CDC Sticks to New Covid Isolation Guidance, Rebuffs Extra Tests
(Bloomberg) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified the rationale behind its decision to shorten recommended isolation and quarantine guidance, and not back more testing to resume normal activities, following criticism that its shift wasn’t driven by current science.
In a posting on its website on Tuesday, the federal public-health agency said that it had opted to change the guidelines based on emerging scientific evidence concerning when and for how long a person is most likely to transmit the highly infectious omicron variant. Omicron is driving a surge in cases across the country that has flooded hospitals with new patients and upended work and schools.
“Infectiousness peaks around one day before symptom onset and declines within a week of symptom onset, with an average period of infectiousness and risk of transmission between 2-3 days before and 8 days after symptom onset,” the CDC said.
The CDC also said it had taken into account data about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots, as well as mental-health considerations and the likelihood of people adhering to stricter measures, in crafting its recent recommendations.
Last week, the health agency reduced its recommended quarantine and isolation periods in most cases from 10 days to five, with a subsequent five days of masking when around other people.
Some public-health experts had said that adding a requirement that people take a rapid antigen test before resuming contact with other people would help prevent the sick or the exposed from unwittingly transmitting the virus to others. In recent days, federal officials had indicated that the CDC could opt to more forcefully endorse testing in that situation.
However, the CDC didn’t alter its stance on testing in the revisions posted on Tuesday. The agency said that testing was an option for those who have access to at-home screening.
The CDC also made clear in its update that its new isolation and quarantine guidelines applied to school-age children, after questions from some educational leaders about how to assimilate the new standards.
Shorter isolation and quarantine periods will allow people to return to work or to school sooner, and help reduce widespread disruptions caused by staffing shortages.
The update last month led some labor groups and public-health experts to complain that the guidance didn’t prioritize the needs of workers, and was instead driven by the desire to minimize disruption for businesses, supply chains and schools as Covid infections continue to surge across the country.
In December, several major airlines and lobbying group Airlines For America asked CDC director Rochelle Walensky to reconsider the 10-day guideline, describing it as “extremely disruptive” and calling for a five-day maximum quarantine.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International pushed back against the new guidance, however, saying in a statement last week that it was “less than reassuring” that the CDC’s new guidance “aligns with the number of days pushed by corporate America.”
Covid-19 cases are expected to soar in the U.S. in the coming weeks, threatening to upend the lives of workers and students who are infected or exposed to the virus. Health officials have been working hard to monitor its spread and are encouraging all adults to get booster doses.
The CDC’s posting on Tuesday included a series of frequently asked questions that offer more detail on quarantine, isolation and masking guidelines for different scenarios, including for congregate settings like long-term care facilities.
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