Explained: Why has the US CDC shortened its recommended 14-day quarantine period?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

December 4, 2020 11:26:45 am


A woman in quarantine waves from a bus. (AP Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, File)

This week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the quarantine periods, from the earlier recommended 14 days, for those who may have been exposed to . Now it has provided a few options to shorten quarantine periods based on local circumstances and resources.

So, what is the CDC saying now?

With these new quarantine guidelines, the CDC is giving public health agencies the option to shorten quarantine periods and has provided them with a few alternatives to do the same.

As per the first alternative, the CDC has said that quarantine can end after day 10 without testing if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring. If this approach is adopted, it claims that the residual post-quarantine transmission risk will fall somewhere between 1-10 percent.

Alternatively, if diagnostic testing resources are sufficient and available, quarantine can end after day 7 provided that the diagnostic specimen tests negative and no symptoms were reported during daily monitoring. If this strategy is taken, the CDC estimates that the residual post-quarantine transmission risk will fall somewhere between 5-12 percent.

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Under other alternatives, individuals can discontinue quarantine if there is no clinical evidence of noticed during daily monitoring during the entire quarantine period, or if daily symptom monitoring continues for a period of 14 days or if people are counseled regarding the need to adhere strictly to a 14-day quarantine.

Further, testing for the purpose of earlier discontinuation of quarantine can be undertaken if it will not have an impact on community diagnostic testing. The CDC maintains that testing should be prioritised for those seeking evaluation for infection.📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Why has the CDC undertaken these new measures?

It says that a quarantine period shorter than 14 days balances the reduced burden against a small possibility of increasing the spread of the virus.

“The recommendation for a 14-day quarantine was based on estimates of the upper bounds of the COVID-19 incubation period. Quarantine’s importance grew after it was evident that persons are able to transmit SARS-CoV-2 before symptoms develop, and that a substantial portion of infected persons (likely somewhere between 20% to 40%) never develop symptomatic illness but can still transmit the virus. In this context, quarantine is a critical measure to control transmission,” CDC has said.

Even so, it now notes that a 14-day long quarantine period can impose “personal burdens” that may affect an individual’s physical and mental health and cause economic hardship to those that are required to comply.

Early on in the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had acknowledged that the reduced day-to-day interactions with people and isolation periods can generate stress in the population, making those with existing anxiety and mental health disorders especially vulnerable.

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In addition, the CDC has acknowledged that a 14-day long quarantine period also poses additional burdens on public health systems and communities, especially when the number of new cases starts rising.

Therefore, the CDC notes that reducing quarantine periods will help to reduce the various burdens associated with a fortnight-long quarantine period and may also increase community compliance, while also saying that a quarantine period shorter than 14 days risks being “less effective”.

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