COVID-19 Patients Can End Isolation Without Testing: CDC Update

By Paula Liu
Paula Liu
Paula Liu
July 24, 2020Updated: July 24, 2020

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new guideline on Wednesday, July 22 regarding COVID-19, which indicated that patients no longer need to undergo testing in order to end their isolation.

The new guidelines state that according to new findings and assessments done by the CDC, patients infected with COVID-19 are allowed to discontinue their isolation and be considered as recovered if they no longer exhibit any symptoms 10 days after they first appear and if patients have not had a fever in the last 24 hours without the use of any fever-breaking medication.

The CDC stated that symptoms indicated within the guidelines don’t pertain to just respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, but can include non-respiratory ones as well.

The CDC recently did a study that dealt with isolation during the pandemic and the duration of isolation necessary to prevent any transmission of infection.

The data from this recent study promoted a symptom-based strategy in order to end isolation from COVID-19 rather than a test-based strategy. This does two things, one of which is to end unnecessary isolation, allowing a patient to return their normal life and resume their usual responsibilities. The other is to alleviate some pressure from testing professionals, and through the process, consume fewer resources needed to conduct these tests.

The CDC summarized their findings, and one of the findings indicated that from the time an individual gets infected with COVID-19 to the subsequent days after, the concentration of COVID-19 in the upper body (where the respiratory system is) typically declines in level.

However, the CDC has cautioned that for certain other people—individuals who were diagnosed with a severe case of COVID-19 or who may have a compromised or impaired immune system will need to be isolated for longer than 10 days, but likely will become non-infectious 20 days after the symptoms first appeared.

Researchers are also looking at something called replication-competency virus, which are the particles of the virus that are capable of infecting cells in an individual’s body to produce even more viral particles in the body, thereby reinfecting an individual. The study indicated that the possibility of these viral cells recovering as time passes also decreases.

The CDC further indicated that though a person may have recovered, individuals can still emit detectable COVID-19 presence for about three months after the initial symptoms first appeared, although the levels of concentration of COVID-19 particles will be much less than that of during the illness phase. Furthermore, the likelihood of replication-competency will not develop, which also means that the likelihood of infecting others is low.

In addition, specimens from patients who have recovered from the first bouts of COVID-19 but subsequently have developed symptoms indicated that even though they retested positive, no replication-competent virus has been detected.

Furthermore, the study revealed there have not been any cases of anyone being reinfected with COVID-19 in the six months since its emergence, according to the CDC. However, the CDC indicated that the subject of reinfection is still under investigation and that this area remains largely unknown to medical professionals.

“Studies have not found evidence that clinically recovered persons with persistence of viral RNA have transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to others,” according to the assessment from the CDC.

The CDC indicated that all recommendations given are based on information that was available during the mid-July 2020 timeframe in order to accurately reflect the current status of the pandemic. The CDC cautions that because the pandemic is evolving, there is no way to “establish recommendations that ensure 100% of persons who are shedding replication-competent virus remain isolated,” and that these are recommendations only, not laws.

However, the CDC indicated that it will be monitoring the pandemic to make sure information will be updated as soon as it is available, and update recommendations as necessary.

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