Omicron inspires CDC change in quarantine duration
December 31, 2021
With the more highly transmissible Omicron variant now the dominant Covid-19 strain across the state and much of the country and world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new quarantine guidelines Monday.
According to a media statement, the 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 change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of 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. 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.
The CDC is also 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 two 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. Alternatively, 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 10 days after exposure.
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. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for Covid at Day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to Covid.
Isolation for five days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35 percent. A Covid vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75 percent.
Additionally, a Covid vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from Covid. CDC strongly encourages Covid vaccination for everyone ages 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “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. 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.”