CDC clarifies guidance on shortened isolation period

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Posted at 10:58 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 06:30:00-05

(LEX 18) — Facing criticism over recent changes to its COVID-19 isolation/quarantine recommendations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified its guidance to include a testing component.

Since the CDC's recommendation December 27 to shorten the isolation period to five days, the agency faced criticism from public health experts, who believed that testing negative should be a requirement before a person leaves isolation.

The new language suggests that if a person has access to a test, "the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period."

The updated guidance does not, however, include the test-out requirement that health experts had sought.

If a test is positive, that person is advised to continue to isolate until 10 days after symptoms started. If a test is negative, that person can leave isolation after five days and is advised to wear a mask around others for an additional five days.

The CDC said the changes were made in light of evidence that "demonstrates the majority of transmission occurs during the early periods of infection." The agency also pointed to societal disruptions due to the pandemic, writing that the recommendations "also facilitate individual social and well-being needs, return to work, and maintenance of critical infrastructure."

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, defended the CDC against criticism Tuesday, arguing that the agency's decisions are dictated by science.

"Sometimes that means changing recommendations," Psaki said. "That means adding to recommendations. That's what happens when you lead with the data and the science and not lead with a clear communications plan."

During his COVID-19 briefing Monday, Governor Andy Beshear said that communication between the CDC and state public health officials has "decreased" over time.

"We would've liked to have more input," Beshear said when asked by LEX 18 about the controversy over the shortened isolation period. "We would've liked to have done more analysis. I'm not sure we agree with every piece that is on it."