CDC Shortens Quarantine Period to 5 Days for Those Without Symptoms

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With the Omicron variant causing a surge in cases in many parts of the country, the Centers for Disease Control updated its recommended quarantine period for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, shortening the time of isolation from 10 to five days for those who are not experiencing symptoms. After the five-day quarantine starting on the day of a positive test, the public-health agency recommends that those who have been infected wear a mask around others for an additional five days.

According to the CDC, the decision to shorten the timeline is “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.” The agency also clarified its recommendations surrounding exposure to the coronavirus. Those who received booster shots are not required to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days when around others. Those who are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose should isolate for five days, followed by “strict mask use” for another five days. In an interview with the Associated Press, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that shortening the shortened period is associated in part with the surge in Omicron cases, in which many patients experience more mild symptoms. “Not all of those cases are going to be severe,” she said. “In fact many are going to be asymptomatic. We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

Monday’s change marked the second time that the CDC shortened the isolation period during the pandemic. In December 2020, the agency cut the quarantine from two full weeks to 10 days for those without symptoms; public-health officials claimed at the time that “reducing the length of quarantine may encourage more people to do so.” Last week, the agency also wrote that health-care workers could go back to work after as few as five days if they are asymptomatic and there are staffing shortages.

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CDC Shortens Quarantine to 5 Days for Those Without Symptoms