U.S. to reduce COVID-19 quarantine period amid Omicron surge

U.S. health authorities are considering reducing the 10-day recommended quarantine period for Americans who test positive for COVID-19 as the Omicron variant tears across the country, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday.

Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci

A spike in COVID-19 cases is alarming public health officials who fear an explosion of infections following social mingling over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Omicron now accounts for 73% of U.S. coronavirus infections, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

Breakthrough infections are rising among the fully vaccinated population, including those who have had a third, booster shot.

However, Omicron appears to be causing milder symptoms in those people, some of whom have no symptoms at all.

Reducing the CDC’s 10-day quarantine recommendation would help asymptomatic people return to work or school, with the proper precautions, Fauci told CNN.

That’s certainly an important consideration which is being discussed right now,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The measure is being considered particularly in the context of healthcare workers, as the number of COVID cases rises together with the need for healthcare personnel, he said.

For those without symptoms, they should put on an N95 mask, “make sure they have the proper PPE and they might be able to get back to work sooner than the full length of the quarantine period,” Fauci said.

With Omicron being so easily transmissible, the number to watch in this surge is hospitalizations, not overall infections.

“If you really want to look at the true impact on society, it’s much more important to see who gets sick and who doesn’t, who requires hospitalization, or doesn’t,” he said.

“If you just count the numbers of infections, you may get a misrepresentation as to what is actually going on.”