CDC simplifies Covid guidance as US has more tools to fight virus and keep people out of hospital

A sign outside a hospital advertises COVID-19 testing on November 19, 2021 in New York City. On Friday, vaccine consultants for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted unanimously to recommend a COVID-19 vaccine booster to all adults in the United States six months after they finish their first two doses.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention softened its Covid-19 advisory, saying the virus now poses a much lower risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to the previous pandemic period.

The CDC no longer recommends testing to identify people with possible asymptomatic infections in most places, such as schools. However, screening is still recommended in certain high-risk settings such as nursing homes, prisons, and homeless shelters.

According to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are not up to date with their vaccines no longer need to be quarantined if they have been exposed to Covid-19. Instead, public health officials are now recommending that these people wear a mask for 10 days and get tested on the fifth day.

The CDC, in a report released Thursday, said the population has high levels of immunity from both vaccines and infections, meaning the virus is now much less of a threat to public health. Greta Massetti, a CDC epidemiologist, said the US has the vaccines and treatments needed to fight the virus. But according to the public health agency, it’s still critical for everyone to stay up to date on their vaccines.

“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over yet, but also helps us get to the point where COVID-19 will no longer seriously disrupt our daily lives,” Massetti said in a statement.

The change in CDC guidance comes after public health officials warned the US could face a major wave of infections in the fall and winter as vaccine immunity wanes and people gather indoors to escape colder weather.

What to do if you have a positive test result

People with a healthy immune system, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate for five days after testing positive for the virus, but you can end isolation on the sixth day if you have had no symptoms or if you have not had a fever for 24 hours and other symptoms improved as recommended.

After coming out of isolation, you must wear a quality mask for 10 days after a positive test. If you have had two negative rapid antigen tests, you can stop wearing the mask sooner, as recommended. But you should avoid people who are more likely to get Covid, such as the elderly and those with weak immune systems, until at least day 11.

People with weakened immune systems, those who have been hospitalized with Covid, or those who have been short of breath due to the virus should isolate themselves from others for 10 days. But people with weakened immune systems and those who have been hospitalized should also consult a doctor before leaving isolation.

According to the CDC, if you come out of isolation but your Covid symptoms worsen, you should return to isolation and follow the guidelines again from scratch.

The U.S. now averages more than 107,000 new cases per day, according to the CDC. This is likely a significant undercount because many people are now being tested at home and the results are not reflected in the official figures.

On average, about 6,000 people with Covid are hospitalized per day, according to the CDC. On average, about 400 people die from the virus every day.

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