The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended length of quarantine after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19, as the virus rages across the nation.
The new guidelines released Wednesday will allow people who have come in contact to someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, or 7 days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the onset of the pandemic.
Dr. Henry Walke, the agency’s coronavirus incident manager, said on a call with reporters that the sample for the negative test should be collected within 48 hours of the final day of quarantine.
“We continue to refine our guidance to prevent transmission and protect Americans,” Walke said. “Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to follow critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time.”
Walke added that regardless of the length of quarantine, people should monitor their own symptoms for a full 14 days after an exposure.
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The policy change has been discussed for some time, as scientists have studied the incubation period for the virus. The policy would hasten the return to normal activities by those deemed to be “close contacts” of those infected with the virus, which has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000.
While the CDC had said the incubation period for the virus was thought to extend to 14 days, most individuals became infectious and developed symptoms between 4 and 5 days after exposure.
It’s not the first time that the CDC has adjusted its guidance for the novel coronavirus as it adjusted to new research. In July the agency shortened, from 14 days to 10, its advice on how long a person should stay in isolation after they first experience COVID symptoms — provided they’re no longer sick.
The new guidance was presented Tuesday at a White House coronavirus task force meeting for final approval.
AP writer Mike Stobbe contributed.