Here’s What the New CDC Isolation Guidance Really Means

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Amid the surge of Omicron cases around the globe, U.S. health officials announced this week that they’d be loosening restrictions on how long one should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and/or being exposed to someone with the virus.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut the isolation time from 10 days to five for those who have tested positive. After five days, if the person is asymptomatic, they can leave isolation and be around others in a mask.

“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is 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,” explains the CDC’s website.

The organization emphasizes that the change in isolation time was “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 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 five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others,” they stressed.

Those who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are unvaccinated, are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than two months after the J&J vaccine) or not yet boosted are advised quarantine for “five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days.” Those who are boosted no longer need to quarantine following exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told the Associated Press of the change that it comes before what’s sure to be an influx of Omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she said. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

Tags: health

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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