpful to look at the data behind the latest recommendations to help people think about best practices.

I am an infectious disease specialist at the University of Virginia. I care for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and conduct research on how the immune system responds to infection.

The current CDC strategy

First, make a distinction between the terms “isolation” and “quarantine”. During the pandemic, people have often used them interchangeably. But isolation aims to separate those who are infected from those who are not, while quarantine separates those who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have not yet tested positive or are not symptomatic.

That said: If you are infected with COVID-19, the latest CDC guidelines have cut your isolation period in half, to five days from the onset of symptoms, or the first positive test if you haven’t. of symptoms. After five days, as long as you are better, the CDC says you no longer need to self-isolate but should hide around others for five more days.

Why the CDC changed its COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

If you are exposed to COVID-19 and have not received your reminder, the CDC recommends that you self-quarantine for five days after exposure. Between the fifth and seventh day you must be tested and if the test is negative you can end the quarantine. Consider yourself exposed if you are within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour period. And the CDC says if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you don’t need to quarantine at all after exposure to COVID-19 — although you should get tested five days later and wear a mask for at least less than 10 days after exposure.

Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC recommends that you take a rapid antigen test or one CPR test five to seven days after exposure to confirm that you have not contracted COVID-19 before leaving quarantine.

New studies support these CDC recommendations

What is the evidence behind these recommendations? Although researchers are still learning about omicron – as the CDC puts it, “science evolves” – some reports suggest that his symptoms appear more quickly after exposure compared to the delta variant. This includes results from four small studies from Nebraska, Norway, Japan, and the National Basketball Association in the United States.

In Nebraska, a family of six was exposed at the same time to the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Symptoms of infection have appeared in one to three days of exposure, which is one to two days faster than the delta variant. This finding supports the CDC recommendations. In Norway, approximately 100 guests were exposed to omicron at a Christmas party; most have contracted COVID-19, with symptoms appearing and infections detected within two to five days after exposure, again earlier than expected for delta.

In Japan, a study of 21 people infected with omicron found that the amount of virus was highest from three to six days after diagnosis or onset of symptoms. And a study by the NBA COVID-19 surveillance system found that a person with omicron was usually most contagious on the fifth day.

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Taken together, these studies suggest that most people infected with the omicron variant or who were exposed no longer transmitted the virus by day five.

These four studies illustrate the reasoning behind the CDC’s shortening of its isolation and quarantine recommendations to five days. At this point after infection, the vast majority of people are not going to pass the virus on to others, so it makes sense that they can go back to their normal routines.

Follow-up testing is essential if you have been exposed and in quarantine

But remember the caveat: without a rapid antigen or PCR test five to seven days into quarantine, COVID-19 transmission rates could only be cut in half.

This is why the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend follow-up testing within five to seven days of starting quarantine.

Mathematical models show that rapid antigen test or PCR allows shortening quarantine time without compromising public safety.

And a footnote: By early March 2022, nearly 57% of Americans fully vaccinated did not receive the reminder. This means that tens of millions of Americans have yet to take that extra step to more fully protect themselves from this virus.

The conversation

Guillaume Petriprofessor of medicine, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

About Florence M. Sorensen

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