The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon shorten the recommended quarantine period for possible exposure to COVID-19 — in the hopes that more people will follow the advice, a report said Tuesday.
The agency is finalizing plans to cut down the suggested 14-day self-isolation period to between seven and 10 days, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The new guidelines would include a test to ensure a person quarantining is negative for the coronavirus, Henry Walke, a senior CDC official, told the newspaper.
“We do think that the work that we’ve done, and some of the studies we have and the modeling data that we have, shows that we can with testing shorten quarantine,” Walke told the outlet.
“Hopefully, people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, seven to 10 days.”
There is a risk some potential cases could be missed, as studies have shown it can take up to two weeks for coronavirus symptoms to manifest in someone who is infected.
But about 50 percent of people who become sick develop symptoms between the first five or six days after they’re infected. Research has also shown that the virus is most contagious for the first five days after symptoms begin.
Based on that data, plus the latest testing strategies for COVID-19 and the fact that people are weary after months of restrictions, some public health experts have said a 14-day quarantine period is too long.
“If we could get people to quarantine—and really quarantine, like you can’t go to the grocery store when you quarantine — then I think there’s an argument for shorter times,” Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the paper.
The researcher said the suggested self-isolation period could depend on the situation. For example, a shorter quarantine could be appropriate before returning to an office, while 14-days would still be safest before visiting an elderly relative.
Other countries such as France, Germany and Belgium have already cut down their recommended isolation periods for people potentially exposed to the virus.
The World Health Organization, which currently suggests a 14-day quarantine, said the expert groups that advise it were reviewing the data.