As the omicronic variant of COVID-19 spreads in the United States, senior federal health officials are keen to add a negative test along with five-day isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who contract the coronavirus, the White House chief medical adviser said Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently considering including a negative test in their recommendations after they received a significant “waiver” from updated guidelines last week.
According to this December 27 guidance, isolation restrictions for people infected with COVID-19 have been reduced from 10 to five days if they no longer feel symptoms or have a fever. After this period, they are asked to spend the next five days wearing a mask when they are around other people.
Since then, the guide has been criticized by many healthcare providers for not listing a negative antigen test as a requirement for exiting isolation.
“There was some concern about why we weren’t asking people to get tested during this five-day period,” Fauci said. “If you look at it again, there might be an option that testing could be part of it, and I think we will hear more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.”
Fauci, a leading national expert on infectious diseases, said the US was seeing an almost “vertical rise” in new cases, currently averaging 400,000 cases per day, and increasing hospital admissions.
“We are definitely in the middle of a very serious spike and increase in the number of cases,” he said. “The growth in cases we’ve seen is unprecedented, far beyond anything we’ve seen before.”
Fauci said he is concerned that the omicron variant is suppressing the health care system and causing “serious disruption” to other essential services.
“When I talk about major disruptions, you will certainly see that the system and the system are stressed by the people doing any job … especially critical to keeping society running smoothly,” Fauci said. “We already know that there are reports from firefighters and police departments in different cities that 10, 20, 25, and sometimes even 30% of people are sick. And that’s what we need to worry about, because we want to make sure that we don’t have such an impact on society that it really does fail. I hope this does not happen. “
Despite “accumulating evidence” that omicron can lead to less severe illness, he warned that the data remain early. Fauci said he was worried, in particular, by the tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans because “a fair number of them will become seriously ill.”
He urged Americans who have not yet been vaccinated and boosted vaccinations to do so and disguise themselves indoors to protect themselves and reduce the current rise in US cases.
The FDA said last week that preliminary studies show that rapid home tests detect omicron, but may have reduced sensitivity. The agency noted that it is still studying how the tests perform with the variant, which was first discovered in late November.
Fauci said Americans “shouldn’t get the impression that these tests are of no value.”
“I think the confusion is that rapid antigen tests have never been as sensitive as a PCR test,” Fauci said. “They are very good when administered consistently. So if you do them maybe two or three times over the course of a few days, at the end of the day they will be as good as PCR, but as a single test, they are not as sensitive. “
The PCR test usually needs to be done in a laboratory. The test looks for the genetic material of the virus and then reproduces it millions of times until the computer detects it.
Fauci said that if Americans take the necessary precautions, something like a more normal life could soon happen in the United States.
“One of the things we’re hoping for is that in a few weeks this figure will peak and change,” Fauci said. He expressed hope that by February and March omicron could fall to a low enough level “so as not to destroy our society, our economy, our way of life.”
Fauci has appeared on ABC’s This Week and CNN’s State of the Union.