Coronavirus patients should test negative before leaving isolation, study suggests

A CDC strategy for releasing COVID-19 patients from isolation that relies on symptom checking instead of testing may result in patients returning to their communities too soon, according to a letter from researchers in the Journal of Infection.

The CDC's non-test strategy recommends that COVID-19 patients discontinue self-isolation when they have not had a fever for 72 hours without the use of medications; have shown improvement in respiratory symptoms; and have gone at least 10 days since the start of symptoms, the researchers wrote in the letter.

The test-based strategy makes the same recommendations as the symptom-based strategy, but also recommends that the patient have two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, conducted more than 24 hours apart, before discontinuing isolation.

The researchers assessed both strategies among COVID-19 patients at Mayo's COVID Virtual Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

Of 92 patients studied, 72 patients met the criteria for release from self-isolation using the non-test strategy. They were all tested, and researchers found that a majority of the patients (69.9 percent) tested positive for the new coronavirus.

"This data shows that the CDC non-test-based strategy may cause early release from isolation for COVID-19 patients and result in additional community transmission," the researchers wrote.



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