The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) announced on Monday that Americans who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms can stop isolating after five days as long as they continue wearing masks, cutting in half the agency’s previous isolation period down from 10 days. The CDC also said it was loosening its guidance for quarantining after a COVID-19 exposure for unvaccinated Americans or those eligible for a booster who have not yet received their additional shot. It now recommends a five-day quarantine followed by five days of strict mask-wearing, but says that if quarantine “is not feasible,” it can be skipped as long as they wear a mask in the 10 days after exposure.
The CDC says people who are fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine after exposure. The agency had previously said all vaccinated Americans, regardless of whether they had received a booster shot, did not need to quarantine after a close contact as long as they did not have symptoms.
The change mirrors a similar move by the CDC announced last week to shorten its isolation guidance for health care workers. Many communities are now seeing record numbers of cases and rising hospitalizations fueled by the variant. Nationwide, the daily average of cases tallied by the CDC has accelerated to a pace not seen since the deadly surge of cases last winter.
Several industries have blamed the recent surge in Omicron cases for crippling much of their workforce. Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed over the holiday weekend, as pilots, flight attendants and other airline workers were forced to isolate after breakthrough cases.In deciding to shorten the recommended isolation period, the CDC said data shows the majority of transmission “occurs early in the course of illness,” within two days before symptoms begin and three days after. The CDC also cited recent data from South Africa and the United Kingdom, where Omicron has spread widely, showing a booster shot could restore vaccine effectiveness against infection.
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