The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday afternoon that it will shorten the recommended isolation time for people testing positive for Covid-19, from 10 days to 5 days.
Isolation recommendations are for those who are infected with Covid and start on the day a person tests positive. The agency recommends isolating for five days and going back to normal activities if a person is not showing any symptoms after that period.
Quarantines are defined differently as the term refers to those who are in close contact with someone who tests positive. The CDC previously recommended unvaccinated individuals who come into close contact with someone who tested positive should quarantine for 10 days. The agency previously said those who were vaccinated could skip a quarantine.
The CDC is now recommending those who are vaccinated and received a booster shot can skip quarantining if they wear a mask for at least 10 days. If a person is vaccinated and has not gotten a booster, or if they are partly vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, the CDC recommends a 5-day quarantine then wearing a mask in public for an additional 5 days.
The changes come amid a recent surge in cases spurred by the Omicron variant and concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines, and businesses across the country. Research has suggested Omicron, while more infectious, causes milder illness. CDC officials say the new guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of omicron cases. “The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact, many are going to be asymptomatic. We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science,” she said.