The nation’s top public health agency on Thursday relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines, dropping the recommendation that Americans self-quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.
The changes are driven by the recognition that – more than 2.5 years since the start of the pandemic – approximately 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either by being vaccinated or by being infected. , agency officials said.
“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the past two years,” said CDC’s Greta Massetti, author of the guidelines.
The CDC’s recommendations apply to everyone in the United States, but the changes could be particularly significant for schools, which are resuming classes this month in many parts of the country.
Perhaps the biggest education-related change is the end of the recommendation that schools conduct routine daily testing, although the practice may be reinstated in some situations during a spike in infections, officials said. responsible.
The CDC also dropped a “test to stay” recommendation that students exposed to COVID-19 could regularly test — instead of quarantining at home — to continue attending school. With no quarantine recommendation, the testing option has also disappeared.
Masks continue to be recommended only in areas where community transmission is deemed high, or if a person is deemed to be at high risk for severe illness.
School districts across the United States have reduced their COVID-19 precautions in recent weeks even before the CDC relaxed its guidelines.
Masks will be optional in most school districts when classes resume this fall, and some of the nation’s largest districts have recalled or eliminated COVID-19 testing requirements.
Some have also moved away from test-to-stay programs that became unmanageable during surges of the omicron variant last year. With so many new infections among students and staff, many schools have struggled to track and test their close contacts, leading to a temporary return to remote classrooms in some locations.
After self-isolating for five days with mild symptoms of COVID-19, President Joe Biden said he “felt fine” and credited vaccines, boosters and therapeutic treatments like Paxlovid for his quick recovery.
The average number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths has remained relatively stable this summer, at around 100,000 cases per day and 300 to 400 deaths.
The CDC has previously said that if people who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations come into close contact with someone who tests positive, they should stay home for at least five days. Now the agency says home quarantine is not necessary, but it is urging such people to wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested after five.
The agency continues to say that people who test positive should isolate themselves from others for at least five days, whether or not they have been vaccinated. CDC officials are advising people to end isolation if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and they have no symptoms or symptoms improve.
Binkley reported from Washington, D.C.