The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a big change to COVID isolation and quarantine recommendations Monday. With omicron cases surging and staff shortages causing major disruptions to travel, the CDC has halved the recommended isolation time for people who have tested positive from 10 days to five days if they are not showing symptoms, CNN reports. The CDC says the five days of isolation should be followed by five days of wearing a mask around others. The recommended quarantine period for people exposed to COVID has also been cut to five days followed by five days of "strict mask use" for unvaccinated people or vaccinated people overdue for a booster shot.
"Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure," the CDC said in guidance released Monday. The agency said it was making the change based on research showing that most COVID 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 CDC said exposed people should get tested on Day 5 after exposure—and if they show symptoms, they "should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19."
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday that the US is about to face a huge surge in omicron cases. "Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she told the AP. "We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science." The CDC recommendation is advice to states and employers, not a mandate. Walensky said that with some areas already preparing to shorten isolation times, it would be "helpful to have uniform CDC guidance" instead of a patchwork of policies. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)