Thursday, December 3, 2020

Coronavirus Update 12-3-2020: CDC cuts recommended quarantine period from 14 days to 7 – 10 days (sort of)

Yesterday, the CDC amended its guidance on the duration of quarantine for individuals in close contact with someone else positive with COVID-19. We need to pay close attention to the fine print. All of the headlines are reporting that the CDC has shortened its recommended COVID-19 quarantine period. That's not, however, what happened.

Previously, the CDC recommended a 14-day quarantine period in all cases for someone in close contact. Now, however, the agency has made available the option to shorten quarantine as follows:
  1. Quarantine may end after Day 10 without testing and no reported symptoms during daily monitoring.

  2. When diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, quarantine may end after Day 7 with a negative test and no reported symptoms during daily monitoring.

  3. Persons can discontinue quarantine at these times only if: (a) there is no clinical evidence of COVID-19 detected during daily symptom monitoring during the entirety of quarantine up to the time at which it is discontinued; (b) daily symptom monitoring continues through Day 14; (c) persons strictly adhere to all recommended mitigation measures (masking, physical distancing, etc.) through Day 14; and (d) if symptoms develop the person should immediately self-isolate and contact their healthcare provider.
Despite this optional shortening of the quarantine period the CDC still advises, "Persons can continue to be quarantined for 14 days without testing per existing recommendations," which "maximally reduces risk of post-quarantine transmission risk and is the strategy with the greatest collective experience at present." 

The CDC made these changes based on scientific evidence of diminishing spread from one percent down to near zero percent during days 11 – 14 without testing and days 8 – 14 after a negative test, and further based on the concern that "a 14-day quarantine can impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as cause economic hardship that may reduce compliance."

That said, in the middle of a deadly surge of this virus I'll opt to keep the spread as close to zero as we can. Despite this new guidance, I think that in most cases businesses should still keep exposed employees out of work for the full 14-day quarantine. We need to be doing everything we can to slow the current surge. To me, a one-percent risk of transmission is one percent too high if we can reduce it to zero merely by waiting at home for a few more days.

* Photo by Jason Mowry on Unsplash