Federal health officials effectively shortened quarantine periods for those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus on Wednesday, hoping to improve adherence among Americans and reduce the economic and psychological toll from long periods of illness. isolation.
Citing the growing number of infections across the country, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also once again urged Americans to avoid travel during the holiday season.
“The CDC recommends that the best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone the trip and stay home,” said Dr. Henry Walke, who is overseeing the day-to-day management of the pandemic response to the agency, during a press briefing.
People who choose to travel during the holiday season despite the warnings should consider getting tested for coronavirus infection one to three days before their trip, and again three to five days after their return, said Dr Walke and other officials.
This is the first time that the agency has requested tests for domestic travelers; until now, testing has only been recommended for Americans traveling abroad. Dr Walke noted that testing before and after the trip “does not eliminate all risks”.
Returning travelers should minimize non-essential activities for at least seven days if they get tested, and for 10 days if not tested. (Many states already require travelers to self-quarantine after arrival, although the rules vary from state to state.)
Federal health officials have also proposed two new ways to shorten quarantine periods. People without symptoms can end the quarantine after seven days if they are tested for the virus and test negative, or after 10 days without testing negative.
PCR or rapid tests are both acceptable, officials said, and should be done within 48 hours of the end of the quarantine period. People should continue to watch for symptoms for 14 days.
(Quarantine refers to people who are doing well but can get sick; isolation refers to people known to be sick.)
So far, the CDC has recommended a 14-day quarantine period after potential exposure, and Dr Walke stressed that the full two weeks was still considered ideal and the safest way to reduce transmissions.
While a shortened quarantine period may be more acceptable to Americans, officials have recognized that the new guidelines could result in some infections being violated.
“We can safely reduce the length of the quarantine, but accepting that there is a small residual risk that a person leaving quarantine prematurely could pass it on to someone else if infected,” said Said Dr John Brooks, Chief Medical Officer Covid-19 Response to CDC
Some patients may not develop symptoms for two weeks after exposure, and even longer in a very small fraction of cases. Infected people can pass the virus on to others before they develop symptoms; recent studies show they are most contagious two days before symptoms start and about five days after.
The agency’s warnings against vacation travel echo those issued just a week before Thanksgiving. Millions of Americans nonetheless took to the road to vacation with friends and family, even though the number of travelers was lower than in a typical year.
“Cases are increasing, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing,” said Dr Walke. “We have to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.”
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Dr Cindy Friedman, head of the travel division at the CDC, said the agency was reiterating the message further ahead of the Christmas holidays to give people more time to plan ahead, “think about it. safest option for them and their families. And make “hard choices.”
“We know this is a difficult decision, and people need time to prepare and have discussions with their family and friends and to make those decisions,” added Dr. Friedman. Even a small percentage of infected travelers could “translate into hundreds of thousands more infections.”
Hospitals are already overwhelmed in many areas as cases have increased rapidly, with the country adding more than a million new infections in a recent one-week period, according to data maintained by the New York Times.
Daily deaths exceed 2,000 for the first time since early May, and nearly 100,000 Americans are already hospitalized.
“We are at the point now, even before Christmas, that there may be no more room in your hospital, because we do not have enough nursing staff to take care of you,” said Michael Osterholm. , member of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Covid-19 Advisory Committee, which also urged Americans to stay at home.