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CDC shortens COVID-19 isolation, quarantine periods

People exposed to COVID-19 who aren't vaccinated, and those who test positive but don't have symptoms should isolate and quarantine for five days, followed by five days of strict mask use, the CDC announced Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control updated the isolation and quarantine period for asymptomatic people with COVID-19, along with unvaccinated people exposed to the coronavirus, and those more than six months out from their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose (or more than two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) who are exposed, shortening the recommended periods.

That five days should be followed by five days of properly wearing a mask when around others, the CDC said.

Individuals who have received their booster shots do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. The CDC also recommends a COVID-19 test for everyone exposed to the virus five days after exposure. Individuals should immediately quarantine if symptoms develop until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

CDC isolation and quarantine recomendations

The CDC said the reason for the changes was data demonstrating the majority of coronavirus transmission occurs early in the illness. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. 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,” said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

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%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. The CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older.

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