CDC relaxes COVID-19 isolation, quarantine recommendations

Even with the uptick in COVID-19 cases across the globe and the US due to the Omicron variant, officials with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) are cutting isolation restrictions in half for asymptomatic individuals who catch it, as well as quarantine recommendations for those who are considered to be close contacts of an infected individual. 

In a press release, the CDC says that “given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.”

The CDC says that this latest change in its recommendations is driven by science that has demonstrated that the majority of coronavirus transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after, leading officials to state, “Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.”

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19.

For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.

If a five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is “imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for ten days after exposure.”

Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. 

“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

According to the latest figures from the State Health Department, 18,051 Tennesseeans have died from COVID or COVID-related complications.  Over 1.3 million positive tests have been recorded in the state since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020.

Locally, in Anderson County, 14,192 positive tests have been reported, along with 262 deaths.  Currently, there are 289 cases of COVID-19 in Anderson County that are considered ‘active’ by the state.

For more information on COVID-19 in Tennessee, visit www.covid19.tn.gov.  

(More from the CDC press release)  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

Here is the link to the full CDC release, including graphics to help understand the recommendations. 

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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