Throughout the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided specific recommendations for those exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Close contacts, a person within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes in total, were instructed to go under a 14-day quarantine starting from the date of exposure.
According to the CDC website, quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others to help prevent the spread of the disease that can occur before a person knows they are infected.
On Wednesday, the CDC reduced the recommended 2-week quarantine period to 10 or seven days. Reducing the length of quarantine will diminish the economic hardship that many face when required to be out of work for 2-weeks. In addition, this will assist local public health officials when contact tracing.
People have been skeptical, and often fearful of partaking in contact tracing due to the possibility of losing two weeks of income or, possibly, their job.
The revised guidelines state that if you were exposed and you do not develop symptoms, you only need to quarantine for 10 days. If you test negative, the quarantine period will be reduced to 7 days. Individuals may end their quarantine after 7 days if they receive a negative test, or 10 days if they choose to not be tested.
“We are accepting some risk in exchange for reduction in burden that will allow us to better control this epidemic,” said a senior federal official during the CDC’s news briefing Wednesday morning.
Shortening the time people are required to stay at home will enable people to follow these stay at-home recommendations, which are said to help stop the spread.
Symptoms still may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. This is where the initial 14-day quarantine stemmed from, the length of time it can take for someone to become infected. This recommendation reflects the virus’ ability to incubate for a longer period before symptoms arise.
This update comes on the same day — Dec. 2 — when the county saw the highest number of new daily COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.
The head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, shared with CNN Health that these next three months will be the most difficult time in public health that the country has seen.
The agency still suggests the 14-day quarantine as the safest option but it recognizes the burden it creates. Local public health authorities have the final say on how long the quarantine period should last in the community they are serving, based on local conditions and needs.