People who test positive for COVID-19 but display no symptoms will now get to spend less time in isolation.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed the isolation guidelines, shortening the isolation period for asymptomatic individuals from 10 days down to five days. The CDC recommends that individuals wear a mask around others for five more days following their five day isolation period.

The change was spurred by increased knowledge regarding when the virus typically spreads from person to person. “The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” stated a release by the CDC.

In addition to a change in the isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19, the CDC has also changed the quarantine guidelines for people who are exposed to COVID-19. For those who are not vaccinated or are six months out from their second mRNA dose without a booster, the recommendation is to quarantine for five days, followed by five days of mask use. For those who are fully vaccinated, it is recommended that they wear a mask for 10 days, but no quarantine is required. Testing is also recommended five days after the exposure.

Slightly more restrictive guidelines are still in place for healthcare workers, but their isolation period has also been shortened. Healthcare workers who test positive will now only have to isolate for seven days. If they have no symptoms and test negative at that time, they will be able to return to work while continuing to mask.

This is welcome news for Lake Region Healthcare (LRH). “We are working to implement these updates over the next few days as we do believe this will help with our staffing challenges,” said Chief Nursing Officer at LRH Roberta Young. “The changes will allow infected people whose symptoms have resolved to return to work in a potentially shorter timeframe and will shorten or avoid quarantine for those who have been exposed.”

The updates come as the omicron variant threatens to infect a large number of people, leading to more isolation and quarantining “which is definitely a concern for maintaining staffing,” said Young. “The change is in line with growing evidence that people with COVID-19 are most infectious in the two days before and the three days after symptoms develop and is aimed at helping find the balance that keeps our workforce and our community safe while also being able to continue living and working and providing the healthcare services people need.”

Young shared that it’s important to “keep studying and learning from the science,” and “adjusting protocols when appropriate as we learn to live and function with this virus.”

She continued to recommend that people get vaccinated, boosted, wear masks in indoor public spaces, get tested, wash hands and stay home when sick. “If we do these things, a shortened isolation and quarantine period based on current knowledge of transmission patterns is a measured approach to mitigation of the virus and its impacts.”

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