A member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said on Nov. 24 that the CDC is considering shortening the recommended coronavirus quarantine period from 14 to seven days. On Dec. 2, it was reported the CDC would change its guidelines to a quarantine of between seven and 10 days.
Adm. Brett Giroir noted that “a preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten that quarantine period” is leading to the revision, which NPR characterized as “likely” in its reporting.
“We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence, but we want to make absolutely sure,” Giroir said, cautioning that “these kind of recommendations aren’t willy-nilly.”
Originally, the CDC currently recommended that “people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past three months” quarantine for 14 days following that contact.
Close contact, per the site, includes being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more; providing care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19; direct physical contact with the person (including hugging and kissing); sharing eating or drinking utensils; or being exposed to respiratory droplets via sneezing, coughing, or other means.
At least one public health expert feels shortening the coronavirus quarantine period might encourage those at risk to spread the pandemic to heed the CDC’s advice.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “Shortening quarantine recommendations to focus on the period of time during which the vast majority of people who are exposed to the virus are likely to become contagious is a smart, pragmatic move that is likely to boost compliance.”
“Right now, contact tracing efforts in the U.S. are severely hindered by deep disincentives for contacts of cases to quarantine,” Nuzzo said, adding that even a 10-day period “may be easier for people to bear and hopefully may help get more contacts of cases to comply.”
In October, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield hinted in a briefing that the agency was considering shortening the length of quarantine. As NBC News reported, Redfield wondered whether “you can use testing during the quarantine to determine if you can shorten the quarantine to seven or 10 days.” Testing would be needed to determine all infectious cases, he added.
In a recent study published in The Lancet, it was determined that people are most contagious in the first five days after symptoms appear. Another recent study opined that viral shedding could be tapering off approximately nine days after the onset of coronavirus symptoms.