CDC halves COVID isolation to five days

CDC HALVES quarantine to five days for everyone who contracts COVID ‘to keep society functioning’: Omicron variant drives positive cases to 200,000 A DAY – the highest seven-day average since January

  • The CDC cut isolation restrictions for Americans with COVID from 10 days to five
  • Health officials also shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine
  • The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the Omicron variant
  • The sheer number of people becoming infected with COVID – and therefore having to isolate or quarantine – threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open 
  • Cases in the US have jumped by nearly 70% over the past two weeks and Dr Anthony Fauci fears the situation will worsen in the coming weeks  
  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said we will see many Omicron cases and officials ‘want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science’
  • The nation’s top infectious disease experts warn the US could reach up to 500,000 new cases every day if cases continue to grow

US health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the Omicron variant.

Early research suggests Omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people becoming infected – and therefore having to isolate or quarantine – threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.  

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of Omicron cases. 

‘Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,’ she told The Associated Press on Monday.  ‘We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.’ 

The guidance comes as bars and restaurants across the country are shuttering and reopening due to COVID exposure. Eatery owners in multiple states – including New York, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana and others – notified their customers in recent days of closures related to positive cases and exposure, the Washington Post reported. 

In New York City alone, where proof of vaccination is required by diners workers, the list of restaurants closures has already reached the double digits. 

Last week, the agency loosened rules that previously called on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive. The new recommendations said workers could go back to work after seven days if they test negative and don’t have symptoms. The agency said isolation time could be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages.

US health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine (Pictured: One New Yorker spends Christmas socially distant after a member of her family tests positive for COVID)

Now, the CDC is changing the isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public to be even less stringent.  

COVID cases in the US have exploded over the past two weeks, as the newly discovered strain begins to take hold in the country. 

America is currently averaging 198,326 cases every day, an 68 percent increase over the past two weeks. Deaths and hospitalizations have not followed, though. The US has not recorded a higher seven day case average since January 19, the backside of the nation’s most devastating COVID surge to date. 

The country is averaging 71,302 hospitalizations every day, only an eight percent increase over two weeks. Deaths are up three percent during that time span to 1,328 per day. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky (pictured) said the country is about to see a lot of Omicron cases: ‘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.’

This could be a signal of the Omicron variant – which accounts for 73 percent of cases in the US, according to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – being more mild than other strains. 

Deaths and hospitalizations do lag behind cases, though, and a similar spike could be seen in those metrics soon as well, though. 

The quarantine guidance is not a mandate; it’s a recommendation to employers and state and local officials. 

Last week, New York state said it would expand on the CDC’s guidance for health-care workers to include employees who have other critical jobs that are facing a severe staffing shortage.

It’s possible other states will seek to shorten their isolation and quarantine policies, and CDC is trying to get out ahead of the shift. 

‘It would be helpful to have uniform CDC guidance’ that others could draw from, rather than a mishmash of policies, Walensky said.

The CDC’s guidance on isolation and quarantine has seemed confusing to the public, and the new recommendations are ‘happening at a time when more people are testing positive for the first time and looking for guidance,’ said Lindsay Wiley, an American University public health law expert.

Nevertheless, the guidance continues to be complex.

Suspending both isolation and quarantine after five days is not without risk.

A lot of people get tested when they first feel symptoms, but many Americans get tested for others reasons, like to see if they can visit family or for work. That means a positive test result may not reveal exactly when a person was infected or give a clear picture of when they are most contagious, experts say.

A lot of people get tested when they first feel symptoms, but many Americans get tested for others reasons, like to see if they can visit family or for work. That means a positive test result may not reveal exactly when a person was infected or give a clear picture of when they are most contagious, experts say

Pictured: People queueing for COVID tests at a pop-up testing center in New York City on Monday, Dec. 27

CDC’s COVID isolation guidance

ISOLATION: The rules are for people who are infected. They are the same for people who are unvaccinated, partly vaccinated, fully vaccinated or boosted.

They say:

* The clock starts the day you test positive.

* An infected person should go into isolations for five days, instead of the previously recommended 10.

* At the end of five days, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere – even at home around others – for at least five more days.

* If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

QUARANTINE: For people who were in close contact with an infected person but not infected themselves.

* The clock starts the day someone is alerted to they may have been exposed to the virus.

Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and who came in close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.

Now the agency is saying only people who got booster shots can skip quarantine if they wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days.

That’s a change. Previously, people who were fully vaccinated – which the CDC has defined as having two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – could be exempt from quarantine.

Now, people who got their initial shots but not boosters are in the same situation as those who are partly vaccinated or are not vaccinated at all: They can stop quarantine after five days if they wear masks in all settings for five days afterward. 

When people get infected, the risk of spread drops substantially after five days, but it does not disappear for everyone, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a New York physician who is a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

‘If you decrease it to five days, you’re still going to small but significant number of people who are contagious,’ he said.

That’s why wearing masks is a critical part of the CDC guidance, Walensky said. 

In response to the new guidelines, the NBA is expediting its quarantine process for vaccinated players, coaches and officials, who will now be permitted to return to work as quickly as six days after first testing positive for COVID-19.

According to a memo distributed to teams and obtained by DailyMail.com on Monday, the NBA and the players’ union agreed to replace the 10-day isolation requirement with a six-day quarantine for vaccinated individuals, provided that testing data shows they’re no longer infectious.

Players, coaches, and officials can still test out of the league COVID-19 protocols by passing a pair of screenings 24 hours apart. 

The rule change will allow teams to replenish their depleted rosters after 166 players entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol in the last two weeks. League commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN that the Omicron variant has been found in as much as 90 percent of recent cases among players. 

Citizens have taken to social media, mostly slamming the new guidelines.

‘Why? Why? This makes no sense,’ tweeted @RodgersRobotics. 

‘AND why does wearing a mask end at day 10? Wearing a proper mask isn’t punishment, it’s the answer.’

Dr. Donna Shelton, a college professor, echoed the sentiment saying: ‘Can’t wait until the third week in January, when I’ll have a classroom full of still infectious college students who’ve decided that, heck, it’s been five days and they feel OK, good enough, right?’

‘CDC recommendations will lead us all into an early grave,’ said @Asia_TaughtYou. 

‘How COVID so bad and CDC chopped the required quarantine days in half,’ @imjusCam questioned. ‘America a joke.’

Others argued the new recommendations aren’t stemming from science but are instead profit-focused.

‘The CDC puts profit over everyone else during this pandemic as shown so many times but most recently by shortening quarantine to 5 days despite people being contagious for double that amount of time,’ argued @EerieJesus. ‘How do you sleep at night?’

‘Crazy that “trust the scientists” goes out the window when you’re irrationally terrified and don’t like what you see,’ @MarioZelda64 said.

‘So economic concerns are outweighing public health? What do the severely immunocompromised and 0-5 year old kids supposed to do?’ added @eileenlynnedorn. 

Americans have taken to social media, mostly slamming the new guidelines and the CDC’s decision making

However, despite the overwhelming disapproval of the new recommendations, some people – including New York Governor Kathy Hochul – have issued their support for the changes.

‘On Friday I announced health guidance to shorten the isolation window for critical workers to 5 days, so this step from @CDCgov is welcome news,’ Hochul tweeted.

‘As we battle the winter surge, we’ll keep following the science to protect New Yorkers.’

Social media user @Slynn367 argued the CDC is ‘moving in the right direction!’ 

‘It’s about d**n time!’ echoed @EndCovidPolitic. ‘This variant isn’t as bad as people are perceiving it to be. Especially given the treatments and vaccines.’

 

However, despite the overwhelming disapproval of the new recommendations, some people – including New York Governor Kathy Hochul – have issued their support for the changes

The new quarantine period comes as businesses are facing staffing problems associated with the surge in positive COVID cases. 

Economists are citing the economic toll of employees needing to isolate and warn about the potential impact shutdowns can have on consumer spending. 

‘It becomes a challenge for employers to choose between providing a safer environment and keeping staff intact, or going with the CDC guidance,’ Karen Burke, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management, told the New York Times. 

‘It’s stressful because you have the responsibility to keep your guests safe, your staff and your family,’ Barbara Sibley, owner of four New York restaurants, explained.

‘You can do 14 days if you’re not trying to make sure 150 people survive and pay rent through your business.’ 

‘We’re so small we don’t really have enough staff to tell everyone to stay home,’ echoed Brooklyn bar owner Diana Mora, who said her establishment had been following the 10-day guideline. 

‘If there’s more than two people who are exposed and have to isolate, we’re stuck in a lurch.’ 

Experts warn that business owners are in a tight spot and should expect to see direct impacts of Omicron on their operations in the coming weeks.

‘I think lots of companies are looking at a lot of disruption in the next month and trying to put in policies right now, because they know their employees are going to get infected in very high numbers,’ said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health. 

The new CDC quarantine guidance comes as bars and restaurants across the country are shuttering and reopening due to COVID exposure. Eatery owners in multiple states – including New York, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana and others – notified their customers in recent days of closures related to positive cases and exposure

Most of America’s major cities are reporting restaurant and bar closures associated with COVID. Experts warn that business owners are in a tight spot managing their establishments and the pandemic, and should expect to see direct impacts of Omicron on their operations in the coming weeks (Pictured: A coffee shop in Washington DC on Dec. 21)

According to Eater, most of America’s major cities are reporting restaurant and bar closures associated with COVID.

Dozens of restaurants and bars in New York have shutdown in recent days due to the Omicron variant.

Houston and Los Angeles are also reporting similar closure statistics.

Restaurants in Chicago are struggling COVID as some shutter their doors as exposures are reported and others have been accused of staying open despite learning of possible COVID cases.

More than two dozen restaurants in Atlanta announced temporary closures recently after staff tested positive for COVID. Businesses in Georgia – where only about 50 percent of eligible people are vaccinated – have reportedly been overwhelmed by the in increase in exposures and positive cases. Workers are concerned about about the fiscal impacts of shutdowns, noting they don’t have  the ‘safety net’ of a Paycheck Protection Program like they did last year. 

Some restaurants across the nation have chosen to temporarily close, even before a positive case, in an effort to prevent further spread. 

‘Out of an abundance of caution to our staff and guests, we will be offering to-go only for the rest of the year,’ Erik Bruner-Yang, chef and owner of Maketto, a restaurant in Washington, told the Post. 

Meanwhile, Americans have been told by President Joe Biden’s COVID tsar Dr. Anthony Fauci to cancel big parties as the Omicron variant tears across the nation. 

Daily cases have spiked in recent weeks, up 68 percent over the past two weeks, and America’s top infectious disease expert warns that things will only worsen in the near future. 

America is currently averaging 198,326 cases every day, an 68 percent increase over the past two weeks. Deaths and hospitalizations have not followed, though

Daily cases have spiked in recent weeks, up 68 percent over the past two weeks, and America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns that things will only worsen in the near future

The US has not recorded a higher seven day case average since January 19, the backside of the nation’s most devastating COVID surge to date

Both hospitalizations and deaths have remained steady in recent weeks, not rising at the same pace as cases

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), told ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) that the surge may only be beginning, and that Americans should expect the situation to exacerbate over the coming weeks.

‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s for sure,’ he said. 

‘We don’t expect things are going to turn around in a few days to a week. It likely will take much longer than that. But that’s unpredictable.’

Fauci says it’s not possible to predict when the Omicron variant surge will come to an end because different countries have seen varied patterns.  

‘Each demography of a country is different,’ he said. 

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warns that America’s Covid situation will worsen in the coming weeks, and around 500,000 people could be infected every day in coming weeks

‘South Africa went way way up and then came back down. The UK is still going up. Hopefully they’ll turn around because we usually lag somewhat behind them temporarily. And then in other words, what happens there generally happens here, a couple two, three weeks later.’

Cases in the U.S. have jumped by nearly 70% over the past two weeks, and Dr Anthony Fauci fears the situation will worsen in the coming weeks

Omicron has also disrupted the American travel industry. Case surges among airline and airport staff has left the industry shorthanded in recent weeks. Over 10,000 flights have been cancelled nationwide since Christmas week due to COVID issues, including hundreds more on Monday. 

Amid these issues, the NIAID director is also calling for the expanded use of vaccine passports to include domestic flights, barring unvaccinated people from flying within the country.

‘When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,’ Fauci told MSNBC on Monday.

‘If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.’ 

Fauci wants vaccine passports for domestic flights 

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called for vaccine requirements for domestic flights in the U.S. on Monday morning

‘When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,’ he told MSNBC on Monday

Fauci’s call comes as cases explode in the U.S., even among the fully vaccinated, as an Omicron fueled surge has caused a near 70% increase in cases over the past two weeks

Thousands of U.S. flights have been cancelled in recent days as airliners struggle with staffing issues caused by the virus 

Around 72% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and more than 60 million residents have received their additional booster shot as well

The Omicron variant, which was first discovered by South African health officials in late November, is the most mutated COVID strain yet. It has more than 50 mutations, including 37 on the spike protein targeted by the COVID vaccines.

Research performed by vaccine manufacturers and independent health experts have repeatedly found that the initial vaccine regimens – two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – are not effective at preventing infection from the variant.

Additional booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs can re-establish protection, though. According to CDC data, 72 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID, and 64.5 million people have received their booster shot.  

The US has confirmed 8,333 cases of the variant as of Monday morning, though the real case figure is much higher. Only two other countries have confirmed more cases. 

The UK is the world’s leader in confirmed Omicron cases – and as Fauci believes, serves as a look into the future for the US The nation has recorded 114,625 cases, more than triple any other nation and nearly two out of every three confirmed cases.

London, the nation’s capital, has become a global Omicron hotspot. COVID related hospital admissions have jumped by 92 percent, and some fear that more lockdowns could be on the way in the new year. Some officials even fear the National Hospital System (NHS) could be totally overwhelmed if this trend continues.

Countries across Europe are getting hammered by the variant, as countries like France, Germany, Denmark and Norway are in the midst of Omicron fueled COVID surges of their own. 

In South Africa, which suffered the world’s first known outbreak of the variant, cases are trending downwards, though. Over the past ten days, cases have dropped 35 percent form 23,000 per day to 15,000, a sign that the variant could already be burning out.

While the Omicron variant is tearing across the United States, Fauci does believe there are a few positives to gather from the recent surge.  

‘It looks like the degree of severity of the disease is considerably less than they experienced with Delta,’ Fauci told CNN on Monday.

‘We’re seeing inklings of that now in the United States. The UK is also seeing that. So I do hope that we do have the net effect is a diminution in the degree of severity.’

This could be the reason why deaths and hospitalizations in the US have fallen far behind the rate of new cases. 

Fauci does warn that even if a lower percentage of people are hospitalized with the virus, the sheer volume of cases could still overwhelm hospital systems if the situation worsens enough.  

 The Omicron variant, which was first discovered by South African health officials in late November, is the most mutated COVID strain yet. It has more than 50 mutations, including 37 on the spike protein targeted by the COVID vaccines

Around 72% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and more than 60 million residents have received their additional booster shot as well 

The US has confirmed 8,333 cases of the variant as of Monday morning, though the real case figure is much higher

‘But the sheer volume of cases that we’re seeing now — yesterday we had 214,000 cases. Even with a diminution in severity we still could have a surge on hospitals, particularly among the unvaccinated, which we’re really worried about,’ he said.

It is also possible that thousands of COVID cases are currently going undetected, and that many people who are spreading the virus do not even know they have it yet, because of a massive testing shortage striking much of America.

At-home rapid and PCR tests are sold out at many major US retailers. Testing locations have also been plagued with hours long lines, especially in the days preceding Christmas as millions checked their COVID status ahead of holiday travel.

‘You know, testing has always been an issue … that has been problematic. It has been compounded by the situation of the high demands,’ Fauci told CNN.

‘We had a conflation of high demands — high demands because of the concern about Omicron which is a justifiable concern, but the high demand that was triggered by the holiday season, people getting ready to travel getting ready to go and mix with family members and friends. It’s been a very, very strong run on testing.’

The Biden administration has announced plans to help quell this demand, distributing 500,000 at-home COVID tests to Americans in January.

The president also scheduled call with state governors around America for Monday to address whatever needs each individual state might have. 

New York is the hardest struck state by the new strain, with 167 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive for the virus every day, a 238 percent increase over the past two weeks. The Empire state has the highest infection rate in the US.

Seven states, including New York, have more than 100 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive for COVID daily. These include New Jersey (158 out of every 100,000), Rhode Island (130), Delaware (106), Maryland (104), Massachusetts (104) and Ohio (104). 

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