January 5, 2022 – The recently updated CDC guidelines on isolation and testing are linked to increased public interest in testing, said Director Rochelle Walenksy, MD, during a briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
Health officials recently shortened the recommended COVID-19 isolation and a quarantine period of 10 days to 5, creating confusion in the middle outbreak of an epidemic highly portable variant of Omicron, which now accounts for 95% of cases in the US
Then, in slightly updated instructions, The CDC has recommended the use of an antigen test at home after 5 days of isolation if possible, although these tests are not as sensitive to the Omicron variant, according to the FDA.
“After we released our records early last week, it became very clear that people are interested in using the rapid test, even though they are not authorized to do so after the isolation period is over,” Walensky said. “Then we gave guidelines on how to use them.”
“If that test is negative, people really have to realize that they have to keep wearing the mask for those 5 days,” Walensky said.
But for many, CDC guidelines remain vague and always seem to change.
“Nearly two years after this pandemic, with the rise of Omicron cases across the country, the American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for timely, accurate, clear guidelines to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community,” he said. Of the American Medical Association Gerald Harmon, MD, in a statement. “Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, but risk further spread of the virus.”
About 31% of people remain contagious 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test, Harmon said, citing the CDC’s own rationale for changing the guidelines.
“With hundreds of thousands of new cases a day and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands – potentially hundreds of thousands of people – could return to work and school contagious if they follow new CDC guidelines on ending isolation after 5 days without negative test, ”he said. “Doctors are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could put additional strain on our healthcare system.”
Instead, Harmon said a negative test should be needed to complete the isolation.
“Reappearing without the need to know the status risks further transmission of the virus,” he said.
Meanwhile, also during a White House briefing, officials said early data continue to show that Omicron infections are less serious than those from other variants, but an increasing number of cases will continue to put pressure on the health system.
“The big warning is that we shouldn’t be complacent,” said Presidential Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci, MD.
He added that Omicron “could still put stress on our hospital system because a certain proportion of the large number of cases, no matter what, will be difficult.”
Cases continue to grow sharply. This week’s 7-day daily average of infections is 491,700 – an increase of 98 percent from last week, Walensky said. Hospitalizations, although lagging behind in number of cases, continue to grow significantly: the daily average is 14,800 admitted, up 63% from last week. The daily death toll this week is 1,200, an increase of just 5%.
Walensky continues to encourage vaccinations, amplifiers and other precautions.
“Vaccines and boosters protect people from the difficult and tragic outcomes that can occur due to COVID-19 infection,” she said. “Get vaccinated and get stronger if you meet the conditions, wear a mask, stay home when you’re sick and get tested if you have symptoms or look for more safety before you get together with others.”