The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced changes to their Covid-19 guidelines on Thursday, dropping so-called “quarantine” periods for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the virus.
The changes are a big step away from those that had originally been put in place when the virus first made its way to the US, with social distancing set at 6 feet apart and quarantining measures being the norm with people who were merely exposed people having to self-isolate for up to two weeks. The agency’s shift comes as schools begin to reopen across the country.
“We know Covid-19 is here to stay,” said CDC epidemiologist Greta Massetti during Thursday’s news briefing. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools that we have available to protect people from severe illness and death have put us in a different place.”
The CDC lifted measures recommending that students exposed to someone positive for the virus must quarantine. The virus also drops recommendations that schools limit social contact by putting them in groups during the day.
Schools should also no longer conduct Covid-19 testing for asymptomatic students or those who have not been exposed to the virus. Schools should only conduct widespread testing during an outbreak or high-risk event at the school, like a prom.
The guideline also changes last year’s “test-to-stay” recommendations which say testing is done on students as a way to avoid quarantine.
The CDC suggests that unvaccinated people no longer have to quarantine after exposure to the virus, and suggested that schools also pick up this policy.
For those who do test positive, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least five days, and wear a high-quality mask if you are around others in your home. If after 5 days you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation after day 5.
They do note that regardless of when you end your isolation and test negative, you should avoid being around those who are likely to get very sick from Covid for at least another 11 days.
The unvaccinated and exposed students who come into contact with some who is Covid positive are recommended to take a test after five days of exposure and wear a mask for 10 days to avoid potentially spreading the virus if they were to test positive.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from a severe illness from COVID-19,” said Massetti. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
It’s estimated that 95 percent of the US population have antibodies from prior infection or vaccination, said Massetti, providing protection from the disease. “So it really makes the most sense to not differentiate with our guidance or our recommendations based on vaccination status at this time.”