The Centers for Disease Control is contemplating reducing its recommendation for individuals who come into contact with people who test positive for COVID-19. The current recommendation is 14 days, but the CDC is considering the possibility that the time could be reduced to a week.
The current guidelines suggest that anyone exposed to the virus quarantine for two weeks at home, even if they’ve tested negative for COVID. Infectious disease scientists say the current thought is that it prevents the spread of the virus before someone has symptoms. It’s also thought to reduce the virus’s spread through asymptomatic people.
But the CDC’s Director had previously said that the guidelines were made before diagnostic testing was readily available. Robert Redfield said the agency is trying to decide whether a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative COVID-19 test would control the spread.
Redfield said, “It’s data-driven. It’s under evaluation. Obviously, we don’t want people to be quarantined for 14 days unnecessarily.”
According to Henry Walke, the CDC is finalizing the new guidelines, which would suggest that people quarantine for seven to ten days, as well as have a negative test for the virus. Walke is the CDC’s incident manager for the center’s COVID-19 response team. But before settling on a definitive recommendation, the agency is analyzing the amount of time needed and what kind of test renders the best accuracy.
Belsie Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the CDC, said, “CDC is always reviewing its guidance and recommendations in light of new understandings of the virus that causes COVID-19, and will announce such changes when appropriate.”
Some officials say it appears that they’re beginning to see “a preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten the quarantine period.” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health, said: “We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence, but we want to make absolutely sure. These kind of recommendations aren’t willy-nilly. They’re worked on with a variety of experts.” Giroir leads the federal response on testing.
Former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said that a shorter quarantine time might make it easier for some people to adhere to. Gottlieb said many people ignore the recommended quarantine time and shorten it on their own anyway. Gottlieb said the amount of people who would contract the virus two weeks after being exposed is likely “very small.”
“I mean, frankly, we probably should have done this sooner,” Gottlieb said. “Asking people to quarantine for a full two weeks, to self-isolate for a full two weeks, because of an exposure is just going to drive people not to comply with the rules. We’re better off doing something that’s practical.”
Dr. Tom Frieden served under President Obama as his CDC Director. Frieden said the biggest risk of spreading the virus is on days four to seven. After that, the chances are smaller, and Frieden said the U.S. “needs to optimize quarantine.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that a full two-week quarantine prevents people from getting tested because testing positive would mean that they’re out of work. He believes shortening the quarantine period would encourage more people to get tested. “They don’t want to say, ‘Well, I’m tested, and now I have to stay out of work, I may lose money, I’m not getting subsidized, and I might even lose my job.”