Despite criticism from a number of public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirmed its new guidelines suggesting those with COVID-19 can exit isolation in five days without testing.
The CDC announced the initial changes on Dec. 27, saying it was “shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.”
In a statement posted to its website Tuesday evening updating its quarantine and isolation suggestions, the CDC said there was “accumulating evidence” supporting the decision. The new guidance included information for people who want to test negative to exit isolation but also for those who do not have access to a test.
The organization also pointed to the “societal” impact of longer isolations, writing: “Spread of the Omicron variant has the potential to worsen staffing shortages and increase supply chain challenges, which jeopardize industry, education, and other systems that are essential to maintain a functioning society and economy.”
The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, in a statement about the change. “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.”
The United States had over 1 million COVID-19 cases on Monday. The new Omicron variant has led to a number of “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated people, though those cases have generally resulted in more mild symptoms.
According to tracking by the New York Times, there has been a 254 percent increase in positive cases and a 51 percent rise in hospitalizations over the last 14 days. Deaths from the virus have dipped 3 percent over that same time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, had implied on Sunday that a larger COVID guidelines change tied to the testing was potentially coming.
“You’re right there has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested,” Fauci said in an interview with ABC News. “That is something that is now under consideration. The CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that. Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part of that, and I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.”