Washington Post: CDC To Ease Covid-19 Isolation Guidance

The CDC is expected to change its isolation guidance for people with Covid-19. (Tami Chappell/Reuters/FILE)

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to shift its Covid-19 isolation guidance this spring to say that people no longer need to isolate once they have been fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms are mild or improving, according to the Washington Post.

The Post cited four unnamed agency officials and said the planned shift was discussed internally last week and in a briefing with state health officials.

Since 2021, the agency has said people should isolate for at least five days if they tested positive for Covid-19, and then continue to mask. The updated guidance would bring Covid-19 in line with guidance for other respiratory viruses, such as flu.

CNN previously reported that California and Oregon had recently broken with CDC’s guidance to say that people who test positive for Covid-19 are no longer expected to isolate for a set period of time — and those without symptoms don’t have to isolate at all.

The science around Covid-19 transmission hasn’t changed, but experts broadly agreed after the California and Oregon changes that easing isolation timeframes won’t significantly increase community transmission or severe outcomes — in part because the virus has been circulating at very high levels, even with more restrictive guidance in place.

Some infectious disease experts said the change made sense because it would align with what many Americans already do.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, cited the latest variant, JN.1, as a case in point.

“It’s producing a lot of mild infection. Lots of people are not even testing,” Schaffner said.

If they test positive, people aren’t really following strict guidelines for isolation anymore.

“Once they feel better, they’re going back to their normal activities. They are not rigorously putting themselves in isolation for five days,” Schaffner said.

Wastewater surveillance data published by the CDC suggests that Covid-19 is still circulating at high levels across the US, but the agency notes that “infections are causing severe disease less frequently than earlier in the pandemic.”

Still, tens of thousands of people are hospitalized with Covid-19 and hundreds of people die from the virus each week. There were about 21,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations during the week ending February 3, according to the latest CDC data. That’s about 20% lower than this time last year, but more than three times more than the low point from this summer.

CNN’s Brenda Goodman and Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.

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