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CDC Defends Controversial New COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines

CDC Defends Controversial New COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is defending their decision to change their COVID-19 isolation guidelines.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the CDC had shortened the recommended isolation period for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but were asymptomatic.

The new guidelines stipulate that anyone who tests positive the virus and does not experience any symptoms can isolate for just 5 days, down from the 10 days that was previously recommended. These people must wear a mask around others for those five additional days.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made appearances on CBS Mornings and CNN’s New Day on Wednesday (December 29) to explain the reasoning behind the changes.

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“We really do need people to follow these recommendations for them to work. But I would also say that those people who are not masking, who are out and about are probably not the ones isolating either,” she said. “So what we really wanted to do is make sure that these recommendations were more easily followed. We don’t want them out and about when they are maximally infectious.”

“What we do know is that about 85-90% of viral transmission happens in those first five days, which is why we really want people to stay home during that period of time and then mask for the rest of the time to capture that last 10 to 15%,” Rochelle noted on CBS Mornings.

She added, “”We also know that we’re expecting a large number of cases, we’ve seen that in other countries, and many of those cases may be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. So, we want to be able to get people back out if they’re feeling well, but to also have them be masked.”

Rochelle also said that requiring a negative test after completing five days of isolation was deemed unnecessary.

“We don’t know how this antigen performs with regard to predicting transmissibility towards the end of your period of infection,” she said. “We know it performs really well during that period where you’re initially infected, but the FDA has not at all looked at whether or not … your positive antigen really does correlate with whether or not you’re transmissible or not.”

“So with a negative antigen test, we’d still ask you to wear a mask. With a positive antigen test, we’d still say you could wear a mask. And since it wasn’t going to make a difference in our recommendations, we did not recommend an antigen [test] at that period of time.”

During her interview, on CNN’s New Day, the CDC director echoed her earlier sentiments about negative rapid tests, explaining that the CDC does think individuals should be tested during the first five days of exposure. She also added that the guidelines reflected what the CDC thought “people would be able to tolerate.”

“We have seen relatively low rates of isolations for all of this pandemic,” Rochelle shared, adding that “some science” has revealed that less than 1/3 of people have been isolating. “And so we really want to make sure that we had guidance in this moment when we were going to have a lot of disease that could be adhered to, that people were willing to adhere to and that speaks specifically to when people are maximally infectious.”

She went on to address what impacted the timing of the changes, indicating that the rise in cases would significantly impact the workforce.

“In the context that we were going to have so many more cases, many of those would be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. People would feel well enough to be at work. They would not necessarily tolerate being home and that they may not comply with being home,” she explained.

Rochelle also said that the new guidelines had “nothing to do” with the supply of COVID-19 rapid tests. “It had everything to do with knowing what we would do with the information when we got it,” she said, noting that the government is working to make sure tests are accessible to the public as cases surge.

“The government is doing a lot and we have the need to do more, and I think that was articulated this week,” she said.

It was recently announced that a big awards show had been postponed due to the Omicron variant.

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Posted to: Coronavirus

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