Public/Global Health

CDC loosens isolation rules for health workers amid omicron wave

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is altering the rules for when health workers who test positive for COVID-19 can return to the job, saying such workers can return after seven days in isolation instead of 10.

The change comes as the U.S. braces for a new wave of coronavirus cases from the heavily contagious omicron variant, which is expected to put new stress on the U.S. health care system.

In a statement, the CDC said that it is recommending a seven-day isolation and quarantine period for workers in that field. 

“As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to Omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. 

“Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities. Our priority, remains prevention — and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted,” she added.

Health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can now return to work after seven days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages.

Additionally, health care workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures. 

This change in the CDC guidance comes just days after chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said the U.S. was considering shortening the 10-day quarantine period for asymptomatic health care workers.

Although there is a push for similar concessions in other sectors, the new guidance currently applies only to workers in health care.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Airlines for America have asked the CDC to shorten quarantine guidelines for breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in people who are fully vaccinated who experience breakthrough COVID-19 infections. 

Instead of 10 days, the Delta officials and Airlines for America suggested that fully vaccinated individuals only be made to isolate for five days after they begin to experience symptoms.

Updated at 6:22 p.m.

Tags Anthony Fauci Centers for Disease and Prevention COVID-19 protocols healthcare workers Rochelle Walensky
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