The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shortened the recommended time for isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, in the wake of the Omicron variant.
Instead of 10 days, the CDC is now recommending isolation for five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of the illness, generally in the one or two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.
This change could greatly affect how quickly those testing positive can return to work in various industries, including the theatre, particularly those who can wear a mask during the five days following the isolation period.
The CDC has also updated the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or not yet boosted, the CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. If a five-day quarantine is not feasible, an exposed person must wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Those who have received their booster do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
For all exposed, best practice would also include a COVID-19 test at day five after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement, “The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”