US may trim isolation period for asymptomatic healthcare workers, Fauci says

In an effort to prevent further strain on the healthcare system, U.S. health officials may soon trim the 10-day isolation period recommended by the CDC for asymptomatic healthcare workers with COVID-19. 

For those with a confirmed case, the CDC's current guidance recommends a full 10-day isolation period, regardless of vaccination status. 

Now amid a COVID-19 surge driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, health officials are weighing whether to shorten the 10-day isolation window for healthcare providers "who might get infected and be without symptoms," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told MSNBC on Dec. 21.

"We want to be careful that we don't keep them out of action for that long period of time," Dr. Fauci said. "We want to be careful that we don't have a shortage of healthcare providers."

In a Dec. 21 tweet, Aaron Carroll, MD, chief health officer at Indiana University in Bloomington, said, "We really need alternative guidance for mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic vaccinated and boostered people testing positive for COVID. Mandatory 10 day isolation is going to make things really difficult for essential service." 

Although Dr. Fauci didn't specify by how many days the isolation period might be reduced in his comments to MSNBC, some health experts have suggested a five-day isolation period for breakthrough cases. 

Health experts told Vox there is evidence suggesting people with breakthrough infections are contagious for fewer than 10 days, indicating a negative test could cut the isolation time. 

"One thing we could do today is start saying, 'Use those home tests when you have a breakthrough,'" Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told Vox. "When you're negative and you feel good, go back to your life." 

News of considerations to trim the isolation period come amid predictions from U.S. health officials that the omicron-driven surge will peak over the next few weeks. The daily average for new cases on Dec. 21 was 154,555, a 27 percent increase over the last two weeks, data from The New York Times shows. 


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