The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday supported its week-old guide for people seeking to end their COVID-19 isolation after five days, adding that they could take a rapid antigen test if they wanted to and could get access to one but does not require it.
The agency had been pressured by health experts to impose a test requirement. Last week, it reduced its guidance to five days from 10 for the period people should isolate after a COVID-19 infection. It said the move was based on the science of transmitting the virus.
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On Tuesday, the CDC added an explanation on its website that said a review of 113 studies from 17 countries showed that most transmission occurs early in the course of infection. It said the average period of contagion and risk of transmission was “between 2-3 days before and 8 days after symptom onset.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top official for infectious diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in television interviews on Sunday that officials were considering asking people to be tested after a five-day quarantine period.
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The agency’s new advice stops mandating or recommending the test.
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“If a person has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period,” the agency said.
The isolation period should be followed by strict mask use for another five days, the CDC said last week and again on Tuesday. But if a person tests positive after five days, they should isolate themselves for the full 10 days, it states.
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The highly transmissible Omicron variant of coronavirus has spread rapidly, leading to a shortage of manpower at airlines, schools and businesses. Delta Airlines and others had publicly pressured the CDC to reduce the isolation period. The CDC subsequently shortened the recommended isolation time.
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN that the CDC had heard the complaints.
“They have certainly received feedback and questions about the role of the test in shortening that quarantine period, and they are actually working right now to issue a clarification on that,” he said.
The policy is in line with comments made by CDC director Rochelle Walensky late Monday.
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If people have access to a quick antigen test, they can go ahead and take it five days after testing positive if their symptoms are gone and they feel comfortable, she told CBS ‘”The Late Show” program.
“If it’s positive, stay home for another five days,” she said.
“If it’s negative, I would say you still really have to wear a mask,” because the infection can still spread, she added.
“You probably still should not visit Grandma, you should not board a plane, and you should still be quite careful when you are with other people.”
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu and Leroy Leo; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot)
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