The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday, Dec. 27, updated its isolation guidance for COVID-19 infected patients in which it shortens the recommended quarantine period by half.

The new guidance calls for five days of isolation instead of ten days as before, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others if asymptomatic.

The change comes after science demonstrates that most COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, the infectious should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time; they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

In its explanation, the CDC cited a surge in the omicron variant across the country for its guidance change. 

“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” the director added.

The CDC also issued new guidance for those exposed to COVID-19, saying those who are fully vaccinated and got boosters do not need to quarantine but should wear a mask around others in the ten days following exposure, while those who are unvaccinated or have gone more than six months without receiving a booster should quarantine for five days and then wear a mask for another five days.

According to Fox News, there is another reason leading to the CDC’s new guidance. Various industries are experiencing severe staffing shortages because of omicron cases.

Thousands of worldwide flights were canceled because of staffing problems tied to COVID-19 at the height of the Christmas travel season.

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