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'We are in a different place': CDC lifts isolation guidelines for COVID

Helena Oliviero and Stephanie Lamm, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announced Friday new guidelines for people with COVID-19, recommending those with the virus treat it the same as the flu and RSV — staying home while they have symptoms and fever.

The guidelines eliminate earlier recommendations for five days of isolation and testing for COVID, marking a new approach for the federal health agency. They said the new guidelines are intended to make it easier for people to know how to protect others and take into account that people may not know which virus they have.

“We are in a different situation with the level of protection we have against the virus and the prevention steps we know work to protect ourselves and others,” said CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen in announcing the changes at a press conference Friday.

People with COVID can return to work or regular activities if their symptoms are mild and improving and it’s been at least 24 hours since they’ve had a fever, without fever-reducing medicines — the same standard used for the flu and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.

After resuming normal activities, the CDC recommends people consider additional strategies for the next five days to prevent the spread of the virus, including wearing a well-fitted mask and keeping a distance from others. Those who are at high risk of severe illness, such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, should seek out treatment right away to help reduce their chances of getting seriously sick.

The changes reflect the diminishing threat of the coronavirus and come on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the first two confirmed COVID cases in Georgia.

 

Four years into the pandemic, most people have had COVID at least once. At least 98% of the U.S. population has some immunity, whether from infection, vaccination or both.

The changes in recommendations should be easier to understand and follow, CDC officials said.

Most people have some degree of immunity to the coronavirus from past vaccinations or from infections. And many people are not following the five-day isolation guidance anyway, health officials say. A recent survey by the CDC found less than half the people questioned said they would use an at-home COVID test if they had COVID symptoms.

CDC officials also emphasized we have more tools to treat COVID, including the antiviral Paxlovid.

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