U.S. health officials, on Monday, Dec. 27, cut isolation rules for asymptomatic Americans who get the coronavirus from 10 to 5 days, and they also cut the time close contacts need to stay away from them.

CDC officials say the new advice is in line with growing evidence that people who have the coronavirus are most likely to spread the virus two days before and three days after they start feeling sick.

There has been a significant rise in cases of COVID-19, pushed by the Omicron variant.

In the beginning, research shows that Omicron may cause fewer illnesses than older coronaviruses, which are more dangerous. After that, however, there has been a significant rise in the number of people getting sick and needing to be isolated or quarantined. 

Rochelle Walensky, CDC head, said the country would see a lot of Omicron cases soon.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic, we want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science,” Walensky added.

Since the change in the rules made by the CDC, health care workers no longer have to stay off work for 10 days if they get sick. If they don’t show signs and don’t get sick after seven days, they can go back to work. The agency also said that isolation time could be cut to five days, or even less if there are a lot of staffing problems.

Isolation and quarantine guidelines from the CDC have been confusing to the public.

Rules for people who are infected, not vaccinated, partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated, or have had their boosters.

— The clock starts the day you test positive.

— An infected person should go into isolation for five days instead of the previously recommended 10.

— At the end of five days, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere, even at home around others, for at least five more days.

— If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

In the United States, many people get tested when they first start to feel sick or get tested for other reasons. Perhaps to find out if they can visit their family, or for work. As a result, it might not be evident when a person is infected or is most likely to spread the disease. So employers and local officials should follow the new CDC advice. Still, this is not a law but a suggestion.

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