US halves isolation guidelines for asymptomatic Covid

By AFP   December 27, 2021 | 05:49 pm PT
US halves isolation guidelines for asymptomatic Covid
A family pushes their luggage as they leave a baggage carousel area after landing at Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC on Dec 27, 2021. Photo by AFP/Roberto Schmidt
U.S. health authorities on Monday halved the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic Covid-19 infections from 10 to five days, with a surge of cases causing travel chaos and threatening wider social disruption.

"The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement announcing the change.

"These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives."

The CDC recommendations, which are non-binding but closely followed by U.S. businesses and policymakers, suggested that the five-day isolation period be "followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others."

The agency said the new guidelines were "motivated by science," which had demonstrated that the majority of Covid-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally one to two days prior to the onset of symptoms and in the two to three days after.

The CDC also updated recommendations for individuals exposed to Covid-19 who are either unvaccinated or booster-eligible but have yet to get one.

For these populations the CDC said it "now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days" after exposure.

"Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure," the CDC said.

The updates come as the highly transmissible Omicron strain has sent cases skyrocketing across the United States, once again disrupting lives and a global economy battered by almost two years of the pandemic.

With Omicron now the country's dominant strain, more than 200,000 daily cases were recorded over the past two days, quickly approaching records set last January.

President Joe Biden earlier in the day said some U.S. hospitals could be "overrun" but that the country is generally well prepared to meet the latest surge and Americans need not "panic."

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