"We're in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools — like vaccination, boosters, and treatments — to protect ourselves," says Greta Massetti, chief of the CDC Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, as COVID-19 guidance around isolation and testing is adjusted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both adjusted their COVID-19 guidance around isolation and testing on Thursday.
The CDC will no longer recommend isolation for people who were exposed to COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, and issued new guidance on what to do if someone starts feeling sick. Going forward, the agency recommends people who were exposed wear a “high-quality mask” for 10 days and get tested on day six. They should continue to wear a mask for 10 days.
The CDC also recommends that people who feel sick isolate and get tested, but if that test comes back negative, they can end their isolation.
According to new guidance, those who test positive for COVID-19 can still end their isolation after five days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication or if their symptoms are improving, but should continue to wear a mask until day 10. Anyone who experienced moderate or severe illness or has a weakened immune system should continue to isolate for 10 days.
People who end isolation may take their masks off if they test negative on two consecutive rapid antigen tests at least 48 hours apart.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools — like vaccination, boosters, and treatments — to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” Greta Massetti, chief of the CDC Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, said in a statement. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
The CDC, which had previously eased its guidance for things like cruise ships and international travel, continues to recommend people get vaccinated and stay “up to date” with their vaccinations as well as get tested before any domestic or international trip — as close to departure as possible.
For its part, the FDA on Thursday recommended people do “repeat, or serial, testing” using rapid antigen tests if the results are negative. The home rapid tests, while convenient, are less sensitive than molecular tests like PCR and may not detect the virus early in an infection, according to the FDA. In fact, at-home COVID-19 antigen tests are typically at least 80% accurate at detecting the virus when someone is infected (compared to a PCR test, which is at least 95% accurate).
The agency recommends people with symptoms who test negative get tested twice, 48 hours apart. Those without symptoms who test negative should perform three tests, each 48 hours apart.
Anyone who continues to test negative on a home rapid test but is concerned they may have COVID-19 should consider re-testing or getting a PCR test.