CDC cuts recommended quarantine time amid Omicron surge

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said those who test positive for Covid-19 and are asymptomatic need only isolate for five days, not 10, citing growing evidence that people are most infectious in the initial days after developing symptoms.

The announcement follows the CDC’s move last week to shorten its isolation period for infected health care workers, assuming they are asymptomatic and later test negative.

Biden administration health officials have debated the policy shift in recent weeks, especially amid a surge in Omicron cases that has raised concerns about worker shortages and fueled calls to revisit the agency’s quarantine guidelines.

Since the pandemic's earliest days, the CDC had recommended that Covid-positive people isolate for 10 days. Under its new guidance, the agency now advises patients to isolate for just five as long as they are asymptomatic, and then wear a mask for another five days. The policy is the same regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC also adjusted its guidance for people exposed to Covid-19 but who have not yet tested positive, recommending a five-day quarantine followed by five days of masking for those who are unvaccinated or have yet to receive their booster shot.

People who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster do not need to quarantine if exposed to Covid-19, but should wear a mask for 10 days, the CDC said.

The update comes after officials reviewed data showing most people pass on the virus within the first five days of infection. The administration also faced growing pressure to alter its quarantine guidelines as Omicron’s surge threatened to leave businesses shorthanded, despite indications that the variant causes less severe illness than the Delta variant.

Multiple airlines canceled hundreds of flights this past weekend due to staff shortages.

On a call Monday morning with governors, President Joe Biden expressed openness to slashing the quarantine timeline, Gov. Chris Sununu said afterward.

Sununu, a Republican, called the potential reduction “an important step in keeping our economy, supply chains and schools open and running.”

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