Friday, May 24

CDC shortens isolation period for people with Covid

Americans with Covid or other respiratory infections do not need to isolate for five days before returning to work or school, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, a striking sign of changing attitudes about the coronavirus.

People with respiratory illnesses can resume daily activities if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of medications and if their symptoms are improving, agency officials said.

Recognizing that people can be contagious even without symptoms, the CDC urged those ending isolation to limit close contact with others, wear well-fitting masks, improve indoor air quality and practice good hygiene, such as wash your hands and cover your coughs and sneezes, for five years. days.

The guidelines apply to Covid, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, among other respiratory ailments, which should make it easier for people to comply, Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC, told reporters Friday.

“Our goal here is to continue to protect people at risk of severe disease, while reassuring people that these recommendations are simple, clear, easy to understand and can be followed,” he said.

Dr. Cohen noted the sharp decline in the number of Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths this winter compared to those in previous years, and said the vast majority of hospitalizations occurred among Americans who have not received the latest vaccines.

Vaccination also decreases the chances of long Covid, he added.

The CDC last changed its isolation policy for people with Covid during the Omicron surge two years ago, when record infections brought the nation to a standstill. The isolation period has been reduced to five days from 10.

The agency is unifying the recommendation for respiratory illnesses because symptoms are often difficult to distinguish, viruses spread in much the same way and can be prevented with similar strategies, said Dr. Brendan Jackson, who leads the response to agency respiratory viruses. squad.

Some outside experts have applauded this change. “I think it makes a lot of sense, because people aren’t testing,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center and general public health editor at KFF Health News.

“If you don’t know what virus you have, how are you supposed to follow the right guidance for Covid versus the flu versus RSV versus the common cold virus?” she said.

Even as the agency was considering the change, some experts expressed dismay that it could lead the public to think Covid was no longer a threat. They also feared that without the recommendation to self-isolate for five days, employers could pressure employees to return to work before they had recovered.

Little has been done to improve indoor air quality in most places, and wearing masks can be socially uncomfortable for many people, Dr. Gounder said.

“This is once again placing a large burden on the individual to do the right thing for public health,” he said. Making masks accessible and providing them in public spaces and workplaces would help people follow the new guidelines, she added.

Raynard Washington, health director for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, said it is important that officials continue to emphasize that Covid still poses serious risks to many people.

However, “having streamlined, consolidated guidance across the respiratory viral portfolio will allow us to be able to ensure public health on the ground at the state and federal level, to send a very clear message to people,” he said.

The recommendations are aimed at the general public and do not apply to healthcare facilities or nursing homes.

Dr. Washington urged Americans to always consider that there may be people around them who are at high risk of coronavirus infection.

“It’s not like people have a sign that says, ‘I’m immunocompromised,’” he said.