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CDC says coronavirus quarantines can be shortened from 14 days

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday said its recommended quarantine time after someone is exposed to the coronavirus can be shortened to seven days with a negative test result, and 10 days without a test, if they do not have symptoms.

CDC officials said that people ideally would still quarantine for the full 14 days, but that in an effort to boost compliance with quarantining and after "extensive modelling," they determined there was a low risk of people continuing to spread the virus in the final days of a quarantine.

"Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to take this critical public health step," said Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager.

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In addition, the CDC is continuing the recommendation it made before Thanksgiving that people not travel for the holidays.

But if people do decide to travel, the CDC is recommending that people get tested 1 to 3 days before travel and 3 to 5 days afterward.

Quarantining after being exposed to an infected person is a key step in preventing the virus from spreading further. Exposure is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

But officials said they are acknowledging that many people are not following the recommendation for a full 14-day quarantine, given that many need to return to work or face other pressures. They hope a shorter period will encourage more people to comply.

Following public health measures is particularly important as the country faces a record level of over 150,000 new cases per day and almost 100,000 hospitalizations.

A surge from Thanksgiving gatherings and travel is expected to only add to the toll in the coming days.

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While the CDC is giving testing guidance if people do travel for December holidays, officials warned “testing does not eliminate all risk.”

They urged people who are travelling to continue wearing masks and maintaining distance from others.

Walke said avoiding crowds in all settings, including indoor restaurants, is important.

“Avoid these crowded indoor spaces,” he said.

--Updated at 11:54 a.m.