The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released updated guidelines on COVID-19 control measures. The quarantine of individuals who have been exposed to the disease but are not infected is no longer recommended.
The new recommendations were published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments — to protect ourselves, and our communities, from a severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH, MMWR author.
The updated guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over “but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” she said.
The new recommendations come when over 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 are reported daily in the US, with new, more contagious Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 now predominant.
However, the current conditions of the pandemic are very different from those of the last two years, as 95% of Americans ages 16 and older acquired some level of immunity due to vaccination or previous infection, Massetti said.
The recommendation for persons who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are not infected is no longer to quarantine themselves but to wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five.
Individuals with confirmed infection or symptomatic persons waiting for their COVID-19 test results should isolate themselves, regardless of their vaccination status.
Infected persons may end isolation after five days, only when they are without a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of medication and all other symptoms have improved.
After ending isolation, they should continue to wear a mask or respirator around others at home and in public through day 10 and avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day 11.
The CDC now recommends that individuals with moderate and severe illness isolate through day ten. However, people with a weakened immune system should consult their doctor before ending isolation.
Testing and contact tracing
The new guidelines say everyone should seek testing for active infection when they are symptomatic or if they have a known or suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.
The CDC recommends prioritizing screening testing of asymptomatic persons only in high-risk community settings, such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities.
Case investigation and contact tracing are recommended only in health care settings and certain high-risk community settings.
The CDC recommends staying up to date with vaccination, as the protection provided by the current vaccines diminishes over time, especially against the currently circulating variants.
The agency no longer recommends persons staying at least six feet away from others.
The CDC recommends monitoring Community Levels to guide COVID-19 prevention efforts.
At the medium COVID-19 Community Level, which is now in 38.9% of counties, the CDC recommends additional protections for individuals at high risk for severe illness, such as wearing masks or respirators.
At the high COVID-19 Community Level, which is in 41.7% of counties, additional recommendations focus on all persons wearing masks indoors in public.
The same guidelines apply to schools. In addition, it is no longer recommended to cohort — to limit contacts by keeping students in the same group.
The CDC removed the test-to-stay practice that allowed students, who had been exposed to COVID-19 but remained asymptomatic to attend school if they frequently tested for COVID-19.
The guidelines now say that in case of exposure, asymptomatic students should wear a well-fitting mask or respirator for ten days and get tested on day five.
- CDC. Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems — United States, August 2022.
- CDC. Covid Data Tracker Weekly Review.
- CDC. Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning.