CDC recommends shorter COVID isolation, quarantine for asymptomatic members of population

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials are cutting isolation restrictions for Americans who test positive for the coronavirus and shortening the time that close contacts have to quarantine.

People with the virus can leave isolation after five days, if asymptomatic, down from 10 days. In this case, the five days of isolation are to be followed by five additional days of wearing a mask when around others. 

People exposed to the virus can also leave quarantine after five days. 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 five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. 

CDC says those who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.

For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test at day five after exposure. If symptoms occur, the CDC says individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the changes Monday, Dec. 27.

CDC officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that the coronavirus is most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptom onset.

The decision also was influenced by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the omicron variant.

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%.

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