The CDC updated its isolation and quarantine guidance for those infected and exposed to COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to rapidly spread across the country.
The agency announced it will shorten the isolation period for people who test positive for the virus and are asymptomatic from ten days to five, regardless of their vaccination status.
“It looks like people are transmitting the virus starting a day or two before they have symptoms going for another two or three days, so by five days people essentially aren’t infectious anymore,” said Dr. Miriam Alexander, who is the medical director of Employee Health and Wellness at Life Bridge Health.
The CDC said people can leave isolation if they have no symptoms after that time but must continue to wear a mask for a least five more days.
The recommendation said fully vaccinated Americans no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus but should still wear a mask for at least 10 days.
The agency also said if you are exposed and unvaccinated, you should quarantine for five days and mask up for at least five more.
“I think that just reiterates our understanding that people who are fully vaccinated and boosted are much less likely to get infected when exposed than unvaccinated,” Dr. Alexander said.
Some have criticized the agency’s updated guidance for not requiring a negative test for leaving isolation and quarantine, but Dr. Alexander said it’s not necessary because people could still test positive without being infectious.
“I just don’t think that follow up tests is as important as making sure the right number of days have passed since your symptoms began and making sure your symptoms are gone as is your fever,” she said.
The CDC still recommends people get tested five days after they are exposed to the virus.