CDC Shrinks COVID Quarantine Time, Advises Against Holiday Travel
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered some good news and some bad news on Wednesday: The recommended length of quarantine after exposure to the new coronavirus has been shortened, but Americans are again being asked to avoid any and all travel during the coming holiday season.
The new quarantine guidelines will allow people who have come in contact with someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they test negative for COVID-19. Until now, a 14-day quarantine period had been recommended in all cases of exposure.
"Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time," said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 Incident Manager.
"In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system and communities, especially when new infections are rapidly rising," Walke said.
As for folks who want to travel far and wide to see family and friends over the holidays, the CDC wants you to reconsider your plans.
"CDC recommends that the best way to protect yourself and others is to postpone travel and stay home," Walke said during a media briefing Wednesday. If you insist on traveling, the CDC recommends that you get tested one to three days before you leave and then again three to five days after you return, he explained.
Walke added that people who travel should reduce nonessential activities for seven days after getting back home. If you don't get tested after traveling, CDC recommends reducing nonessential activities for 10 days. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, follow CDC guidance about what to do if you get sick, he said.
Walke said that the CDC continues to encourage all Americans to wear a mask, maintain social distance, avoid crowds and indoor spaces, and wash your hands often, even as vaccines become available.
"Taking these protective actions is critical until COVID-19 vaccination becomes widely available," he said.
Speaking at the media briefing, Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of the CDC's Travelers' Health Branch, also cautioned against holiday travel.
"The safest thing to do is to postpone travel and stay home," she said. "We know it's a hard decision, and some people need to have time to prepare and have discussions with family and friends and to make these decisions. Our recommendations are trying to help give them the tools they need to make these tough choices," Friedman said.
"I think it's a good thing that people have options to prevent infection and they can take time now before the Christmas holidays to really think about the best option for them and their family, which we think is to postpone travel," Friedman added.
For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Dec. 2, 2020, media briefing with: Henry Walke, MD, COVID-19 Incident Manager, and Cindy Friedman, MD, chief, Travelers' Health Branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention