The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its coronavirus guidance to state people can now quarantine for just 10 or even seven days following exposure to the novel virus instead of its previous 14-day recommendation.
Shortened alternatives for quarantining were announced on Wednesday by Dr Henry Walke, the agency’s Covid-19 incident manager.
Dr Walke said the agency still acknowledged a 14-day quarantine was "the best way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19”. But it found two acceptable alternatives depending on the individual person.
The first alternative would allow for just a 10-day quarantine if someone was experiencing no symptoms related to Covid-19. That quarantine period, Dr Walke added, could end on the seventh day if someone tested negative for coronavirus.
Despite shortening quarantine periods, exposed people were still asked to monitor symptoms and wear a mask for the full 14 days.
These quarantine periods are recommended for people who come into “close contact” with someone else who tested positive for Covid-19.
A close contact, as defined by the CDC, was someone “who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset or positive test result.”
“People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department,” the CDC recommends in its guidance.
Updating the guidance was an attempt by the CDC to find “sweet spot” among Americans, The Washington Post reports. This sweet spot balanced how health officials could most likely limit the spread of the virus to others while also finding higher compliance among the public.
Reducing the quarantine period "may make it easier for people to take this critical action, by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time," Dr Walke said. "In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system and communities, especially when new infections are rapidly rising."
The CDC has also updated its guidance for the holidays, urging Americans to avoid all travel if possible.
If people chose to travel during the holidays, it was recommended for them to receive a Covid-19 one to three days prior and then another test three to five days upon arrival. Travellers should also quarantine for at least seven days.