Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky explained that the recent decision to shorten the isolation period for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases was based on what the federal government “thought people would be able to tolerate.”
The latest CDC guidelines were released this week, shortening the 10-day isolation period to five days for individuals who are asymptomatic.
Walenksy said the move “really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” according to her interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic,” she continued. “Some science has demonstrated less than a third of people are isolating when they need to. And so we really want to make sure that we had guidance in this moment where we were going to have a lot of disease that could be adhered to, that people were willing to adhere to.”
Walensky added that the 10-day isolation guidance “was conservative” but noted that “in the context of the fact that we were going to have so many more cases, many of those would be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, people would feel well enough to be at work.”
“They would not necessarily tolerate being home and they may not comply with being home,” the CDC director added. “This was the moment that we needed to make that decision and those changes.”
Walensky and other federal officials have said current data suggests Omicron appears less severe but has continued to push vaccinations, masks, and physical distancing.
President Joe Biden this month announced new plans to combat Omicron, including federal reinforcements for hospitals and more tests—although some experts have said it is too little, too late.
Cruise operators took a hit on Thursday, however, after the CDC warned people to avoid them amid a growing number of outbreaks onboard. That comes as most major cruise lines such as Carnival or Royal Caribbean require staff and guests to be fully vaccinated and present proof.
“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the CDC said Thursday.
With the latest warning, the CDC stated that “even fully vaccinated” people are at risk of contracting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, and spreading its variants. Passengers are asked to get tested three to five days after their cruise trip ends, the CDC continued, while urging them to self-monitor for COVID-19-related symptoms for 14 days.
Reuters contributed to this report.