ELLSWORTH — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Dec. 27 new pandemic guidance, which includes shortened isolation and quarantine periods for those with and exposed to COVID-19.
The recommended isolation time for people who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic has been shorted from 10 days to five days, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.
Additionally, the CDC is now recommending that unvaccinated people and people who are not fully vaccinated or not yet boosted, who have been exposed to COVID-19, quarantine for five days and then wear masks for five more days.
If a five-day quarantine is not feasible, the CDC says wearing a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after exposure is “imperative.”
For Americans who have had their booster shot, quarantining is not necessary after an exposure, but the CDC recommends wearing a mask for 10 days and that for anybody who has been exposed, testing after five days is considered “best practice.”
Anyone who develops symptoms should get a test and stay home.
Robert Long, director of communications for the Maine CDC, clarified that the difference between isolation and quarantine is that “isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection, and quarantine is following exposure to the virus but without a confirmed infection.”
According to a statement issued by the CDC on Dec. 27, “The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the one to two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.”
Governor Janet Mills welcomed the news for Mainers.
“I welcome this change in guidance. Protecting the health of Maine people while minimizing disruption to their lives in paramount,” she said.
“With these updated recommendations, more Maine people will now be able to return to their lives safely and more quickly, and that can help us keep our economic recovery moving forward, keep our kids in schools, and be with our loved ones during this important time of year. I continue to urge all Maine people to roll up their sleeves and get their shot, regardless of whether it’s their first or their third,” Mills said.
Last week, the CDC updated guidelines for health-care workers to advise that those who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic may return to work after seven days in isolation and a negative test, instead of previous guidance that called for a 10-day isolation period.
The contingency plan for health-care workers infected with COVID-19 is to return to work after five days if asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic without providing a negative test. In a crisis situation, there are not any work restrictions for infected health-care personnel.
Additionally, health-care workers who are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine at home following a high-risk exposure.
Maine CDC echoed these guidelines.
The guidelines were revised as the highly transmissible Omicron variant threatens an already taxed health care system, marked by staffing shortages made more apparent since the onset of the pandemic and high hospitalization rates from COVID-19.
Locally, Dr. James Jarvis reported at a press briefing held by Northern Light Health on Dec. 22 that community transmission of the virus is posing a risk to Northern Light staff members.
He noted that the week before, 36 employees tested positive from community exposures.