CDC changes isolation recommendation for COVID-positive people without symptoms

CDC changes isolation recommendation for COVID-positive people without symptoms
Airman 1st Class Kokou Dekadjevi, 96th Medical Group, administers a COVID-19 test Aug. 10 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Dekadjevi and the medical group's diagnostic testing center employees administered more than 330 tests in a two-day span to 7th Special Forces Group Soldiers returning from a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

In a rare bit of "good" news, as COVID-19's omicron variant rapidly takes hold through the country and officials warn that we're in for a bleak pandemic winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released updated guidelines for how long those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms should stay isolated, now cutting the recommended quarantine time from 10 days to just five.

The most important point: This is for asymptomatic cases. After that five-day period of isolation, those who have tested positive should continue to wear a mask when around others for another five days afterward.

In another change, those who have been exposed to an infected person can now forgo self-quarantine only if they have received a COVID booster and self-mask around others for 10 days after that exposure. If you haven't received your booster yet, you don't count as "fully" vaccinated under those guidelines.

The reason for the changing guidance is, as always, new data. The CDC says that those who have tested positive for COVID but who are feeling no significant symptoms tend to be contagious for only a short period of time—and given the likelihood that many of those infected were contagious a day or two before they managed to get tested, a five-day period still grants a few days of leeway. While some skeptics have expressed worry that the shortened isolation time presents risks, the data generally supports a reduced isolation period. In the rarer cases in which a person remains contagious longer than those five days, strict adherence to masking should mitigate what risk remains.


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