Revamped COVID Guidance From the CDC Drops 5-Day Isolation Rule

Emergency room visits and hospital admissions for COVID-19 are down more than 75%, and deaths are down by more than 90%, from the peak of the Omicron wave in January 2022.  As the COVID epidemic moves farther into the horizon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has modified its guidance for the period of isolation that must be observed by individuals testing positive for COVID-19.

At the onset of the COVID epidemic in 2020 the CDC issued its isolation guidance calling for 10 days of isolation for persons testing positive for COVID-19, which was reduced to 5 days in 2021.   On Friday, March 1, 2024, the CDC issued revised guidance which now says individuals testing positive can return to work and other normal activities if i) the COVID symptoms are improving, and ii) the individual has been fever-free for at least 24-hours without medication.  However, the new guidance does not apply to healthcare setting.

In his announcement of the new isolation rules, CDC Director Mandy Cohen stated that the CDC’s revision “reflects the progress we have made in protecting against severe illness form COVID-19.”  The CDC also pointed to a recent survey indicating that less than 50% of people with cold or cough symptoms would take an  at home test for COVID 19, and less than 10% indicated that they would get tested by a pharmacy or healthcare provider.  According to Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, the CDC’s new position is more realistic than asking individuals to isolate for 5 days.

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