New guidance published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a move away from the restrictive measures utilized in the past. On Thursday, they said that most Americans no longer need to social distance or quarantine, and children no longer need to test to stay in schools. They state while physical distancing is a component of protection for COVID-19, it needs to be examined alongside other risk factors in a particular setting.
Per the CDC’s press release, if someone has been exposed to COVID-19, they should “wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5” as opposed to quarantining immediately after exposure. If symptoms are present prior to receiving test results the CDC still recommends isolating.
Once the test results are in, isolation can end if those results are negative. In the event of a positive COVID test result, individuals should stay home for at least 5 days and isolate. After 5 days, if the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and symptoms are improving, isolation can end after day 5. Wearing a high-quality mask is still recommended through day 10.
The new recommendations do have specific advice for those who have become very sick with moderate to severe symptoms due to COVID-19 and for those with weakened immune systems. If symptoms such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing were present, or hospitalization was needed, isolation is recommended through day 10. Additionally, consulting a doctor prior to ending isolation is advised. In the event of a rebound COVID case, where symptoms get worse after the isolation period has ended, individuals should consult their doctor, and restart the isolation period at day 0.
Recommending screening testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures will no longer be recommended in most community settings.
The CDC continues to express the importance of staying up to date with vaccinations to protect against serious illness and hospitalization and acknowledges that COVID is still ongoing.
“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” said Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH, MMWR author in the press release.
Additional standalone information on specific settings, such as healthcare, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.