CDC Revises COVID-19 Guidelines in Sweeping Overhaul

CDC Revises COVID-19 Guidelines in Sweeping Overhaul
A medic collects a swab sample at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site in a file photo. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its COVID-19 guidance on Aug. 11, stating that the United States should move away from quarantines and social distancing and focus on treating severe disease caused by the virus.

New guidelines from the federal agency no longer recommend staying at least six feet away from other people to reduce exposure. The six-foot social distancing recommendation had been intact since early 2020, although some public health officials have raised questions about whether the measure is actually effective.

In another major change, the agency stated that it's no longer recommending unvaccinated people to quarantine after exposure. Unvaccinated people who have been in close contact with an infected person aren't advised to go through a five-day quarantine period if they haven't tested positive or shown symptoms, according to the revised guidelines.

"CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection," the CDC stated.

Regardless of vaccination status, according to the CDC, “you should isolate from others when you have COVID-19” or are “sick and suspect that you have COVID-19 but do not yet have test results.” Previously, the CDC said fully vaccinated people who were exposed could skip the quarantine period.

"The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years," Greta Massetti, a senior epidemiologist with the CDC, told media outlets on on Aug. 11. "High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection and the many available tools to protect the general population and protect people at higher risk allow us to focus on protecting people from serious illness from COVID."

Testing to screen for COVID-19 won't be recommended by the CDC in most places for individuals who don't have COVID-19 symptoms, according to the new guidelines. Contact tracing should be relegated to hospitals and high-risk situations, such as nursing homes, the agency stated, while it placed less emphasis on screening for COVID-19 other than places such as prisons and nursing homes.

The CDC is now recommending that people “wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five” after exposure to the virus regardless of vaccination or prior infection. If one is sick, they should stay away from individuals such as elderly people or those who are also likely to develop severe symptoms from the virus

“When considering whether and where to implement screening testing of asymptomatic people with no known exposure, public health officials might consider prioritizing high-risk congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities, and workplace settings that include congregate housing with limited access to medical care,” the CDC wrote in its report explaining the changes.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Related Topics