The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that it will shorten the recommended isolation time for asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19.

The announcement, made on December 27, 2021, comes after growing pressure from various industries, one of them being the US airline industry, to shorten quarantine periods to avoid disruption in the workforce operations.

Airlines for America, which represents Southwest, American, United, Delta, and other major airlines, have asked the CDC to reduce quarantine period as the current quarantine guidelines could cause labor shortages.

In its announcement, the CDC said the change in guidelines is “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness.”

Previously, the CDC has recommended 10 days for isolation period to those who are COVID-19 positive. With the updated guidelines, the agency now advises those who test positive to isolate for just five as long as they are asymptomatic, and then wear a mask for another five days. The policy is the same regardless of vaccination status.

For those who have had exposure to COVID-19 and are unvaccinated or have not had a booster shot for more than 6 months,  the CDC now recommends a quarantine period of 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wears a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.

Vaccinated individuals who’ve had exposure do not need to quarantine but are required to wear a mask when with others for 10 days.

The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

Airlines for America believe that shortened quarantine periods may help reduce disruption in the workforce, similar to the massive flight delays and cancellations that occurred over the Christmas weekend.

“As with healthcare, police, fire and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate personnel shortages and create significant disruptions to our workforce and operations,” Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio said in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The full CDC guidelines for quarantine and isolation can be viewed here
 

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Thousands of flights in the US have been canceled over the Christmas weekend; flights continually disrupted over the surge of the Omicron variant.