The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released revisions to its coronavirus quarantine guidelines Dec. 1.
While the agency still recommends a 14-day quarantine “as the best way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19,” it now provides alternatives for those exposed to someone with the virus.
The CDC now says potential exposure warrants a quarantine of 10 or seven days, depending on one's test results and symptoms.
If individuals do not develop symptoms, they need only quarantine for 10 days. If they test negative, that period can be reduced to just one week.
New Research, Modeling
The recommendations are based on new research and modeling data, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters in a Dec. 2 call.
Walke noted that a 14-day quarantine remains the best way for someone exposed to the virus to reduce the risk of spreading it.
He stressed that those who use either of the new options should still monitor closely for symptoms—such as fever, a cough or a loss of taste or smell—for the full 14 days after exposure.
Local health officials can adjust the agency’s recommendations to fit their specific jurisdictions, Walke said.
The 14-day quarantine was based on how long scientists believed the virus incubation period lasted—the time when symptoms aren’t yet present and the virus is hard to detect.
Walke said the potential economic impact of a 14-day quarantine was one reason for the change in quarantine guidelines.
"Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time," he said.
"In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system and communities, especially when new infections are rapidly rising."
CBIA's Mark Soycher notes this new optional response to a COVID-19 exposure may seem counterintuitive, with cases spiking in most of the country.
But if it offers a less burdensome strategy with minimal impact on health outcomes as suggested by CDC health researchers, it may actually increase compliance, he said.
Soycher cautions Connecticut residents and employers to remain mindful of the state's travel advisory quarantine mandates.
A negative test, under the revised CDC guidance and the state travel advisory, allows for an optional early return to work.
Without a negative test, the CDC’s 10-day quarantine standard comes up short under the Connecticut travel advisory, which currently mandates a full 14-day quarantine.
The CDC also issued holiday travel guidance and urged people to avoid traveling if possible over Christmas and New Year.
Those who choose to travel should get a coronavirus test one to three days before traveling, then again, three to five days after traveling.
The post-travel test should be combined with a seven-day quarantine, the CDC said.